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Bangor man’s All-Ireland final day nightmare


LUCKY ESCAPE The damage to the interior of Gerry Sweeney’s home.

Edwin McGreal

Many Mayo fans made the journey west on Sunday, September 17 distraught after the All-Ireland Final defeat to Dublin.
But for Gerry Sweeney from Bangor-Erris, his journey home that day was panic-filled.
Having stayed in Lucan overnight for the game, the well-known Mayo Association Football League Chairman was trying to swap tickets when he got a call from a neighbour at home at 7.10am to tell him of a fire in the shed at the back of his house.
Before he knew it, he was getting another call half an hour later from his nephew – the fire had spread to the house. Sweeney got in the car and headed west, with what seemed like the whole county going the other way.
“It was very distressing. My nephew Enda Brogan rang me and he was playing it down, saying it was only smoke damage so I wouldn’t be flying down. When I got there, it was much worse than I thought,” Mr Sweeney told The Mayo News.
“About half the rooms in the house are gutted and there’s smoke damage throughout the house. It would have been worse only a lot of the doors were closed and that helped stop the spread. We’re very lucky that there was nobody at home. My wife was with family in Castlebar, I was in Dublin, my eldest son Gary was in Manchester and my youngest son James was in Dublin,” he said.
His son Gary works for Manchester United as a first team recruitment analyst.
Mr Sweeney urged people to ensure that they have fire alarms in their homes and in sheds and to make sure their homes are insured.
“We’re insured so we do not have to worry about the financial cost of it thankfully,” he said.
Mr Sweeney said there is no clearcut cause of the fire in the shed at their home on Church Road in Bangor. The shed had various tools and machinery, and turf for the winter. However, he said the greatest accelerant was an oil tank beside the shed. It had just been filled days earlier ahead of the winter.
“When I first heard of the fire being in the shed, I was hopeful it could be contained but when the oil tank caught fire and that melted, the oil and flames started running down the slope to the house and that’s how the house caught fire. Thankfully a number of our neighbour’s houses close by did not catch fire,” he said.
Mr Sweeney is extremely grateful for the local support they received on the day.
“The call only came after a car of girls from Belmullet going to the game saw the flames off the road and drove down to check. Some of the girls were saying it was probably a bonfire for the Mayo team but one of them, Stephanie Anne Keane, said it couldn’t be and checked. Fair play to her.
“The alarm was raised and James Barrett, of Barrett’s Coaches, went up there too and rang me. Only for them it could have been a lot worse.
“Belmullet and Achill Fire Brigades were both at the scene and were brilliant, especially on the day that was in it. They got the fire under control as quickly as they could. I got down at 11am and they were still there until 1pm. It was a major fire,” said Mr Sweeney.
The Sweeneys are staying with family while seeking alternative accommodation while the house is restored.
One of the items part damaged in the fire was the Super League Trophy but it was worked on ahead of last Sunday’s final round of games. Mr Sweeney had taken it back from the 2016 winning captain, Gary Cunningham of Westport United, just a week before.
And last Sunday he presented it back to Cunningham as Westport claimed their fourth title in a row.
“The moral of the story is there’s probably no need to take it from Westport,” he joked.
Finally, Gerry wished to thank all the people who contacted him and his family to empathise with them about the fire.
“We had loads of personal calls and phone calls, people have been brilliant really. I know we have a good community here but it is only at times like you appreciate it and actually realise how fantastic people are,” concluded Gerry.