It was my pleasure to visit Longford for the first time in many years last Saturday for a great GAA day out in Pearse Park.
I was born and raised in Tuam, Co Galway, a great footballing town. My beloved Galway, Dublin, Mayo and Kildare were the counties in action in the three matches. My mother was a Dub and a life-long Dublin GAA supporter. Even though they are our greatest rivals once we are gone Mayo have always been my 2nd favourite football county. l live in Leixlip, County Kildare since 1975.
Of course many people tell me 'sure you lived in Galway for only 18 years and you are in Kildare for over 40 years'. Sean Purcell a fellow Tuam man is always included in the footballing greats and along with his fellow Terrible Twin and Tuam man Frank Stockwell brightened the dark economic years of the 1950s for GAA followers everywhere. Once when his son-in -law Tommy Carr was captaining Dublin in a big match against Galway a journalist mentioned 'double allegiance'. Sean’s reply was succinct- 'ah the savage loves his native shore'. Anyway enough preamble!
It was my first visit to Glennon Brothers Pearse Park. It is a lovely stadium made all the more so by the kindly, relaxed and welcoming attitude of the stewards and the other people working on the day, as usual for nothing more than their love of the game.
The well over 100 young lads all under 20 that took to the field did not let the volunteers nor their own mentors down as they gave might and main out on that field on a beautiful summer’s day. It was a wonderful evening of all that is best about sport, win, lose, or draw.
From the time I got off the train it was a terrific day out for me. A man on the main street took time out to give me perfect directions to the pitch. As I foostered around the deli part of the shop/service station beside the stadium I could see that many footballing locusts had gotten there before me and the pickings were slim.
A man quietly approached me and said that if I was looking for a sandwich they would do their best to put something together for me and they did. It was prepared by the girl in the Deli and it was as clear as day that she enjoyed her work. It was a top of the range proper sandwich too that cost half-nothing.
On the way to the matches about half way up the main street I heard what could only be described as the sweetest of sounds. Somehow it was floating above the noise of the traffic and the busy bustle of a town centre. After a few more steps I came upon the source. In a square across the road on a little stage three young girls were singing “Smile” in the most beautiful harmony. I stood and listened.
The man who composed the music for that song Charlie Chaplin brought smiles to millions of people. His song has been recorded by many artistes and Michael Jackson has a lovely version but from now on for me none will ever beat the version sang out so simply and perfectly in the middle of Longford last Saturday. It enveloped a great day out. Last Saturday Longford was one great place to be in.
On Sunday, April 24, 1966 in Croke Park, the Bardens, Hannify, Donnelly, Heneghan, Murray and many other great Longford footballers were unknowingly not one bit nice to a 13 year old boy in living in Tuam, Co Galway. Bobby Burns was particularly cruel! Last Saturday almost made up for it!
With kindest regards,