A view from the sidelines


By Deniese O’Flaherty

I wasn’t really familiar with Motor Neurone Disease until former Celtic great Jimmy Johnstone was diagnosed with it in 2001. I had heard about the disease but to be honest I didn’t know much else about it.
In 2014 the Ice Bucket Challenge was embraced by so many people; funds raised were for the worldwide research into Motor Neurone Disease. Since then a lot of people have been affected by this cruel disease from Doddie Weir (former Scottish rugby union star) to RTE’s Charlie Bird.
One person who was also diagnosed with MND was former Leeds Rhinos player Rob Burrow. Rugby League is one of my favourite sports. My dad being a Leeds Utd supporter also follows Leeds Rhinos, he didn’t pass on his love of Leeds Utd to me but he did with the Rhinos. Nothing beats a packed Headingly Stadium when they’re playing St. Helen’s.
Kevin Sinfield was my hero and the first league player I loved but a nifty little blonde boy soon gave him a run for his money; his name was Rob Burrow. What Burrow lacked for in height he made up for it in his ability, his character and heart. He was a warrior on the field and since being diagnosed with MND in December 2019 he has shown his battling and fighting qualities off the field.
When I first heard about Rob’s diagnosis I cried. A young man with a wife and three children, just two years after retirement had been dealt this terrible hand. Since then I’ve cried watching interviews and while reading his book. The one thing that amazes me is how he and his family have dealt with things; how positive they have been. He was told at first he had two years to live. He is still here. He is not able to walk or talk anymore but Rob has never wallowed in self-pity. He is working hard to raise awareness for MND along with his best friend Kevin Sinfield.
Rob Burrow was an inspiration on the field and a hero to many but the courage he has shown since his diagnosis surpasses anything he did while playing for the Rhinos.
Next Wednesday 23rd of March Keith Higgins, who has played both football and hurling for Mayo, along with clubmates from Ballyhaunis GAA, will ‘solo’ a hurling ball from Mayo Roscommon Hospice in Castlebar to Mayo Roscommon Hospice in Roscommon covering a distance of 100km. They will finish on Saturday 26th.
Proceeds of the fundraiser will go to Mayo Roscommon Hospice and the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association. If you wish to donate click on the link –

Moving to Rugby Union, Leinster’s comprehensive win over Montpellier in the Champions Cup last weekend was one way of getting back at both the French side and the European bosses. EPCR awarded Montpellier a 28-0 bonus point win after their game with Leinster was called off, due to Covid in both camps. Montpellier turned up to Dublin last weekend with a weak side and the result made a mockery of the competition. The French side were disinterested. A victory over Bath this weekend will seal Leinster’s place in the last 16.
Connacht have a chance of making the knock-out stages of the competition, for the first time, if they beat Stade Francais in Paris. After throwing away an 18 point lead last weekend against Leicester Connacht will be hurt but they’ve a chance of creating history on Sunday. Time to believe and make sure the west is wide awake on Sunday afternoon.