THE SUMMER OF SAM Pictured at a reception in Westport for the Mayo All-Ireland winning team of 1950 were a group of supporters with the Sam Maguire Cup.
Front row, left to right: Gerry Flynn, Tommy Sheridan, Guard Doyle, Manie Grady, Paddy McMyler. Second row: Joe Staunton (a member of the Mayo team of 1951), John O’Malley, Vincent McGovern, PF Kelly, Joe Gillivan, ‘Birdy’ Coffey, Martin McGreal, Paddy Dunning, John Burke, Pat McNally,Eamon O’Malley. Back row: Harry Kelly, Jimmy O’Hora, PJ Gibbons, PJ Kelly, Mick Moran, Padraic McLoughlin, Arthur McEvoy, Tommy Moran, Tommy Byrne, Tommy Hoban and Tommy Grier.
THERE’S no doubt that winning All-Irelands in 1950 and 1951 helped to cement bonds among those Mayo players but, from listening to Paddy Prendergast, it is clear there was, regardless of victory, very deep bonds.
“It was a very special time, of course,” he recalled in an interview with The Mayo News in 2013. “The best part of it all was they were a very special group. Wonderful footballers, a great team. We should have won at least four All-Irelands, no question or doubt about it,” he said, recalling the All-Ireland final defeat of 1948 and semi-final losses in 1949 and ’55.
“I was very friendly with (team captain) Seán Flanagan of course, he used to come down to me regularly (to Tralee, where Paddy has lived since the 1960s). Unfortunately, he died too early but Mick [Flanagan] was the best friend I had there, no question about that.
“He died in 1961 I think, he was about 36 at the time. Mick was full of generosity, he was a lovely human being. I missed him an awful lot afterwards. Eamonn [Mongey] was a great friend. There was a great friendship among all the fellas I played with because we lived together in Ballina in Mrs Gaughan’s. We had collective training and this brought us very close together. For the rest of our lives, that bond was there.
“It is hard to bring it up with so many of them gone, especially with our team, we were extremely close. Very, very close. It was a strange team, in any terms, in the make-up of it. “You had, at the time, four lawyers, four medics and two more on the brink of coming in, one year you had a priest. You had a fairly big farmer, two or three members of the gardaí, an engineer, a fella in the Air Corps,” he recalled.
A lot of good Leaving Certs there, we say.
“That’s for sure. One man who worked as a plasterer, John Forde, was nearly the brightest of them all in football terms, exceptionally so. Our team was a bit unusual, very bright. Mongey and Carney and Flanagan, they were indeed very bright and into the bargain very good footballers.”
Ballina training camp
THE Mayo players used to come together for a fortnight each year in Mrs Gaughan’s guesthouse in Ballina for what would now be called a ‘training camp’, under the tutelage of Jackie Carney and Gerald Courell.
They did not just hone their physical beings but spent time at night doing a deep dive analysis of their opponents, something so ahead of it’s time when you consider this was 70 years ago.
“That night the blackboard was put up and each made his contribution about the opposition team and its players,” recalls the Ballintubber man.
“For example, if we were playing Galway, I’d be asked what did I think of their full-forward. “What were his strengths and what were his weaknesses? This was done right around the entire 15. It was fairly intensive, more so than a lot of people realised.”
One man he knew more than most from marking him at training was Mayo star Tom Langan, who was picked at full-forward on the Team of the Century and Team of the Millennium.
“I’ve seen very, very few like him. Jesus, he was very good. I would have marked him in training and I’ll tell you something, he was impossible. We’d be there standing and he had elbows in every part of his body. We’d be standing, maybe having a chat and the next thing he was gone, like a flash. Once he got [the ball] and turned, he was very difficult to stop because he had this great sidestep, and between the sidestep and the bones, he was difficult to stop, I can tell you. Langan was something else, there’s no two ways about it. I could never understand how anyone handled him.”
High praise from a full-back who was capable of handling almost everyone that came his way.