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Last of the Magnificent seven

By Frank Kearney

The last weekend in April 2012 saw the passing of Paddy Prendergast, the last of a group of seven young men who became known as Garrymore football history as the Magnificent Seven having served time in Gaol for playing football.
Paddy Prendergast of Killeenrevagh was one of three brothers who were part of the seven young men in the early 1940’s who were sentenced to seven days in Sligo Gaol for their right to continue to play football in a field where they had done all their lives.
It was during the days of the second World War when the use of land was to the maximum by local farms in more difficult times than we have now in Ireland, and training was a problem in many areas not alone Garrymore, as only a few people allowed the club footballers to train and play football on their lands.
There was a corner of a field in a large farm in the Killeenreavagh area of Garrymore that was used for many years by the aspiring young men of the area who were all budding footballers of the fledging Garrymore Football Club which was formed just a few years earlier in 1936. This piece of land changed ownership and the new tenant went to stop football from being played on the lands. However the young men from the area refused and after a number of warnings to stop playing football in this field, the youths found themselves the wrath of the police and ended up in court.
Eight young men who were found in the field on the day were all fined One Pound on the order of the judge or face imprisonment. Needless to say the fine was not going to be paid as money of that nature was scarce at the time of economic depression and the officials of the club gave these young men full backing in their right for play football on these lands.
Having refused to pay the fine of One Pound, the youth’s faced imprisonment, but the club stepped in to pay the fine of the one of the youths, as his father was very ill, so that he wouldn’t have to go to jail as he was needed at home.
However the remaining seven were summoned to appear at Ballindine Garda Station two days before Christmas in 1941 to be collected to be brought to Sligo Gaol because they simply wanted to play football. Having to walk into the Garda Station in Ballindine, when the sergeant’s wife, learned of why these young men were going to jail took pity on the lads and made them a big fry of rashers and sausages and for some of them it was the first time they ever tasted a sausage, a rare treat before they travelled to spend Christmas in Gaol for playing football.
The seven young men from Killeenrevagh who when went to jail for playing football with Garrymore were Tony O’Toole, Sonny Commons, Joe Prendergast, Gabe Heaney and three brothers Sean, Tom and Paddy Prendergast. The group travelled in two groups with Gabe Heaney, Joe Prendergast and Tony O’Toole being brought first. Sonny Commons and the three Prendergast brothers Sean, Tom and Paddy were in the second journey to Sligo.
Paddy Prendergast was the last of the prisoners and the passing of Paddy has brought an end to an era in Garrymore football that should never be forgotten, when seven young men from the club went to Jail for playing football.