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Say the prayer Jim

By Declan Heaney

Before every match Garrymore plays there is a practice which may not be widely-known, i.e., saying the prayer. The custom dates back for about thirty years and it has always been the final part of the dressing room ritual before taking the field.

One could be forgiven for speculating about the origins of the practice: was it based on the old Roman idea of invoking the Gods before going into battle or a variation of some Indian ritual, or was it simply a prayer for victory?

Neither speculation would be correct as I discovered recently. The idea of the prayer was proposed during the mid-forties when the team was plagued by a series of injuries. At first some of the players had reservations at the idea but as the injury list quickly became shorter, it became an accepted part of all pre-match preparation.

“The prayer”, as it was called consisted of the Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory, followed always by the final blessing, “God bless ye and bring ye in safe”. One always felt a bit guilty when it came to the part “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” coming immediately as it did, after some rousing frenzied speech that urged one to employ any tactics considered necessary to win the match.

Nowadays the prayer is said in the privacy of the dressing room but in former times it was not usual to see a group of red- shirted men huddled under a wall ­– their minds on the struggles that was about to commence – but for a moment united in prayer.

Unlike most other clubs, Garrymore didn’t have the advantage of any kind of official spiritual Director and so the task of saying the prayer invariably fell to Jim Mannion.

I’m sure Jim often wondered what qualification he had for the job but it probably was the fact that he was one of the more placid, and therefore, more pious, mentors at the time.

But the prayer was something that wasn’t to be taken lightly. As well as players and substitutes, mentors and well-wishers were expected to join in. As an example of this, one recalls a dressing room incident in Claremorris during the early ‘seventies. After the pre-match speeches a younger eager Garrymore player, in his enthusiasm made a dart for the door. He was suddenly halted in his tracks by the legendary Mick Heaney – “Get back, better Garrymore players than you have said the prayer”

And so the tradition of saying the prayer lives on. Nowadays it is the Captain’s duty, but even now before a match I expect to hear somebody call out – “Say the prayer Jim”