Defying convention is not only accepted, but expected

The following statement may seem a little awry given the prevailing circumstances which dominate proceedings here, but, so much of our life’s path is shaped for us by those who have gone before. Thus, even though one is precluded from being actively involved on the farming side of things, per say, that an interest in and passion for such matters abounds can be taken as a given with both sides of the family immersed therein for generations.

Similar sentiments can be ascribed concerning GAA. Not just here either, but to the masses. Indeed, in that context, defying convention is not only accepted, but an expected norm. There’s been one case of exactly that very close to my heart lately, but more space will be devoted that way anon.

As a start point for any such discourse however, one need look no further than the wonderful and quite emotional Micko documentary screened by RTE some time ago. Now, this corner is in no way qualified to pass too much judgement on Mick O’Dwyer’s contribution to and achievements in Gaelic football. However, that doesn’t preclude an acknowledgement of his unique and unassailable status within not only our games but Irish life.

Then again, it may not be stretching reality to opine that Sean Boylan and, increasingly, Brian Cody, merit similar accreditation. But that’s an argument for a different day. There were some who bemoaned the fact that none of the Waterville man’s former charges were interviewed during the recent documentary.

While it was a valid point well made, I feel the programme was all the more special for the way it was done. For it gave a rare glimpse of the great man’s life away from centre stage. Which was both fascinating and very moving. On one hand, there was the tale of him buying a boat and lobster pots and having a life set up for himself had stardom and iconic status not interjected.

Yet, the most memorable moment in the whole ensemble was also the saddest when, near the end, Mick returns to the large family home where he now seemingly resides alone. It spoke so loudly. That for all the success – business and sport – all the fame, all the joy he derived from it all himself and gave to incalculable amounts of others, the inevitabilities of everyday life have caught up with even him.

Most notably, time. He still obviously grieves for the loss of his wife, Mary, even though several years have elapsed since her passing. The voice is weak nearly to the point of being inaudible – years of cajoling, encouraging inspiring. But his interest in and love for it all still burns like a wick in a wax factory.

Which makes the closing credits of this beautiful documentary – one of a number RTE have put on lately in fairness – the most moving part of all, as it detailed the last team Micko had any involvement with being his local U-15 team. The journey has gone full circle. Back where it all began for him. Another generation touched by his greatness. And of course they won their county championship.

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The thing is, the last segment provides the contradiction to the story. While in parts of the story, the sands of time have obviously taken their toll, the conclusion of the story seems to bely exactly that. All of which has been very heartening when considering a matter vaguely referred to earlier.

February 3rd is a date that will be forever poignantly ingrained in my soul. Most recently as, in 2016, two events occurred – within hours of each other – which changed the course of my life, maybe forever in one case, undoubtedly so in the other. There are some days I think I’m at least in a position to begin to move on from same. In other ways, mind you, one wonders will that ever happen.

However, 15 years prior to that, the date had already been eternally, heartbreakingly etched into my memory. I was in Portlaoise – it was the day Liam O’Neill, who went on to be GAA President lifted me into his car. The occasion was the first round of the Leinster U-21 FC. I’ll get back to the game in a bit – because whatever transpired on the pitch paled into insignificance once a phone call came from Eoghan D’Arcy to say our friend Martin Browne had lost his life in an accident.

From that point, the match passed me by, Martin was one of my closest friends when we were growing up. Time would prove defeating Laois that day was the beginning of a great journey for that Meath team. In terms of enjoyment garnered from GAA successes, the campaign is up there with the very best for me. Especially so as David Gallagher was our captain.

Now, I’ve known David all my life – going back to when he and his class used to look after me in primary school. Which in itself was a fore-runner to his late father Paddy bringing me to Oldcastle where the lads were playing an U-12 game. Many will know that as the years have gone on the bond between yours truly and, it has to be said, they entire and extended Gallagher family has become even tighter. And that’s cherished more than words can say.

Therefore, it should be no surprise to anybody, either, just how much David’s recent return to the Meath setup has meant to me. All too well is it known that it was a move by Andy McEntee and his fellow mentors that will have turned heads. Yes, the arguments on the debit side of the debate can be easily understood.

A few things are worth considering though. Primarily, that nobody was more surprised at this turn of events than the player himself. Moreover, if he were to do nothing other than guide and assist the younger players around him – and it sadly now appears may be the sum total of the venture – he will again have answered the call of duty.

That he would even attempt to at this stage of his career is truly inspirational. Which is what makes some of the less positive reaction to the recall all the more difficult to stomach. If things stay as they are – which sadly it appears will be the case – he will also, mind you, have lifted the spirit in this seat, immeasurably.

As will, it must be said, the commendable starts made to their respective seasons by various Meath teams. The greatest lift of all, though, will be when these wheels are again parked on a sideline somewhere. Ask me when that will be, the only answer I can give recalls the tag line once used by one of the drinks companies – all in its own good time.

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