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Farewell to a friend

Kevin McStay
Johnny Mulvey
SHOWING HIS COLOURS Johnny Mulvey, who passed away last week, is pictured just three weeks ago at his home in Castlebar.

Farewell to a friend


IT’S difficult to think we will go to Mayo matches up and down the country and never bump into Johnny Mulvey again. No matter the grade, no matter the venue, no matter the weather, the one certainty as you edged into the pitch of the whatever, wherever challenge game you organised, was that Johnny would be there. Sean Feeney will understand when I say that while it is quite a while since he departed as County Secretary, to many of us it seemed he still had his hand on Sean’s shoulder. He was still there in the background guiding his successor,  always supporting and encouraging. When news came through that Johnny had passed away, my first thoughts were of his recent radio interview on Mid West Radio and then I wondered how he was in the aftermath of the defeat to Kerry. It would be his last game involving his beloved Mayo and, of course, there is sadness because he witnessed us at such a low ebb.
I will remember Johnny as simply a lovely man. I enjoyed meeting him wherever Mayo matches took us and throughout our underage – and later senior – careers he gave us all great encouragement and support. His love and belief and faith in Mayo football was amazing; he never allowed results to get him down for too long. I suppose he had seen it all before and knew another day would arrive. Many of us could do worse than learn from that approach.
When I took over the Mayo under 21s Johnny took a great interest in our progress. We had entered the league (Hastings Cup) as a warm-up to the championship and, as the cup was in honour of a Mayo man, we had Johnny address the boys about that history. He was hugely respected among that group as he was among every team I was a part of over the years. I am sure it was the same with every team he touched.
Throughout all my time involved with Mayo I never heard a bad or lousy word said about Johnny Mulvey. That is a very difficult line to claim about any man but in this case, it is absolutely true. One would imagine he made enemies throughout a long career as a top rate administrator but the truth is he had a smashing way of getting on with people. Quiet, knowledgeable and calm, it was the perfect persona for a man in his position.
When remembering people and the great work they did for communities and clubs and associations, we often rush to say ‘we won’t see his likes again’. But Johnny Mulvey was such a man and we will not see his likes around these parts again.
I heard him recently on a Mid West Radio documentary discussing his involvement with Mayo football over that long period of almost 70 years. When he was asked by our Sports Editor, Mike Finnerty what his life would have been like if Mayo football had not coursed through it, he answered simply but beautifully: ‘Sure, it wouldn’t have been a life at all’. Johnny, it was some life, and you gave our county great service. May you rest in peace.

A COUPLE of years ago I went to see Ballina play Crossmolina in a county final. Was it held in Knockmore in the year 2003? If so the years really are flying by. At any rate it was a terrific game with the Stephenites edging the result with a late point or two. At the time I was sure both teams were at their peak but here we go again next Sunday; three years later they are the two big guns left in the four man field.
Between them they supplied nine players to the Mayo 30 man panel for the All Ireland final, a third of the squad, and I suppose this reflects the grip both have had on the Moclair Cup in recent years. Throw in the brace of club All-Irelands and you get the picture. They are simply the outstanding teams in the county over the past ten years or so and even as they leave their best days behind them it is hard to find an heir to their throne.
So, it appears that Knockmore and Ballaghdereen are playing for the runners-up spot and that may be the biggest advantage either will have on finals day. How many times this season alone has complacency led to defeat, it is a recurring theme in all amateur sports.
But I went for Ballina to win this championship a few months ago and gave Ballagh’ a honourable mention. And I will stick with that: a Ballina-Ballaghdereen decider and a repeat of the 1985 final when we fell over the line. Happy days then for the Green and Red. 2006 should be the same.

Roscommon remind us what it’s all about
IT is only right and proper that I reflect on the marvellous victory Roscommon minors pulled off a week or so ago in Ennis. A few of my Ros’ readers are wondering if I air-brushed it from my memory following our recent trauma in Dublin. Not at all, I ran out of time because of the celebrations!
Well, what a story it is. Against all the odds this team won through and in the process took out teams such as Mayo, Galway, Meath and Kerry, of course. As we drove back from Ennis that day I wondered what this year’s Mayo minors and their management team made of it all. And no doubt, countless others who played Ros’ in challenge and league games.
You will recall Roscommon beat Mayo in this year’s Connacht final but the sense among all present was that Mayo had just as good a team. The question of course was how both teams would progress from there on, how that potential might be realised. In this regard, Ros’ because of their fine win, got the easier draw and took out Tipperary at the QF stage. Mayo faced Kerry and it was exit stage left.
What staggered all of us was the exponential increase in their rate of progress; once the confidence of victories over their old adversaries Mayo and Galway was absorbed they kicked for home. Having followed both the team and their management closely I can say with some authority that it was a team that maximised all its abilities.
Down Mayo way we are beginning to get a little paranoid about the Kerry jersey – last week’s column listed the carnage. But consider the attitude of ‘Ros man’ when he togs to face the might of the Kingdom. There are four grades that interest the serious Gael: senior, under 21, minor and junior.
And when Ros’ set out on winning seasons in those grades, guess what: their last senior title was against the Kingdom with Jimmy Murray at the helm (1944); under 21 was 1978 when Seamus Hayden led from the front in beating a star-studded Kerry team; throw in the junior title of 2000 with Shane Curran as skipper, again versus Kerry.
Last Saturday week Roscommon completed their very own ‘Grand Slam’ – a minor victory against, yes indeed, the men from Munster again. It is a fantastic record and confirms what many of us following Connacht football always knew: Ros’ are slow to bow the knee to any opponent and if the game is a serious contest, they will stick to the bitter end looking for the win.
In my own time Roscommon always contested, always harassed and gave as good as they could. Whether you won or lost against Ros’ you went home sore and tired from the confrontation and Monday was a day of rest! It looks like the present minors are chiselled from the same rock.
It was my first ever experience of an All Ireland winning team returning to their county. For various reasons, I missed the underage ones we had in Mayo. It was a fantastic end to a simply unbelievable year for these minors and I must say it was marvellous to be at the homecoming with our jersey-clad Roscommon children. Being allowed out at such a young age they might get complacent and think this happens regularly in the county!
What is rare is of course, wonderful and that Saturday night drive from Ballinasloe across through Johnstown and on to Kiltoom, Knockcroghery and into the county town enabled us witness the great joy and passion Roscommon people have for their Gaelic games. After all, there were more than 20,000 people at an under 18 game eight hours earlier; think about that.
I like everything I see and hear about this group of people. You will know it does not surprise me, as the example set by the adults among them is simply outstanding. Many will move on now and the county has a habit of making sure the most of them make the step up. Over a half dozen will return to this arena next year and I imagine the mentors will hang around also in an effort to build on this breakthrough.