‘Spoggy’s one liner still rings true

For those of you who might not be aware, yours truly walked with a walking aid between 1986 and 1991. That coming about after major corrective surgery on my legs. They had been tangled in an x shape from the time I was born.

The manner in which the procedure was carried out was barbaric to the point of being unethical, but there can be no doubting the transformative effect it had on my life at the time.

So much so, indeed, that there are often times when there’s a pondering of what life might have been like had the job been done when I was older than four.

Anyway, there’s no point trying to bolt the stable door shut when the horse is half way round the track. Alas, too much weight gain on my part and the neglect of my left hand by professionals until it was past the point of rescue ended my walking ‘career’ on the day Down beat Meath in the All Ireland SFC Final of 1991.

It was something that went down like a lead balloon in certain places and took me a long time to get used to as well. Though once the initial rawness wore off I think it would be fairly widely acknowledged that a fair fist has been made of rolling through the journey of life thus far.

The role which sport – and GAA in particular – has played in aiding that conveyance for the last four and a bit decades is incalculable. As it happens, outside of July 6th, 1991, the last week of September has been – on a couple of occasions – pivotal in maintaining happiness and pointing the way forward for the occupant of this seat.

Owing, of course, to Meath’s annexation of the All Ireland SFC in both 1996 and 1999 on the last Sunday of the ninth month. How Brendan Reilly didn’t receive an All Star at the end of former season remains one of the inglorious myteries.

Not just because he kicked the winning point against Mayo either. His selection at full forward that year caused unmerited derision among his own people but by the end of that season it was cemented as the single greatest decision of Sean Boylan’s tenure with Meath.

Were it not for Graham Geraghty’s mesmeric masterclass against Tyrone, Brendan’s display in the same game would surely have ranked as the greatest individual display by a Meath footballer in Croker.

Thankfully, the travesty of the All Star snub was rectified the following year, but, though he inspired Dunboyne to their first Meath SFC in 1998, during the latter end of that last-mentioned season, Brendan became so ravaged by injury it was thought by many that he probably would never play again.

Until, that is, one frosty March morning in Milennium year. This corner thought his one seeing eye was on the fritz when observing what looked like the familiar crouch of our club’s first All Star.

It didn’t just look like him. It was him. Lining out in the first round of the reserve league against Ballivor. If he had lined out at such a level for us previously, it was at least a decade and a half before.

Brendan’s cousin Seamus Maguire was manging our second team that season and to this day he still maintains it was the nearest he ever saw me to getting out of the wheelchair and walking again!

Perhaps naturally, once the great man had come through a few matches with the Junior side, conjecture turned to whether he would be up to making the step up to the senior team. The following is meant in the best way possible, but, thankfully, he didn’t.

Instead, his odyssey with our second team went all the way to the Junior Football Championship Final. Along the way, undoubtedly the most memorable match was our semi final defeat of Clan Na nGael.

A nip and tuck, point for point cracker on a scorching Sunday evening in Walterstown. In the melting pot of which Brendan grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck, driving over our final three scores of the encounter. Leaving exactly that between the teams at the end.

When the last of the triumvirate curled over, our late, sadly missed former club Presient Pat ‘Spoggy’ Kelly turned to me and quite simply said “You can’t beat class”.

Last weekend, to the unbridled joy of all in Dunboyne, ‘Spoggy’s one liner rang true once again when our second adult hurling team captured their county title for the first time in 16 years.

The late Pat ‘Spoggy’ Kelly pictured with his son Martin

Before anybody says anything, it was discovered long ago that actually attending hurling matches was pointless on my part because once the sliotar goes airborne I may as well be looking for white blackbirds.

However, thanks to the wonders of modern technology I was not only able to follow every puc of the ball in Pairc Tailteann, I was even able to see some of our myriad scores on their merry way.

And it was indeed some of the most talented stickmen to don the black and amber in my lifetime – augmented by some young stars breaking through it must be said – who steered the ship home.

The great Neil Hackett hoists the silverware skyward so ‘Spoggy’ and so many more in the hurling field far away can smile above

The golden oldies being my generation, my contemporaries. From Seanie Moran in goal, to Niall Watters, Stephen Moran, Barry Watters and Neil Hackett. With a combined age of we won’t say what. That’s without even mentioning the evergreen Johnny O’Connor!

Though it should be pointed out that their heroic efforts were augmented by stars with considerably less mileage on the clock like Peter O’Doherty and the outstanding John Mitchell. The latter making his own piece of history by following in the footsteps of his dad Ray in winning a county title with our second adult team. He probably wasn’t alone in that either, I’ll have to check.

What many mightn’t realise is the personal significance the Junior Hurling Championship has for me. You see, my late father Sean was part of the Dunboyne team which claimed the competition in 1956.

In fact, throughout his life he was very proud of the fact the team’s ‘back four’ – Jim Reilly in goal, da at right full back, Paddy McIntyre on the edge of the square and Aidan Curley at left corner back – never conceded a goal throughout that season.

A few interesting asides from that victory long ago, in the final thereof, they beat a Wilkinstown team started by Sean McManus – who actually lined out at centre half back that day – which was basically the embryonic stages of the Wolfe Tones club as we now know it. Furthermore, though it might seem unlikely, there was also a link between that day 66 years ago and last Sunday’s triumph.

That coming about courtesy of the introduction of Ciaran McIntyre as a second half substitute in the black and amber. He being a grandson of Paddy who was at full back in 1956 and indeed a son of Paddy who played as a dual player for club and county with distinction for many years.

Elsewhere in the aftermath of our most recent success, tribute was rightly paid to the Moran family who for generations have been at the very epicentre of our club. As dual players, yes, but most would agree that it would be for being synonymous with hurling this remarkable clan would be more instantly recognisable. Be that as players, mentors or administrators.

On Sunday last, Seanie, Shane – or The Bull as he’s far better known – and Stephen were to the fore in our latest hurling success and though, like many of their colleagues, they have plenty if mileage on the clock, there’s nothing to say the engines won’t be ticking over when the grass is shorter and the evenings longer next Spring. You really can’t beat class!

The Man Of The Match, a delighted team sponsor and proud dad

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