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The Garrymore of my Youth

By Tom Prendergast

I saw my first football match in Dormodys’s field in Ballyglass, Garrymore home venue: that was in 1937, when I was 12 years old. The day of a match was always a great day for us youngsters as it was the only day we would be allowed away from the house. We would watch the team togging out by the ditch and they all wore different colour jerseys. There was no set of Garrymore jerseys then.

The placing of the team was always watched with interest, and I remember the way players objected to playing in certain positions, saying: “I’m no good at full or centre”, and after some hassle someone would stand in that positions. Eventually the game would start and Tom Murphy, R.I.P., would be inside the line, running up and down with the play, shouting “mark up, mark up”, and not a smile on his face until the game was over.

The teams that came to Ballyglass in those years were: Ballyhaunis, Kilmaine, Mayo Abbey, Hollymount, Knock, Shrule. The Bacon Factory came in later years. As far as I remember Knock came only once. Mayo Abbey had the best teams, they had great footballers.

I remember a strange incident at one of those matches. The referee blew his whistle on Garrymore’s 14-yard line and all the supporters were shouting: “Free out, ref” but he gave a hop ball a few yards from the side line and before any player could catch the ball, my father ran out and punched it down the field and run out again laughing. The strange thing about it was, nobody said a word to him and I do not recall the ball being re-hoped.

When Garrymore would have a home game, the pitch would be marked just before the game and on one occasion, the goalposts had to be carried from near Jack Gill’s house to the pitch, so Tom Murphy and a few of us young lads carried them on our shoulders, some 1,000 yards. We got tired on the way and left down one of the poles, and Murphy, who was coming last, asked that it would be put on his shoulder, saying that if was easy to carry two as one. He carried the two poles the rest of the way to the pitch: some 400 yards.

Another great occasion was the game in Malachy ford’s of Hollybrook and it was a Garrymore gate which meant that Garrymore had to get the pitch ready. So after first Mass John Heaney (youngest of the Heaney brothers), Sean and myself, tackled Heaney’s ass and cart, loaded the poles and other gear and hit for Hollybrook, a distance of 5 miles approximately. With some help, the pitch was ready for the game and when the match was over, we loaded up again for home. We enjoyed the day very much as it was our first time to see a match away.

These are but few of the things I remember about my native Garrymore as a schoolboy, but I can say withal honesty, that I got more pleasure watching games in Dermody’s field as a youngster, than at any other time in my life on any other pitch.