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Mayo mourns the late Austin Garvin


HUGE LOSS The late Austin Garvin reported on sport and news events for The Mayo News for over 20 years

Michael Commins

THE Mayo GAA fraternity as well as friends from the boxing and club circles in the region joined family and friends in a fond farewell to Austin Garvin in Claremorris at the weekend. He was a man who, as Fr Peter Gannon said during his tribute to Austin at the Mass on Saturday, had ‘the red and green embedded into his veins’.
The news of the passing of Austin brought great sadness to the general Claremorris community and much further afield as Austin had friends all over Ireland and abroad. He was a true legend of the local club and of the GAA scene in Mayo.
In his mid-twenties when injuries had cut short his playing career with the club, Austin managed Mayo to All-Ireland Minor glory in 1971. It was a remarkable feat at the time and one he repeated seven years later when Mayo defeated Dublin by 4-9 to 3-8 in one of the classic finals of any era.
His term as manager of Mayo minor teams delivered two All-Ireland titles and seven Connacht titles that put him in a league of his own.
He retained a strong loyalty to the club all through the years and was involved in coaching at various times while always lending advice and encouragement to players in all grades. He served as secretary, PRO, and in other capacities over the years. He was also involved with the committee that organised the big reunion for the 1971 Claremorris senior team (Mayo champions) that took place some months ago.
He covered numerous games for The Mayo News for several years with a strong focus on the colleges scene and the Connacht minor championship and league as well as club games in all grades around the region. These were always fair and balanced and flavoured with his instinctive interpretation of where games were won and lost.
Austin also filed many reports for Midwest Radio as well as co-hosting a popular Sunday evening GAA show on Claremorris Community Radio along with Billy Fitzpatrick and John Whittle and where he always brought a wonderful insight into the local GAA scene as well as the national scene when the All-Ireland football and hurling games were in full swing.
Boxing and golf were other sporting passions for Austin and he commanded huge respect throughout the boxing and golf fraternities in the western province.

Large gathering
The large gathering that filed through Gilligan’s Funeral Home on Friday evening reflected the special regard in which Austin was held by so many people. They included many from the Mayo teams he managed during the 1970s and players who cherished his encouragement and friendship over the years. Good friends from Galway and Roscommon and other counties also made the journey to Claremorris to pay their respects to a man that held a special place in their hearts.
Claremorris and Mayo GAA, Claremorris Golf Club and Claremorris Fianna Fáil formed a large guard of honour from the Funeral Home to St Colman’s Church.  
Fr Peter Gannon was the chief celebrant at the Requiem Mass and he was joined by Fr Gerry French, Fr Des Walsh, Fr Tommy Commins, Fr Martin O’Connor, Fr John O’Boyle and Fr Seán Killeen. The epistle readers were Deirdre Garvin and John P Kean. Music and hymns were rendered by Sharon Cuffe and Tom Lyons.
The items brought up in the offertory procession, reflecting all that was so close to his heart, were a family photograph, a prayer book missal, a Mayo minor jersey from the 1970s, golf balls and a copy of The Mayo News.

Big influence
Fr Peter said Austin had a big influence on everyone he met and that he was going to be missed by so many people. “He was a quiet spoken man and one of the most sensitive people I have met on my journey. He always said the good and the positive and only expressed compliments.
“He was a tower of strength and a good listener. He was sympathetic, encouraging and discreet and was a safety net for a lot of people.”  
Austin was a man of deep and abiding faith and this was mentioned in a special way by Fr Peter. “Austin was devoted to his religion. He attended daily Mass and was a reader in this church. He was also a lovely presence in the funeral liturgy team. He had a fascination for scripture. We thank God for the many blessings he shared with so many during the span of his life.”
Adrian Garvin delivered the eulogy at the start of the Mass. He recalled how his dad made lifelong friends throughout the country through his involvement in GAA. “Navigating the crowds on a big championship Sunday in Croke Park was a serious challenge with Dad in tow as every 20 or 30 steps meant a stop to shake the hand of a lifelong friend he had just bumped into.
“It would be remiss of me not to highlight two of his closest friends, Seamus Gallagher and John P Kean who have served as great friends, supports and confidants to him throughout the years, particularly over the past year or so as his health started to deteriorate.
“Between the constant visits and phone calls and taking dad out for a drive or a coffee when his mobility started to become an issue, they raised dad’s spirits immeasurably and helped maintain a sense of normality for him.
“Dad had a long career with Telecom Éireann and always spoke so fondly of his time there, primarily due to the great friendships he formed and it has been lovely meeting some of his ex-colleagues over the past few days.

Apple of his eye
“The apple of his eye however was our wonderful sister Deirdre and he always had such a strong sense of pride at seeing how she has developed over the years. As an avid Manchester United fan, Deirdre never misses a game on TV and dad loved nothing more than watching a game in front of the fire with her.
“He also loved taking her for day trips and meals out and they went to countless movies together in the cinema in Castlebar, the vast majority of which he slept through! He often said that his proudest moment in life was seeing Deirdre winning medals at the Special Olympics World Games in Shanghai and Athens.”
His other son, Paul, read a lovely poem written by Navan based Erris native, Eddie Maguire, at the end of the Mass.
Austin will be greatly missed by his wife Mary (née O’Dwyer) and their family, Paul, Adrian and Deirdre, his brothers, Tom, Michael and Philip, grandchildren Sophie, Leah, Dylan, Jacob and Seth, daughter-in-law Cora, Paul’s partner Imelda and his wide circle of relatives, neighbours and friends.