FAMOUS FACES The late John Durcan in his St Patrick costume pictured with 1956 Olympic Gold medal winner Ronnie Delany before the 2006 All-Ireland Football Final between Kerry and Mayo in Croke Park. Pic: Sportsfile
One of the great characters of the Mayo GAA scene passes away
The death took place earlier today (Friday) of one of Mayo GAA’s best-known supporters, John Durcan. John, aged 75, of Coguala, Westport was known affectionately, far and wide, as ‘St Patrick’, having attended scores of Mayo games over the years dressed in the regalia of Ireland’s patron saint.
An army veteran, John served his country for 36 years. He had bravely battled ill-health for many years and remained in typically high spirits throughout.
John was a native of Carracastle, Bonniconlon. He joined the army in 1960, and shortly afterwards, at the age of 17, he was sent on the first of two six-month tours of duty to the Congo. He also did four tours to Cyprus and two in the Lebanon.
“I did eight overseas trips – to hell and back stuff, I’ll tell you,” John told the late Neill O’Neill in an interview in The Mayo News in 2008.
He also served with the Irish Army on the border after the Troubles in the north broke out in 1969.
The Durcan family moved to Westport in 1980 and John left the army in 1996. He then worked for seven years with Allergan.
From 2004 on, he was renowned as ‘St Patrick’, dressing up in green and red for games involving Mayo men’s and women’s teams, and in red and black for Westport United’s successful FAI Junior Cup run in 2005.
He also brought colourful banners and slogans everywhere he went.
“St Patrick was never meant to last so long,” John told The Mayo News in 2008. “The first banner I made was in 2004 and read ‘Holly for Brolly’ in response to Joe Brolly, who had been scathing in his criticism of some of the Mayo players. The TV cameras and everyone loved it, and leaving MacHale Park after the match that day a woman from Castlebar said ‘You could get great mileage out of that image’ … She convinced me that I should dress up as St Patrick the following week in a parade and raise money for charity … I haven’t looked back since.”
Even when ill in recent years, John still dressed up as St Patrick when the opportunity arose. He was cared for in recent years by his family at home, and he maintained a passion for Mayo football until his passing.
One of the great characters of the Mayo GAA scene, John was a great friend to The Mayo News.
“John was a regular visitor to The Mayo News office, where his daughter Cepta is a long-serving and valued employee,” said Mayo News Editor Michael Duffy. “John was a larger-than-life character who always had a smile on his face and who will be sadly missed by his family, friends and the wider Mayo GAA community.”
John will be sadly missed by his wife, Agatha; children, Neil, Shane, Frankie, Cepta, Bobby and Paul; brother, Tony (Dublin); grandchildren, extended family and wide circle of friends.
Reposing at St Aidan's Room adjoining St Patrick's Church, Islandeady on Sunday, April 14, from 5pm, with the removal at 7pm to the church. Requiem Mass on Monday, April 15, at 12 noon, with the funeral afterwards to Fahy Cemetery. House private at all times. May he rest in peace.