Dignity and decency of Mícheál at pitch opening

Big man of GAA celebrates in style

By Liam Murphy

Veni, Vidi, Vinci . I came, I saw, I conquered, was the powerful message sent back to Rome by Julius Caesar when he won a war in Zela (currently known as Zile  in Turkey. After spending two days with the Gaels of Glengormley, Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh might well have sent a similar message back to headquarters. Throughout the two days he won the hearts of all who met him as he demonstrated  his love and passion for the Irish language and Gaelic games.

When the official opening of Gaelscoil Éanna was discussed the number one choice was the legendary Gaelic games commentator,  Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh. He was contacted and accepted the invitation. He agreed to open the school last Friday and further agreed to open the St Enda club grounds the following day. The club were delighted and offered to accommodate him in a hotel. Mícheál said he would be much happier to stay in the home of a club member.

However, he had earlier given a promise that he would attend the annual dinner of Glarryford GAC Westmeath. Glarryford drew with Crossmaglen Rangers in the Club All Ireland Final on  Patrick’s Day and their dinner was postponed as it was scheduled for the night before the replay. It was rescheduled for last Friday night. Mícheál said he would honour his commitment which meant he travelled from Dublin to Glengormley on Friday morning, then from Glengormley to Athlone on Friday night. On Saturday morning he drove back north reaching Glengormley by eleven o’clock. He set off on the return journey home to Dublin at five o’clock on Saturday afternoon.  That’s some undertaking for a man of 83 years.

On Saturday he presided over the naming of the two pitches, Paddy Laverty Park and Gerry Devlin Park. Both families were present and he spent much time with each of them, being aware of their respective backgrounds. This was greatly appreciated by all present.

Over the course of the two days he regaled his listeners with stories and anecdotes in Irish and English of people he has met and events which he has witnessed in his remarkable lifetime. Former Derry PRO Gerry Donnelly, who helped St Enda’s fundraising efforts ,ribbed Mícheál about Derry being cheated out of the All Ireland title in 1958 by Cavan referee Simon Deignan. Derry played Dublin in the All Ireland and some people felt that referee Deignan was partial to Dublin. Derry supporters feel that they were denied a penalty in the second half. Although a native of Cavan he owned a shop in Dublin. Mícheál pointed out that although they were level with 15 minutes to go Derry couldn’t take their scores and faded away. In his opinion they were not good enough on the day. He went on to tell us how major games at that time were refereed then by leading players eg; Peter McDermott of Meath refereed the 1954 final and played in the 1956 final. He also recalled that Simon Deignan played in the victorious Cavan team which beat Kerry in the 1947 final in the Polo Grounds, New York, the only one played outside Ireland. I think Gerry just said that to get Mícheál going.

When questioned about the state of hurling in Dublin he revealed that when Eoin O’Duffy was Chief Commissioner of the Garda Siochana from 1922 until 1933 he transferred any garda known to be a good hurler to Dublin. Dublin won the All Ireland hurling finals in 1924 and 1927, they drew with Limerick in 1934 losing the replay and won again in 1938. They haven’t won the title since. O’Duffy also transferred promising football gardai to Monaghan with the result that Monaghan reached the All Ireland final for the first and last time in 1930.

Mícheál’s autobiography is called “From Dún Síon to Croke Park”. I brought my copy to have it signed and also to confirm a suspicion I had. Referring to his time in Coláiste osagáin in West Cork he wrote, “Students came from all over the country: all six Munster counties, Donegal, Mayo, Galway,Kilkenny, Westmeath, Dublin: Seán Murphy came all the way from Glaslough in Monaghan.” I told him I knew a Seán Murphy from Glaslough Street in Monaghan. He told me that was the man. It was a printer’s error.  Seán Murphy was my cousin and Mícheál told me he had shared a desk with him for three years and were lifelong friends. Seán, a musician, died about ten years ago and Monaghan Silver Band turned out for his funeral. Mícheál was there, too. While signing my copy of his book he checked and pointed out that it was a second edition. Mrs Prenter, whose brothers played for Castleblaney Faughs and Monaghan and whose sons played for St Enda’s and Antrim, had produced a first edition the day before, much to Mícheál’s delight.

During his speech when opening Gaelscoil Éanna on Friday, Mícheál told the crowd about his lifelong interest in greyhounds. He told us that a dog called Razl Dazl Ríoga was running at 8.15 on Friday night at Wimbledon.”I think it will win. I’m sure it will win.” It did. A few of us took his advice and claimed weekend expenses from Paddy Power. Word spread about the tip and a group of people who had gathered in the clubhouse on Friday night were told about it. Nobody was sure of the name except that it was Razzle Dazzle Something , probably a foreign word.  Danny McGrinder asked Sharon, the bar steward,  to check it out . She made a phone call and inquired if they could make a bet. She said it was called Razzle Razzle Something beginning with R. The bookies’ rep checked and found a horse called Razzle Dazzle Rose running at a South African track on Saturday. I’m told a healthy bet was laid on behalf of the syndicate. It’s still running!

Among the many photographs taken was one with Mícheál, Mickey Lemon, his son Barry and grandson Dáire. (Incidentally, Mrs Prenter approached me a few weeks ago to tell me she was relieved to see that Mickey Lemon was alive and well. Having missed him in the North Belfast News for four weeks in a row she was a bit worried.)

Mícheál asked Dáire if he was fast and urged him to run up to the corner flag and back while he gave a commentary. When Dáire reached home he told his mother about the photograph. When his mother asked who was in it he replied, “Me, daddy, granda and a big man.”

A big man indeed!

 

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