“God must me a Meathman” were the immortal words of Kevin Mallon on commentary for LMFM Radio on the day Jody Devine was the unlikely architect of one of the greatest acts of escapology engineered under Sean Boylan’s stewardship, against Kildare in 1997. It’s quite likely the people of Mayo with concur in the wake of how the 1996 All Ireland Final replay turned out. Surely no game has ever been the subject of such discussion and debate nearly a quarter century thereafter.
There was one Mayo man who, it’d be safely ventured took a different view to the rest of his kinfolk. Mind you, with the individual in question, the unusual was the usual response. “Alternative Logic” as a former work colleague and mutual acquaintance used term it.
At a time when throngs of people from Mayo and elsewhere were focussing on only one aspect of final day, the disciple of the green and red in question was actually more enthused about a fellow clubman kicking the winning score for Meath than anything else.
Myles Fahey was many things to many people: Husband, father, brother, son, colleague, servant of the people, mentor and, above all else, a cherished and fierecly loyal friend. At the root of everything, though, he was a Dunboyne man. And he will be forever remembered at the centre of all that is good about our community.
Yet again, I find myself pausing in disbelief at having that in the past tense. Another one of my closest circle gone. The last of the corner gone to the meeting room above.
As was repeatedly said in the numerous tributes which have poured in since Myles’s untimely passing on August 8th, he was the living embodiment of the maxim Ask not what your club can do for you, ask what you can do for your club. Let me tell you, Myles Fahey put his heart, soul and everything in between into his devotion to St Peter’s GAA Club, Dunboyne.
I’d heard of him shortly before our paths crossed for the first time. In around Good Friday 1996. It was very much a case of starting as we meant to go on. He was organising a Card Drive for the clubhouse for Good Friday itself. In typically unique, fortright Fahey fashion, the train of thought was “The pubs are closed, it’ll give people somewhere to go”!
I think we might have had 14 players on the night, but the organiser-in-chief refused to see it as a defeat, remarking that “It (was) money we didn’t have yesterday. Little fish are sweet”. That was pure Myles. The man’s enthusiasm and positivity were infectuous. If he told people he was going to drive water up a hill, not only would they believe him, they’d be there helping him push!
There was no greater example of this than the Duck Race. No, they weren’t live ducks. No, this was a Miley special. They weren’t even the rubber ones you had as a kid in the bath. They were metal contraptions himself had manufactured in his place of employment. Do you remember the episode of The Simpsons where Homer ‘won’ the duck race with a robotic entrant? Well this was that, on steroids. Though some laughed, most of us shook our heads in admiring disbelief, when the orange sauce was ladled out, £1,500 was hurtling up river into the club’s coffers.
That, however, was only the tip of an extremely large iceberg when it came to Myles Fahey’s fundraising efforts on behalf our club. When I was in primary school, the All Ireland Football Final scorecast was the club’s major fundraiser for the year. Now, there were always huge numbers of the cards sold. Especially among lads from big families. In my own class alone, the several branches of the Watters family could go through three score and ten of them all by themselves.
However, all normal metrics were taken out of the equation once Fahey threw his fanatical enthusiasm behind the scorecast. Not just that, but any raising of money the club were engaged in. The seniority of position he held in his place of employment turned out to be an absolute goldmine for the club. In terms of getting printing work done, signs made up, flags produced in club colours. Basically anything and everything the club needed done was re-routed through ‘The Job’!
The club Lotto though was a phenomenon all to itself. For the everyday running of the show, the Lotto was always the pivotal factor in the running of things. Now, when it was first established, the draw took place every Monday night in Brady’s, takings would be comparatively modest but no less crucial to keeping the wheels turning.
Monday wasn’t exactly the ideal day to be doing the draw. Mostly because it tended to be the quietest night of the week in the pub. So eventually, somebody, ahem, got onto the Executive Committee of the club and ‘persuaded’ the Lotto Committee to change draw night to Thursday. Whether or not threats were made regarding the printing of the Lotto tickets cannot be substantiated at this time!
The sudden explosion in sales of the yellow tickets was purely coincidence I’m sure. If you believe that, I’ll send you the number for the Tooth Fairy! Like anything Myles put his ebullient energy behind, things took off to seismic proportions. When eventually he became exhausted from traipsing every footpath, housing estate, high road and by-road selling Lotto tickets, it was conservatively estimated that he had gathered €500,000 in funding for the club.
A BOOK OF TICKETS
That, however, would only divulge a minuscule fraction of Maolmhuire O’Fathaigh’s prowess at ‘encouraging’ people, particularly his work colleagues, to buy Lotto tickets. Due to circumstances, one is weary of saying too much, but, suffice to say, it was said circumstances which led our club to a goldmine. Basically, our man’s role in ‘The Job’ was more or less head of administration. Which in a place of employment as big as the one in question was, happened to be a mammoth task. So much so that when he retired it took four people to replace him.
You see, the main part of his role was rostering and wages and looking after Annual Leave and the like. One former colleague – who also happened to be steeped in GAA life – said to me “If you went in with a query about your wages or getting time off, you would always be ‘taxed’. If you gave him plenty of notice, it was one Lotto ticket, if it was short notice, you’d get an entire book to sell”.
Regardless to your rank and station in the place, there was seemingly no escaping ‘The ticket’, another former workmate goes on “Only once did I hear a fella complaining about having to buy a ticket. He was that put out, shall we say, that he went to the Big Boss – who happened to be a public figure of great importance – only to be told “You would’ve been better off just buying the one ticket and getting out of there. I’m not going near him, I’ll get stung for a whole bloody book”!
Though the Lotto was absolutely his domain, Myles’s nous for raising money stretched well beyond that. Whether it was scorecasts, Duck Races, Race Nights, Table Quizzes, Bag Packs or even donning the chef’s hat and apron. Either at Club BBQ’s or during the annual Golf Classic. Yes, during. The 19th hole is a phenomenon all golfing aficionados will be familiar with. Usually referring to ‘refreshments’ available in the clubhouse afterwards. With our man, of course, it had to be different – burgers at ‘half time – the ninth! And, while some had the noble intention of making the ‘pitstop’ on the house, there was no way an opportunity to raise funds was about to be passed up – €5-a-head!
POSSESSION WAS 100% OF EVERYTHING IN MILEY’S MASTERPLAN!
At this juncture on what is another heartbreaking reflective journey for yours truly, it’s important to point out that Myles was also a huge presence on or about the playing fields. Whether that was in Inter Firms competitions as a player or – with boundless energy and seemingly everlasting hope – coaching underage and adult teams in black and amber.
He had very definite and immovable ideas about what constituted a good footballer and how the game should be played. Which quite often led to rather heated debate with yours truly. My comrade being of the opinion that anybody under 6ft was “useless”! To which the general riposte from this corner was” A fella could be 6ft 10 and useless”! No matter how long or vocal the rancour may have been, it generally always ended with “Ah feck off, here, have a pint”!
When it came to the mechanics of the game, possession was 100% of everything in Miley’s world! Thus, “Don’t give it away” being bellowed at a pitch that would blow decibels off the Richter Scale was the Fahey stock-in-trade gameplan. That actually led to possibly the only occasion on which real cross words passed between us. With the best respect in the world, Navan O’Mahony’s were the bane of his managerial life. As the hoops were for a lot of clubs at underage level at that time.
Anyway, this particular evening, Miley was looking after an U-12 bunch against the Brews Hill outfit. Lining out for the hoops that summery Saturday evening were both Kevin Reilly and David Bray, both of whom went on to have successful careers with Meath. At some point during the first half, Myles’s own lad, David, beat Kevin out to a ball but was quickly dispossessed by the full back. Within seconds of which son was hauled off by father.
For years afterwards, I chastised him over taking David off. Especially when the full back went on to stardom at county level. I was always convinced the young lad was a damn good footballer and made it something of a personal crusade to prove it to his auld fella!
At the time, I was a selector with the club’s third adult football team. Which was a mixture of young lads on the way up and older players in the twilight zone. In the space of a week, he scored 2-16 in two games for me, 0-9 against Carnaross and 2-7 Simonstown Gaels. Eventually, daddy dearest had to admit he was wrong to withdraw the offspring all those years earlier!
Myles was, to be fair to him, also probably the unluckiest person to ever manage a team. From U-12 to Minor, every year the teams he was involved with would sail through the group stages of whatever competition it happened to be until the blue and white hoops appeared on the horizon and that usually meant coming a cropper. One defeat in particular, at U-14, gnawed away at him – and this writer – for years afterwards.
Things had started along the usual lines, Kevin Reilly, David Bray and Barry Regan causing mayhem for our lads. Eventually though, they began to haul themselves back into contention. To the extent that, with a minute to go, they had earned themselves parity and engineered a shot at a winner. An mBainisteoir wanted one particular lad – who, to me at least – would’ve been the recognised place kicker on the team to hit the free. For whatever reason, the player in question didn’t want to take the kick. He who did strike it dropped the kick short and O’Mahony’s went down the field and worked a winner.
Utter devastation is the only way to describe what ensued in the Dunboyne dressing room. If there was ever any doubt about the esteem in which Myles Fahey was held in our club it surely says enough that in the dressing room in Dunshaughlin that night, a heartbroken bunch of 13 and 14 year old lads gave their manager a standing ovation.
He did gather a group together later that summer to win the U-14 League, with David playing a starring role at full back. Later on that same year, he guided our second U-15 team to the final of their competition against Longwood, which was actually played in the old St Paul’s GFC pitch. Which was subsequently lost to the M3 Motorway. Typical of the manager’s luck in this case, the Longwood side happened to contain one Mickey Burke. Despite a very valiant attempt by our lads, the burden of taking on a club’s first team with our second proved too much.
MOVING INTO THE BIG TIME
It is presumably the ambition of anybody who takes on to manage an underage team is to eventually graduate to manage at adult level. For Myles, that was the Junior C team. But it was treated with the same respect and importance as the Mayo senior team will be afforded before the forthcoming All Ireland Final. When it came to rounding up players – which is an essential element of management at that level – there was nobody his equal.
So, as only he could, he got his merry band of men to the Junior C Final and the B League Final that year. On the night of the semi final, a few of the lads came to myself and da and said, basically, that the jerseys they had were in tatters and, in some cases, didn’t fit the lads at all. Don’t ask me how it came about, but, by the time we were leaving Brady’s, myself and da had agreed to sponsor the team a new set of jerseys for the Final. The only problem was that said fixture was only a week away!
However, after a lot of string pulling by a lot of people, somehow we managed to get them by the Saturday morning. Unfortunately the lads were well beaten on the day, but, naturally with Mr Fahey involved, there was no shortage of talking points – most of them revolving around his flourescent yellow boots!
They did, however, go on to win the League, and, while there was never a doubt about the result, the highlight of the day was undoubtedly the running ‘battle’ between manager and his captain because the latter wouldn’t adhere to the head honcho’s strict defensive policy.
GREEN FINGERS AND MARIE’S JAM
Eventually, for a variety of reasons, Myles stepped back – a bit – from his involvement with the GAA club. But, with the hyperactive mind he had, there was no way he was going to sit idly by and do nothing. Thus, vegetable gardening became his new obsession. Born out of the conjecture that flowed in ‘The Corner’ in Brady’s. Somebody mentioned trying to grow veg on a small scale – in boxes and buckets and the like – and after a while we were all at it in our own different ways. Of course, himself had to go to the next level with it. Yes he had the boxes and buckets and tubs, but he went further. Putting crops down in drills and making up his own greenhouses and cold frames. With the aid of dung procured from either our yard or Pat Clarke’s or Matt Buckley’s.
Mind you, the vegetable operation also brought Myles’s extremely generous nature to the fore. Given the amount of stuff he was producing, of course he had a surplus, so it became common practice for some of us to get deliveries of fresh veg on a fairly regular basis. Often immediately after they had been harvested – complete with roots and a half a bucket of clay attached.
He also planted an absolute plethora of fruit trees. The produce from which his wife Marie would set about turning into delicious pots of jam of varying makeup. Indeed, the day he left Dunboyne for the last time, while cleaning out a press, ma found a pot of Marie’s jam which had, shall we say, gone west. Naturally, the contents had to be disposed of, but thereafter the jar was washed, dried and put back in the press, label facing out. A small bit of Miley left with us.
In the myriad tributes which poured in following his sudden and untimely passing, the most common thread therein was “One of a kind”. Oh he was that alright. Whatever he was invested in, his commitment thereto was all-consuming. You either went along with him or kept out of his way. Often that meant biting one’s lip to the point of bleeding. Mention was afforded earlier to how one former colleague Myles operated by Alternative Logic. Very much marching to the beat of his own drum. Especially when it came to time keeping.
If I had €2 for every time he arrived in my door at ungodly hours of the night – often on his way home from doing overtime – pulling something from the mobile office that was his leather jacket – though it more resembled a bomb site – demanding that it had to be typed up immediately – I could’ve bought 100,000 Lotto tickets. I’d usually be just on the point of either going down for a pint or going to bed, but there was no point arguing with him. Though there was one occasion, after a committee meeting yours truly had actually missed, he wanted to deliver a printing job at circa 1am. Apparently – but not in the least bit surprisingly – he had to be ‘gently persuaded’ that visiting at that hour of the night wasn’t the best idea he’d ever had. So he left it, til 8.30 the next morning!
Once his involvement with the club changed direction so too did the nature of his visits here, if not the obscure timing. If it wasn’t following the standard “Tape the match” text anytime Mayo were on television (even though he’d not only be at it, but in some of the best seats in Croke Park). Stage two of said process would involve forensic analysis of the action. Requiring copious use of the Rewind button and gallons of coffee for him and tea for me.
In time, he became such a extension of our family that there was no need for the phonecall or text prior to his landing in the yard. We just took it for granted he would arrive. And invariably he would, though never empty handed. Depending on the time of year, it could be a match programme from the fixture in question or something out of the garden if it happened to be the ‘off season’. Though in reality Myles didn’t have an off season. Like yours truly, he’d watch nearly any sport. However, to me at least, there was no doubt rugby was his Plan B. With such being the case, whether it was PRO14, Heineken Cup or the national team, you could put your mortgage money arriving in the yard at lightning speed either before or after kick off.
That usually led to an episode of his (in) famous parking ‘skills’. It would be more accurate to describe them as abandonment procedures. Now, our yard at home is big enough that at one stage there were three tractors, a cattle trailer, da’s van and a car parked up and there still was ample room for the wine coloured Primera. But of course its driver had to dismount the vehicle right in between the two gate piers!
Then again, that was only chicken feed compared to some of his parking (mis) adventures. Such as leaving the back end of the Primera half way out on the road for several hours whilst in visiting a former Chairman of our club, blocking a footpath and junction at the same time while running into the butchers, or, my personal favourite, jumping out of the car – leaving it running – to get something in the hardware while the vehicle was in front of a set of traffic lights!
With himself in attendance watching a match, you were also guaranteed additional running commentary on whatever match it happened to be, whether you wanted it or not. One such occasion which will now never be forgotten was the historic occasion on which Ireland registered their first win over the All Blacks in Soldier Field, Chicago.
You see, one of the main side effects of my disability, Cerebral Palsy, are horrific spasms in which the whole body can get trapped. Most of the time, though, it’s my legs which take biggest hammering. To an onlooker, what they notice is me ‘jumping’ whenever there is a sudden and/or loud noise. Like a doorbell ringing, big cheer at a football match, television too loud when turned on, you name it.
This particular night, though, it was the running commentary going into overdrive. Did I say anything? No, of course I didn’t, it was Miley being Miley, and we wouldn’t want him any other way.
My heart is broken yet again. I honestly cannot believe you are gone. You never knew how popular and respected you were, but your contribution to our community and the legacy you leave because of it will live on forever.
Rest easy up there my friend, Lord knows you’ve earned it. I hope Our Lord has his €2 ready for you. If he makes any bones about buying a ticket, use your favourite defencive system – “Drive him back, he’s no relation”!