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Paddy McTigue remembered

Sport
The ties that bind


"When you landed the ball in Paddy McTigue’s lap you knew you had a point scored.”

Sketch
Willie McHugh


HE knew all the good vantage points. On a clear night he could see Galway city flickering across the sheen of Lough Corrib’s still waters from the hillock his front door hinged on. But he was Mayo to the core. And it was the moonbeam that illuminates the Mayo darkness brightest that always guided him home.
He loved the game of cards too. Perhaps not played in the tranquil settings captured best in John Betjeman’s eloquent lines.

“The flip of cards on winter eves,
The whisky and the scoring,
As trees outside were stripped of leaves,
And heavy seas were roaring.”

He might have trumped the Ace or hit the table a little harder when he nailed the leading Queen.
And long before a struggling economy introduced the notion of Men’s Sheds as a coping mechanism it was to such a place he rambled in search of a daily crust.
The old building in Greenfields occupied by his employers, The Inland Fisheries, was his workplace. Safe too to assume that little by way of work happened there on Monday mornings. More important subjects than fish needed dissecting. Matches played on Sunday had to be analysed under the microscope of hindsight first.
It was never going to be any other way. The echo of a hopping ball was the backing jingle to his rhyme of life. He waltzed on borrowed times those last few months.
Perhaps a bit more than a coincidence then that Paddy McTigue would play out his final days in stoppage time as The Neale footballers readied themselves for their big journey too. Some things take a bit more explaining.
As mourners trod a path to his Funshona home on Friday, it was the fluttering sound of The Neale and Mayo banners unfurling proudly in the gentle breeze that welcomed them first. It’s the only man-made planting that will always surpass Mother Nature’s greatest creations in any front garden.    
The Neale are his team now. They are the President’s men. There was also a faded yellow Glencorrib jersey he once wore strewn across his coffin too. He lived near the well Glencorrib footballers syphoned players from. He gave them his all to overflowing when floating in the bucket they teamed him in.
Because of fluctuating numbers, Glencorrib disbanded and sensibly reinvented themselves by amalgamating with Shrule. The Neale then reclaimed the football high ground up around Houndswood, Inishmacatreer and Castletown again. Paddy was still the jewel in the monarch’s crown.
Both clubs doffed their hats to his memory. Eamon Ryan of Gortbrack and Hugh Hennelly of Cross among others manned traffic on the road outside. He’d have loved that.
Heck no! He’d have expected it because football never built an insurmountable boundary for Paddy McTigue when it came to a good neighbourly deed.
His other favoured vista was gleamed from directly behind the Ballinrobe Road goal in McHale Park Castlebar. As Billy Fitzpatrick remarked on Sunday afternoon, “When you landed the ball in Paddy McTigue’s lap you knew you had a point scored.”
It was from here he applauded the accuracy of the same Fitz’, Joe Corcoran, Ciaran McDonald, Conor Mortimer and Cora Staunton over the years.
HE was the original of the men species who followed the fortunes of Mayo Ladies and perhaps he even found a greater enjoyment watching them playing. He stood sentry over John Morley, Noel Connelly and Eugene Rooney on days they unselfishly threw their body on the line defending Mayo’s honour. From there he reaped his yarns and descriptive tales for the analytical shed in Greenfield on Monday morning.
Behind that goal he saw Garrymore win the three-in-a-row in 1976. Had life spared him he’d have been there on Sunday watching the Ballintubber dream-chasers attempting a similar feat. He’d have empathised with Alan Dillon discarding a blood-stained bandage as he teed an attempt to rekindle the embers. He’d have known as we all did that Dillon’s gesture was symbolic acknowledgement that the Gods weren’t smiling for Ballintubber.
He’d have been glad for Andy Moran. When Ballaghadereen fuelled the 2012 championship journey in a Tourmakeady field on a May Sunday, Andy tied the bootlaces for the trip. Little did he realise he’d be sitting this, and other outings, out on the lovely harvest day they’d capture Paddy Moclair.
But Andy was as proud as anyone on Sunday evening last when Ballagh’ sped east towards blazing bonfires beyond John Healy’s nineteen acres in Carracastle that now widens as a motorway.
Not so sure though what Paddy McTigue would have made of his own name etched in neon on the electronic scoreboard during the minute’s silence before the Junior Final. He only sat comfortably in the shadow beyond the limelight. He’d have struggled as we all did to identify the players such was the almost head-on clash of colours. It  resembled a preamble to a St Patrick’s Day Parade with all the green.
No doubt he’d have told tales of PJ Gilmartin, Johnny Culkin, Joe Corcoran and other days. From the most ancient part of the town Ardnaree crossed the bridge spanning The River Moy on their way to meet the challenge. If there’s a greater demarcation line of concrete in this world then we’ve yet to hear about it.
And there waiting for them in neutral Castlebar were the football men from Ballyrourke, Dringeen, Lackafinna, Drumshiel and the two great geographical conundrums that are ever Creevagh, Cong and Creevagh, The Neale.
The Junior decider spun both sets of supporters through the wringer. Cowboy Jack Holian lends his encouraging voice to The Neale’s cause on good days and bad. No wonder then he removed his well-decorated culchie hat more times that he’d have wished on Sunday watching his forwards stitch unnecessary embroidery into their patterned attack.
But they were never going to get it handy against a resolute Ardnaree side that had ‘Jinking Joe from the Banks of The Moy’ schooling them with invaluable nuggets of wisdom. Lectures in the great academies of the learning world could never impart such knowledge garnered with time. A draw was the final outcome and both sides must return again with their Plan B. And a few more colours from Benetton would help too.
For now the football romantics in our midst might pedal the notion that it would have been nice had The Neale won it for Paddy. But sport and life walk from the cradle to the grave entwined always as a glorious uncertainty.
But The Neale and the Glencorrib heroes of yesteryear had already afforded him the greatest send-off of all. They tightened the ties that bind and together they chaperoned him home over the bridge in Cross on Saturday morning last . It was the weekend when glory beckoned and Heaven came calling.
A week of the football days and nights Paddy McTigue lived his life for.  

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