UCC GAA Alumnus Niall Day featured in yesterdays Sunday Times.

This is an excerpt from yesterdays Sunday Times Sports section. It is taken from an excellent piece by Michael Foley on UCC alumnus Niall Daly. Niall won a Sigerson Cup with UCC in 2010 and is currently captain of the Roscommon Senior football team.

“For the last few years the players have embraced the expectation around them. Living in Mayo’s shadow in Connacht hasn’t wilted the players’ confidence. It’s how this generation were reared. Three Connacht under-21 finals in a row yielded two titles and an All-Ireland final appearance. Most of the players have enhanced their education in the Sigerson Cup. Daly’s original plan after school was Sports Science in UL. His points tally redirected him to UCC. Coming from the Roscommon side of Ballinasloe, Cork was alien country.

But he went and he thrived. He shared a house with a few Kerry under-21s. His father worked in Cork a day a week, so they met every week for coffee. He took trains and got lifts home from Templemore station with his mother before the journeys were eased by his own car. The bus journey took eight hours. No fun.

The football people pulled him in, too. Dr Con Murphy’s good humour set the tone. The late John Corcoran cracked jokes and bounced balls between the Kerry and Cork players. Then Billy Morgan would flick the switch close to game time. Everyone tuned in.

“When Billy talked, no one else did. For Sigerson games, his team talks were unbelievable. You’d be psyched out of your brain. But it wasn’t about himself either. In 2011 we played DCU in the quarter-finals. Because a lot of the Cork players had played Dublin, he put it to the floor what the players thought about tactics and what might work. We came up with different ideas and he went with that.”

They played free and easy, liberated by gameplans designed loosely enough to exploit their individual and collective potential. Daly was a waterboy in 2010 when UCC made the Sigerson final. They won the title the following year with Daly at centre-back, the only migrant in a team split between Cork and Kerry. He also won county titles in Roscommon and Cork on consecutive weekends with his home club that autumn, and ended up in a Munster club final. Mad stuff.

It all taught him to think bigger. Same applies now to Roscommon. His brothers Ronan and Conor are there too, all bred as attacking defenders playing off the front foot. Kevin McStay arrived this winter with a bright, progressive management package that got the locals talking again. Kerry today, and a shock of All-Ireland contenders to play after that. It’s the games they want. Roscommon will get the lessons they need.”

Originally from Killavullen, Co Cork, Michael Foley has written Kings of September, winner of the 2007 BoyleSports Irish Sportsbook of the year. He also ghostwrote Harte: Presence Is the Only Thing, the autobiography of Tyrone gaelic football manager Mickey Harte, shortlisted for the 2009 William Hill Irish Sportsbook of the Year.

Foley was a winner of the GAA’s McNamee Award in 2008, 2013 and 2014  and was shortlisted for Sports Journalist of the Year in 2003. He is acting sports editor and GAA correspondent for the Irish edition of the Sunday Times. Michael’s third book The Bloodied Field, came out in 2014. He currently resides in Macroom, Co Cork.