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‘Bear’ was a great Charlestown Gael

Sport

HOME WERE THE HEROES  The late Colm Horkan (left) is pictured with David ‘Ginger’ Tiernan, Enda Casey, Dermot Higgins and the Moclair Cup after arriving back in Charlestown after the 2001 Mayo SFC Final win. Pic: Tommy Eibrand

Colm Horkan will always be remembered by his club-mates

Mike Finnerty

IN the words of Stephen Healy, his lifelong friend, Colm Horkan was ‘born to wear the number 11 jersey’ for Charlestown.
So last Friday evening, less than two days after Colm’s tragic and sudden death, Charlestown GAA club did what they felt was right; their senior manager Martin Mulvaney went to present a number 11 club jersey to Colm’s father, Marty, at the Horkan family home.
A shirt that meant so much to Colm in life will now be treasured by his family after his loss.
That same jersey was brought to the altar in St James’ Church on Sunday as one of the symbols of Colm’s life. Outside, a Charlestown Sarsfields’ flag fluttered in the breeze.
And down at Fr O’Hara Park — or ‘The Park’ as its known locally — hundreds of people accepted the local GAA’s club invitation to watch Colm’s funeral mass on a big screen.
It was a place of comfort and solace for them for a few hours.
‘The Park’ was also Colm Horkan’s home away from home.
As his brother, Brendan put it on Sunday, ‘He had some of his finest hours there’.
Very few people know that better than Stephen Healy, who played on teams with Colm for 30 years and was also the manager when Charlestown won an historic County Senior championship in 2001. They shared the best of times, on and off the field, before the worst of times arrived out of the blue last week.
“We started out together playing for Charlestown at the age of ten and we soldiered together for 30 years,” Stephen, who has also served as the club chairman, told The Mayo News.
“We both retired around 40 when the bodies started to feel the pinch.
“Colm won everything with the club: County Minor and Junior in 1988; a County Under-21 in 1990; an Intermediate championship in 1993; a Senior League in 1995; and, of course, the Senior championship in 2001. That was the big one.”
2001 was a season unlike any other in Charlestown’s long and distinguished history; the year they won the Mayo senior football championship for the first time in 99 years, and went on to claim the Connacht club title while they were at it.
As player-manager, Stephen Healy had a front-row seat while ‘Ginger’ Tiernan was his right-hand man as captain. But Colm Horkan was right there beside them every step of the way.
“We thought our chance had gone at the turn of the Millenium,” recalled Stephen.
“But then in 2001 a few key guys like ‘Ginger’ and Aidan Higgins really stepped up and Colm was a key man in the whole thing. He’d a few issues with injuries that year but when I needed somebody to come on and make a play, and make a pass, I knew I could turn to him.
“When I asked him to get involved, we agreed that he wouldn’t be winning any bleep tests,” smiled Stephen. “But he told me that he’d give me 100 percent honesty. Getting him on board was key in helping us to achieve what we did in 2001.
“He was an excellent player, very clever. One of the top three players I played with in Charlestown. We got on so well, anybody who saw us play over the years would have said we had a telepathic understanding on the field.”
“He was intelligent, selfless and a great distributor of the ball,” he added. “Nine times out of ten, Colm made the right pass when it was to be made. He wouldn’t ask anybody to do anything he wouldn’t do himself.”
A man of many talents, including having a brilliant way with words, Stephen Healy thinks he’s responsible for giving Colm Horkan his nickname of ‘The Bear’, an acknowledgement of Colm’s ‘passion and the way he went about his business’ in the Charlestown colours.
“If he knew you had his back, you had a friend for life,” explains Stephen, who was eight months older than his fallen comrade. “He was a quality bloke. He had no flaws. He was decent, honourable and loyal to the core. He carried himself so well, on and off the pitch. He was a pillar of our community and of our GAA club. He was a diamond.”

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