Sporting regret 50 years on

C'mere 'til I tell ya
Sporting regret 50 years on

Daniel CareyDaniel Carey

“FRIG it lads, we shudda won”. Half a century on, the regret felt over sporting defeat prompted that simple, despondent sentence from a man now approaching 70 who was a member of the Cavan team beaten in the All-Ireland minor football final of 1959.
The phrase provided the title for a memorable contribution to the RTÉ radio programme ‘Sunday Miscellany’ written by Larry McCluskey, a member of that defeated Cavan team. It seems all the more poignant in the aftermath of another Mayo defeat in Croke Park.
‘Sunday Miscellany’ often has a GAA theme on the morning of the All-Ireland final. In September 2005, it aired Joe Kearney’s ‘Away From Home’, in which the author remembered falling into conversation with a fellow Irish emigrant while listening to the 1967 decider on a transistor radio in North London. “You’re from Cork?” he asked, an assumption based on the accent. The man’s eyes crinkled with mischief as he trotted out his party piece. “Cork me hole!” he shouted. “I’m from Mallow!”
Last Sunday week, geographic confusion was also an issue on the ‘special’ train organised by Iarnród Éireann for the minor game. “Are we somewhere near Dublin?” one teenager asked at 8.05am. “No, we’re just gone past Claremorris!” one of her friends replied, trying unsuccessfully to stifle a laugh.
A different question of location raised its head among another group of schoolgirls. “Why did you get on in Westport and not Castlebar?” one asked another. “Because I was out last night and I haven’t gone to bed,” came the understandable reply. Wonder if she was still awake by the end of the senior final.
The train was coming into Athlone when one young rail-user announced delightedly: “Hey, the toilets are class!” So in a week when the shelving of the ‘early bird’ service from Westport was condemned as ‘deplorable’, it wasn’t all bad news for Irish Rail.
Just as we were arriving into the capital, there was a rather optimistic one-man rendition of ‘Sam Maguire’s Coming Home To Mayo’ – which, given that Mayo had been knocked out of the senior competition at the quarter-final stage, would have been some achievement.
The mistake was quickly realised, although people seemed unsure about the name of the cup the Mayo minors were trying to win. Thus, a hesitant chorus of something that sounded like ‘Tommy Markham’s Coming Home To Mayo’ gave way to a more full-throated ‘Tommy Marren’s Coming Home To Mayo’ – which may come as a surprise to the Midwest Radio presenter, who to the best of my knowledge is a proud Sligoman.
But then, all kinds of legends can be created on All-Ireland final day. Larry McCluskey said that the reunion committee in Cavan were organising jerseys for members of the panel. The sample shirts read ‘All-Ireland finalists 1959’. “I don’t like ‘finalists’,” said the corner back. “It begs the question: ‘Did yez win?’ Just say ‘final’.” Then the centre half-back had an idea. “Ah, to hell with ‘final’,” he said. “Put ‘winners’ on them! Sure at this stage, who’ll know but ourselves? And anyway, we shudda won!”