Opening up about the realities of the hand which life dealt yours truly is never done easily. Frankly, it tends to be shied away from. However, many people will be aware of the incalculable value which sport has been in keeping the voyage afloat. Indeed, when the roadway which has carried the journey for the last two decades was being put in place, GAA was, maybe inadvertently, at its heart.
In 1996, what will be termed adjustments were made to facilitate that particular phase. There’ve been many since, and more recently, circumstance declared that there’ll be more still. Back then, though, it was of great solace that the workmen were all GAA folk. Including current Meath Hurling Chairman Dom Reilly, former Kilmessan and Meath hurler Cyril Maguire, his cousin Trevor – brother of Adrian – and former Dunsany and Meath footballer Mick Costello.
Anyway, one day over lunch, an article extolling the virtues of Dunsany and Meath’s Jimmy ‘Boots’ McGuinness. It was scant on detail, mind you, about the fact that a certain former player from the club had been part of the panel that reached the 1970 All Ireland final. Amidst all the banter which ensued, light heartened mention was afforded to a leaky roof in the dressing rooms in ‘Tom’s Field’, which thanks to the generosity of my late friend and mentor, was home to St Peter’s for so long.
Recently, the keyboarding of a piece relating to the passing of Paddy Mulreid enabled a recall of other great days. Dunboyne lost another President earlier this year also, that of St Peter’s, the incomparable Pat ‘Spoggy’ Kelly. I couldn’t possibly – or wouldn’t attempt to – do justice to Pat’s overall contribution but feel the time is right for a little personal reflection.
Noel Coogan told me long ago about Pat cycling from Dunboyne to Navan with match reports in his role as PRO. Like so many of our players, these wheels served a GAA apprenticeship (of sorts) in Tom’s. More so, mind, in the company of people like Pat, Joe Murray, Seamus Lynch (RIP), Oliver Brady (RIP), Aidan Curley (RIP), George Gilsenan (RIP), Paddy McIntyre Snr. (RIP), Brian Smyth and many others. It was as much an education in life as anything but that’s for another day!
Taking over as PRO in 1997 was a challenge, but it was what was wanted and required at the time and the 11 years it was feasible were a treasure and will always be. Pat’s support, advice and encouragement to me at that time and forever thereafter were incomprehensible. Numerous stories come to mind, but there’s one far easier to recall than the rest.
A particular point in my journalism studies had been arrived at whereby it was necessary to get something published in the local media. The opportunity arose to cover one of the memorable games between Dunshaughlin and Rathnew in Aughrim. Disquiet probably abounded at dereliction of local duty but Pat saw it differently – “You’ve your career in front of you, take the break while it’s going”. That was the mark of the man. Incidentally, the then President and PRO, as often, worked together and all local matters were duly covered that weekend!
Those times and characters were recalled recently when considering the constant evolution of the club. All clubs go through the same process, of course, but, closest to home, the train of thought has been dominated by a pondering of what great, sadly departed Gaels would think of things were they to return now.
Even from the time the PRO keyboard had to be hung up, the club has grown substantially, in terms of structure, membership and success. On an ever evolving journey, mind, it is essential to never forget its beginning. Thus, amidst the bountiful levels of success enjoyed across the codes, there’s something poignantly fitting about a forthcoming event. A doff of the cap to those who’ve gone to the dugout above but without whom today’s scenarios wouldn’t be possible.
Back in the day, internal club/parish seven-a-side tournaments were quite the big deal. Reputedly ‘colourful’ affairs to say the least, eventually they were discontinued, however, on the eve of the All Ireland Football Final, history will be repeated as club members from all corners compete in what should be a great sport and craic.
It will be a day, too, for reflection, though. Memories will be stirred of those departed, musings shared of what they might have made of it all. For me, perhaps most vivid will be the sense of Pat taking notes from afar, the oldest swinger in town keeping watch on us all!