A remarkable life

The Cast Stone

PASSIONATE OBSERVER Austin Garvin, who passed away last week.

The Cast Stone
Michael Gallagher

We knew his time was limited but when news of Austin’s passing reached us it was still a huge shock.
To think he was gone was hard to process and always will be. Austin Garvin was a one-off, we will not see his likes again.
Like many others, I was blessed to spend time with Austin along sidelines the length and breadth of Ireland working at football matches.
However, when I was beside Austin, it wasn’t really work, it was an education. He had a great eye for talent, an ability to cut through all the fog and assess what really mattered – whether the player had the goods to perform on the biggest day – because Austin wasn’t like the rest of us, he operated on a different level entirely.
At that stage, I would watch whatever game we were working at, in the here-and-now while Austin would watch it with an eye towards the day when a Mayo player would climb into the Hogan and raise Sam to the heavens.
He didn’t just watch footballers and comment on their obvious ability, he knew their family, he knew their talents away from the pitch, he knew what made them tick. He knew the footballer as a whole person, and that’s what made him special.
It’s little wonder that he was so successful with the Mayo Minors – he had a savage passion for the green and red and a great feel for people. He had the magic formula – he understood people.
I will always recall, and I regularly remark upon, days from some  years ago when he and I stood on chilly sidelines watching Rice College play schools games.
The Westport school was building a tradition that would eventually take them to a Hogan Cup final, but at that stage they were still in the foothills.
Austin was smart enough to realise there was something special going on, but he had one thing nagging at him that needed to be sorted.
There was a young fella playing for Rice who caught his eye. He would burst out of defence and look to take the fight to the opposition. He would impress with his demeanour and drive. He would make mistakes and there was a rawness about him, but Austin loved him.
At that stage the young Rice College lad was a talented rugby player, and every day we saw him, Austin would say how important it was that the lad was encouraged to play GAA.
“He’s going to be special. We need him,” he would say.
That young lad was a fella by the name of Lee Keegan.
Austin Garvin was a man of great passion. He knew what mattered. He loved people, place, community and camaraderie; he loved boxing and golf and adored Gaelic football; he knew people the length and breadth of Ireland and they knew him; he knew the day was coming when Sam Maguire will pass through Ballagh’ on towards Charlestown, Swinford and into Castlebar in a sea of light and noise; he knew the future was bright, because he always looked in that direction – he knew what mattered.
But, behind all that, the fuel that drove Austin was his family. He spoke about Mary, Paul, Adrian and Deirdre every time we met, he spoke about grandchildren and laughter, he spoke about happiness and the joys of life.
Austin Garvin lived a remarkable life. He left an impression on all he encountered. We were blessed to know him. His likes will not pass this way again.
May he rest in peace.