Peter Darby: 1938-2022 RIP

Anybody who has been perusing my output for long enough will surely know of the central role Brady’s Pub in Dunboyne has always played in my life. A minute part of me wanted to document that in the past tense but I refuse to countenance, let alone accept, that certain parts of my ‘old’ life are lost and gone forever.

In fact, immediately prior to the commencement in production of what you are reading, a battery of phone calls swirled in lots of directions, the upshot of which is getting certain parts of my former self back up and moving may be closer now than at any time in the last decade.

However, the late, great and desperately missed Sean Nealon Snr, his family and his staff took me under their collective wing and very much became a second family to me at a time when my life was in a very dark place, unknown by many at the time.

The thing is, apart from the company, advice and, yes, the few jars, what will forever be treasured most will be the people encountered along the way and the grounding in life picked up. Last night, with profound shock and deep sadness, it was learned that another legend who became a friend many years ago, Peter Darby, was called to the dugout far away. Only weeks after his wife, Joan.

Best known for captaining Meath to their third All Ireland SFC title in 1967, there was far more to the Peter Darby story than that and there are people far more qualified than I who can and will pay more fulsome tribute to the great Trim man in due course, but, as is always the case in these situations, the occasion cannot be allowed to pass without some form of personal recollection.

Peter is assured of his place in the annals of GAA history. Not only in Meath but in an all-encompassing sense. Yes, ’67 obviously resonates greatest from a Meath perspective, but, it was on foot of him leading the then All Ireland Champions to Australia the following year which sowed the initial seedlings of what became the International Rules Series were planted.

Darby’s greatest day: Lifting Sam in 1967

There is another piece of history which he will now go to rest with still accredited to his name which it can be safely assumed he would have wished to shed a long time ago now – that of being the only Trim man to lift the Keegan Cup (Meath SFC) all of 60 years ago. That takes on an even greater poignance now as I would be firmly of the view that the town team are better equipped and placed now to fill that void than at any time before.

Like so many of the significant happenings in my life, making the acquaintance of so many people who became cherished friends and much more took place in Brady’s. Not just Sean, his family and his staff, but the myriad customers whose paths were cross and – of greatest pertinence here – the many Sales Reps who would call on various days during the week, peddling their wares.

Now, prior to the development of the St Peter’s GAA clubhouse in 2007, Brady’s was very much the social hub of our club. The meeting place after matches or meetings, victories celebrated, defeats picked apart, vital fundraising held and indeed received, on the premises and received from Sean himself.

On the latter point, what has always been an invaluable crossover between the club and the ‘bar game’ manifested itself in the person of Tom Dermody, former Sales And Marketing Manager with C & C Wholesale (now Britvic). ‘Mossy’ served as Chairman of our club for three years and, akin to another former officer, this one sadly no longer with us, Tom has never been afraid to use ‘the job’ to the benefit of Dunboyne GAA.

With Meath’s Seven All Ireland SFC winning Captains at the opening of Sean Eiffe Park Ratoath. Back (L/R:) Peter Darby (RIP), Brian Smyth (RIP) Peter McDermott (RIP), Joe Cassells, Mick Lyons. Front: Graham Geraghty, Myself, Tommy Dowd.

Now, whether the following was actually C & C policy or pure coincidence or not is unknown to me, but, a huge percentage of their Reps always seemed to be well known GAA personalities.

Indeed, most of the drinks companies seemed to take a similar line back then. In Brady’s alone, you had Robbie O’Malley and/or Bernard Flynn in for Tennants, ‘Jinksy’ Beggy on the road for Guinness and Cormac ‘ Spud’ Murphy playing a blinder for Heineken.

Some of you will know, more won’t, but, at that time, yours truly was just coming out of some horrendous experiences in the education system and Brady’s and the people therein played a huge part in my recovery from same.

In so far as getting to meet the reps in doing their thing. To the point where the schedule was known by heart: ‘Spud’ on a Monday, Peter on a Tuesday, ‘Jinksy’ on a Wednesday. All of which fed into my addiction to and reliance on football.

It was Peter who started it all for me. As in, being the first rep with whom the weekly chats were had. Like many people of that vintage or older upon a first meeting with the occupant of this seat, he was how much knowledge there was here about the magnificent team he led. Why wouldn’t there be, though, given the tremendous contribution made to that success by our neighbours in Kilbride.

Which in itself was picked up was picked up via our family doing business such as buying cattle off the Mighty Quinns or taking delivery of concrete from Pat Bruton. Mattie Kerrigan was another member of that group who has become a great friend to me over the years.

Yet there was something incalculably special about being able to get unique insight from somebody who has lifted Sam. Something I was able to achieve with six out of Meath’s seven. ‘The Man With The Cap’ being the odd one out.

Peter’s retirement from C & C was something of a double edged sword for me. Obviously, it meant our paths didn’t cross as much as once was the case, but, the other side of that is that his replacement Sean Barry has also become a very special friend and close confidant.

Furthermore, other GAA greats such as Gene Sherry and Richie Power and Larry Murphy and Liam Dunne and Tommy Dunne (I think) were encountered along the way. Thankfully, mind you, Peter was bumped into on several occasions after he closed the order book for the last time.

One of which was on a midweek evening when he arrived into Brady’s with Mossy after the pair of them were at a golf ‘do’ somewhere. Now, I never usually drank Club Orange – which was the two lads bread and butter – because I’m actually allergic to oranges, but, of course, stupid, immature me, had to try and put a show on for the lads. Boy did I suffer for it the next day.

As far as can be recalled, our next meeting came at a Meath GAA fundraiser before the Royal County Minor footballers played in the All Ireland Final of 2012. That weekend was also the last time time was spent in the company of the late Shane McEntee TD, the tenth anniversary of whose death has just began as this is being typed.

What turned out to be the final meeting with Peter occurred when the ’67 crew were introduced to the crowd on County Final day in Pairc Tailteann some years ago. Though I would regularly inquire as to and get regular updates on how he was doing via my uncle Austin Geoghegan who has been heavily involved with Co Meath Golf Club in Trim for decades.

Thus, perhaps it was fitting that it was from Austin that news of his sad passing came from Austin on Monday night. Coming so soon after that of Joan, Peter’s death is similar to a number others in that couples who in life were so united that when one of them sets off for the great beyond, the other sadly often isn’t far behind them.

May Peter’s family and those of us blessed to have crossed paths with him draw strength from knowing that himself and Joan are now reunited.

Peter, my friend, I hope there’s a Club Orange and a set of golf clubs waiting for you above. Rest in peace.

FOGRA: Sympathy is also extended to the family and friends of Gary McDonnell, a giant of Ballinlough GFC. A fierce competitor on the field, kind, loyal and helpful off it. May he rest in peace.

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