Dream final would split one household

Story by Tom Kelly

Saturday, 18th August, 2007 9:00am

WHILE much of the media, as well as those who love a great sporting occasion, are frothing at the mouth at the thought of a possible Meath-Dublin All-Ireland football final, one house that would be split on the outcome of that particular coupling of sides is the Cantwell household in Blanchardstown.

Former Dublin All-Star Joanne Cantwell, now an RTE sports reporter, and her father, Culmullen, Drumree, man Brendan, are sure to be at loggerheads if such a game presents itself.

She attributes her love of GAA to her `sports-mad` father, even though he is passionate about Meath and the Meath team. In his youth, growing up in Drumree, Brendan was a member of the St Martin`s Under-14 championship-winning team, along with his brother, David.

Another member of that team was Noel Curran, who went on to win an All-Ireland medal with Meath in 1967 and is father of former Dublin player Paul.

Brendan was also a member of the panel that reached the 1958 final, but was a boarder in St Finian`s and wasn`t let out for the game, which St Martin`s also won, beating Bohermeen. He had played with them in every other game. He continued to play club football with Drumree until going to study in Liverpool in 1964.

The Cantwells lived in the teacher`s residence in Culmullen where Brendan`s mother, Mrs Matilda (Tilly) Cantwell, taught in the local school. His father, Jim, a member of the well-known Navan family, was a crime reporter, initially with the Dublin Evening Mail and then the Evening Herald, so journalism is in the blood in the family too.

The family moved from Navan to Culmullen when Brendan was aged four. His sister, Mary O`Brien, recently retired as a teacher in Dunshaughlin Community College.

Joanne, who now lives close to Clonee in Ongar, is one of five daughters of Brendan and Catherine and, at school, she played basketball, soccer and football.

In Coolmine, she was a classmate of Meath player Nigel Crawford. She represented Dublin at every level from under-14 to senior, won Young Dublin Player of the Year in 1997 and was awarded an All-Star in 1998.

"I remember going to games with dad," she added. "He would have the Meath jersey and I would have Dublin. He was usually celebrating though."

Brendan remembers having a Meath sticker on their family car, which Joanne would replace with a Dublin one when she was driving it.

Joanne won one of the first GAA scholarships to DCU, where she studied journalism. While still in college, she covered weekend sport on Dublin`s FM 104 and, after graduating in 2001, went to TV3 on work experience where she was made full-time after a year, producing sports bulletins and presenting `Sports Tonight`.

In spring of this year she was approached by RTE to do live sport for `The Sunday Game`.

And she has some advice for Meath in their upcoming semi-final appearance against Cork.

"If they play like they have in the last two games, they shouldn`t have any major problems. They`re playing the nicest football this year. They may not be able to do that for the third time in-a-row, but if they do, they can win it. The only danger is that Cork raise their game when they`re up against stronger teams. That`s what Meath have to be wary of."

As for Dublin, she hadn`t given them much of a chance at the start of the season, with maybe an All-Ireland appearance, but not a win. She has changed her mind over the last while and thinks they now have a huge chance. Her father will have other ideas!