THE Green & Red Trust honoured five Mayo men, at their annual dinner in Breaffy House, for a lifetime of unremitting dedication to their clubs, county and the GAA in general.
One man was selected from each of the four divisions in the county, and one who has been living in New York for close on half a century.
Their names are familiar to anyone in Mayo even faintly connected with the GAA – Richard Cosgrove (Kiltane),Tom Duggan (Mayo Abbey), Peter Reynolds (Westport), Peter Geraghty (Swinford) and Pat Gavin of New York, a native of Aghagower.
All of them are pillars of their clubs and of the GAA. They are the selfless souls whose work, unstinting and unflagged, forms the roots of the organisation, the name of which has been reverberating around the sporting world in recent weeks.
They are the men who run the club, who mark the pitch, put up the nets, cut the grass, coach the young, stand as umpire when others are reluctant, act as linesmen, stand in goal at any age to make up the fifteen in a challenge . . . in the wind and rain.
They are, as Dr Mick Loftus put it, the men who made the GAA what it was today, who gave so much of their time in so many ways. “Without them and their likes, there would not be a Croke Park in existence today.”
Pat Gavin, like so many of his generation, left his home and his farm in Aghagower 46 years ago to find in New York what he could not get at home . . . the chance to earn a decent living.
In the scary vastness of the city he sought out the Mayo GAA club, and has been one of its most loyal servants ever since, having held office in every capacity.
He has also been a friend to every Mayo person who has ever had need to contact him, and no day passes that he is not in contact with Paddy Muldoon about Mayo’s fortunes in league and championship.
“Even in my own office when the phone rings at 4 o’clock they know without answering who is on the line,” said Paddy. “He has a great hackney service, even though he never had a hackney car. All it took for any Mayo man arriving in New York, and not knowing where he was going, was a phone call to Pat Gavin and he was collected at the airport and left at his destination. No one knows New York better than he.”
Muldoon said that Pat Gavin, together with New York Attorney Frank Durkan, solved passport problems for many Mayo people, and both kept the club alive in difficult times.
In 2004, members of the Mayo Supporters Club went on a fundraising mission to America. “We collected in the region of €150,000, and half that money was raised by Pat Gavin,” said Paddy Muldoon.
When the club in New York was asked to nominate someone for the award, Paddy Muldoon got seventeen or eighteen texts, faxes and letters with only one nomination. No one could emulate the work of Pat Gavin. No one was more worthy of the honour. In accepting the award, Pat, in his own humble way, spoke for all the recipients: “It would be very easy to get a more worthy recipient of this award. “But you will never find a more grateful one.”
Michael Fahey in his citation for Tommy Duggan said he had been asked by the chairman of Mayo Gaels to read the citation . . . the chairman being son of the man they were honouring.
The County Board was aware of his work, said Michael. He was the man who put up the nets and marked the pitch and cut the grass.
“Tommy wore two county jerseys, he won a minor hurling medal in ‘52 and junior football in 1953. He also won colleges medals in hurling and football.”
He played for Carramore, and in the early Seventies was chairman of the Mayo Abbey Club. He gave a lot of his time to underage, and put many fine players through his hands.
LIKE the others honoured, Tommy sought no attention, no limelight. The GAA was part of their lives, their values, their calling. Acclaim was for those triumphant on the playing field. To watch kids in the long summer evenings tumbling and tossing in the newly mown grass, or young men of the club challenging for honours, some with county potential . . . was all the recompense they asked.
His parents cultivated in Richard Cosgrove his love of the GAA. Travelling to Erris Leagues in the early Sixties in his father’s popular was his initiation, according to club secretary Susan Calpin.
His first participation was at underage for the then St Patrick’s, Bangor. He advanced in his teens to St Muredach’s College, to a senior championship medal with a North Mayo amalgamation, and three consecutive North Mayo Junior championship finals.
A Connacht U-21 championship medal with Mayo in ‘71/72, county junior and intermediate titles when St Patrick’s changed to Kiltane, in 1972 and 1973, an All-Ireland Comortas medal with Tourmakeady, his selection as Kiltane Player of the Year in 1977, a county over 30’s medal with Kiltane/Belmullet in 1991, all followed.
In administration, Richard was club secretary from 1979-87, PRO from 1988/91, Development officer ‘92/94, joint treasurer ‘95/97, and chairman since 1998. He was Mayo Minor selector from 2000 to ‘02 and has been refereeing since 1981. He has also been attending County Board meetings since 1989 “And he has enjoyed every minute of his involvement,” said Susan.
Characteristically, Richard shunned any talk of self-sacrifice. But the appreciation of those aware of his generosity of time and effort was reflected in the numbers who came out to celebrate with him. From Dublin they came, and from Belfast, and Balla, Belmullet, Foxford, Westport, and Kiltane.
The most revealing tribute about the quality of the man came, perhaps, in an e-mail to the hotel from his son Brian in Sydney stating that it was a shame Richard was forced into retirement . . . at the tender age of 45.
In reading the citation for Peter Reynolds, Seamus Moran said he had given long service as a player, official, coach and referee. Peter was available morning noon and night to help out where possible and when he was needed. He was held in very high esteem in the club and the evidence of this was reflected in the large turn-out of people from the Westport club at the function.
One of Peter’s sayings, he said, was: ‘A good umpire is better than a bad corner forward.’ He was also known in the club as Mr AOB. When it came to any other business at meetings Peter, without fail, had another point for discussion and a further half hour at least was added to the meeting.’
“We thank him for his commitment and hope he will have many more years of participation and enjoyment.” said Seamus.
Of Peter Geraghty, Cathal Kelly said if he were to list all he had done they would be there all night. He won an All-Ireland Vocational medal with Mayo and East Mayo minor and junior medals with Swinford. He coached underage players, and had been involved in administration since 1977 as secretary, chairman, and chairman of Bord Na nOg. “He is a referee and county Board delegate, and his involvement is not finished yet, said Cathal. “His influence means everything to people in Swinford.”
People like those honoured are becoming scarce, even in the GAA. The dwindling number of enthusiastic volunteers is a cause of concern in many clubs. Dr Loftus appealed for greater involvement by young people in GAA. Those who did get involved would find the work very fulfilling, he said.
The Green and Red Trust was founded in 1989 to help former players down on their luck. It is a unique, voluntary group in the GAA, and has provided help down the years for many former players in need. The present members of the Trust are Fr Leo Morahan, Johnny Carey, Billy Flynn, Jim Fleming, JP Kean, Paddy Muldoon, Sean McManamon, John Nealon and Mick Ruane.
County Board chairman James Waldron paid tribute to all the recipients and singled out Pat Gavin for all those he had helped in New York. He was witness to Pat’s great knowledge of New York, and in particular of the many houses he was able to identify as he drove to the Catskills in 2004. It was as if he driving from Aghagower to Westport, he said.
James said the board was embarking on their biggest ever project, the development of McHale Park as the county headquarters. They would need all the help they could get from home and abroad, to see the project to fruition.
It was only right, he added, that the county had a headquarters of which they could be proud, and when MacHale Park was completed it would be among the best stadiums in the country.
Johnny Carey, chairman, and master of ceremonies, paid tribute to founder members of the Trust, Joe Langan and Johnny Mulvey who died during the year, and he appealed for more footballers to join the Trust Fund.