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Calum Best visits Moy Davitts football team


Moy Davitts get Best man

Calum Best was in Foxford last week for RTÉ’s Celebrity Bainisteoir series

Ciara Galvin

IT was a rainy Monday evening and the sat nav was searching the dark Mayo skies for Foxford co-ordinates. Who would have thought the N5 was so confusing?

So what brings a young reporter to this part of the world anyway? A fresh loaf of O’Hara’s finest? A G&T in Cruiser’s perhaps? Some fly-fishing to pass a few hours?

Well, no actually. It was a chance to watch the Moy Davitts senior football team in training that persuaded this writer to cross the Moy.

That, and the opportunity to meet their new Celebrity Bainisteoir, the international playboy, Calum Best, who will be looking after the Moy Davitts lads for the new RTÉ television series which airs in September.

Negotiating the narrow road to the club’s pitch, we get a sense that the locals are out to impress the new arrival (that’s Calum, not this Mayo News reporter) and show their support. Red and white flags hang overhead and on arrival at ‘Sraith Garbh’ there’s even talk of tea being made.

This well-appointed and neat and tidy ground will become a home away from home for the son of former Manchester United star, the late George Best, in the months ahead.

He may be best-known for his work as a model and reality TV star, but last Monday evening the 31 years-old pin-up was just one of the lads. One of the Moy Davitts lads.

Over the next ninety minutes there was no shortage of material to keep everybody entertained, on and off the field. “Dig in guys” said Calum at one stage. “Well, whatever ye do, don’t dig up the pitch” chirped a club official.

“There’s not too many men here,” said another observer as he surveyed the noticeable and varied female contingent lining the outside of the pitch, armed with phones and cameras.

Meanwhile, the Celebrity Bainisteoir was keen to get stuck in. He informed the lads that they’d start with “a few laps”  but one player playfully protested, “Ah no, I’m one of the older ones”.

It was apparent from the get-go that this particular bronzed American meant business.

Later, when the session had ended, yours truly caught up with a breathless Calum Best as he strode off the pitch.

He looked every inch the manager, carrying a bag of bibs and cones with a whistle draped around his neck.

Introductions were brief, and a shaking of hands (a broken right hand from a cage-fighting accident meant he had to use his left) was followed by a cheeky wink (from him, of course) to break the ice.

He then assured us that he would be back for a chat after “speaking to the lads”.

Being the consummate professional, Best stood for photos and signed autographs after ensuring he had taken down all the Moy Davitts’ players details for future contact.

“I’m loving it, couldn’t have got a better team,” he told The Mayo News. “They are disciplined and I feel like we have already gelled together. The team are patient with me. I am nervous about it but I am getting good support from the community here.”

The hard-working entrepreneur and aspiring businessman also spoke about his hectic schedule and jet-setting lifestyle, that includes acting classes four times a week, running his own furniture business, overseeing his underwear range, and keeping tabs on his three fragrances which are currently on the market.

All this, plus a range of other business ventures.

So, is that a no to a few pints in Cruiser’s then?

“I’ve got to do it and if I could I would,” smiled Best. “We have two more months of this and after it’s all over I plan on going out with the lads.”

EARLIER, those same lads from Bohola, Straide and Foxford had been put through their paces efficiently, zig-zagging around the field and carrying out various drills that had been devised by the rookie trainer.

Gary Dunleavy, the Chairman of Moy Davitts GAA club (aka ‘the fixer’ who kindly chaperoned The Mayo News at the training session) admitted that the new arrival had been doing his homework in preparation for the role.

“He’s been doing his research and has gone to some of the Fulham Irish club training sessions in London, and he’s spent some time with people in the club here too,” explained Gary.

“A few lads have came back playing because of the whole thing which is great. And it’s funny to see 50 and 60 people watching training. A few months back we’d be lucky if the lads themselves showed up,” he smiled.

Speaking of showing up, Calum Best’s mentor, the former Dublin footballer, Ciarán Whelan, surprised one and all with his impromptu attendance at the training session.

According to Moy Davitts captain, Seán Kelly, (a former Mayo minor and U-21 according to the lads in the Sports Department!), the arrival of Whelan ‘stepped it up’.

“It’s great to have Ciarán helping Calum out, he’s been there and done it.” said Seán.

He also told us that, earlier in the day, the Celebrity Bainisteoir and the TV crew had visited Kelly while he was coaching at a local GAA Cúl Camp near the town.

“We’re delighted that Calum was chosen to take us on and, while we don’t know what to expect from him, the biggest thing is that he’s interested.”

“Sport is in my life, it’s in my blood,” said Best himself. “I play soccer three times a week, but the problem is I don’t know this game so well.”

Because Moy Davitts have progressed to the quarter-finals of the Mayo Intermediate Championship, the senior players will be immersed in training two to three times a week, as well as their reality TV adventure.

“We’ve never seen crowds like this at training before,” said Seán Kelly. “It’s good for the community and we want people to continue to support us in the club games too.”

Meanwhile, back on the pitch, Best’s inexperience only became apparent when it came to a training game as the lothario searched the sideline for assistance to referee the match.

“Please somebody ref, I need help,” he pleaded. “I don’t even know the rules,” he laughed but, having failed to recruit any volunteers, he took the reins himself.

No doubt Best will be up to speed with all the rules and regulations before Moy Davitts’ opening game of the competition against Paddy Doherty’s Clontarf side, Scoil Uí Chonaill, on August 19.

In a strange coincidence, both Calum and the 2011 Celebrity Big Brother winner, Paddy, have broken hands at the moment as a result of two very different activities.

Best said he’s picked up his injury from cage fighting while Paddy suffered his break through much more ordinary circumstances — he fell off a horse.

Before we took our leave of Foxford, there was time for one quick question for the man of the moment.

Now that he’s taken charge of Moy Davitts, does he think they can go and win the RTE series?

“Hell yeah, I wanna win this,” he declared. “If we work hard and step it up we can do it.”

On that note, I think Mr Best and Moy Davitts might just have gained an extra fan.

Now if only she can find her way home.