Man of the Match Barry Leonard wins communion mass time appeal

Mayo's Barry Leonard, with daughter Kathlyn and son Byron and the Paddy Brett Memorial Cup. Barry rallied his parish so he could attend Kathlyn's first communion and then play in the Connacht Junior Final against Galway. Picture: Ray McManus

Barry Leonard faced a Communion Day conundrum.

While most fathers are sweating about bouncy castles and buffets, Barry faced a more complex challenge.

He was cornerback on the Mayo team facing Galway in the Connacht Junior Football Championship final in Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim. However, the 11.30am timing of his daughter Kathlyn’s big day in Lahardane Church meant it was impossible to be in the Leitrim venue — 94km away — for the 1.30pm throw-in.

However, Barry and his wife Eileen were adamant a solution could be found.

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“We checked if the start of the junior game could be changed but that wasn’t an option because it was a curtain raiser to the senior match between Galway and Leitrim,” said Barry.

“So I asked our local priest, Fr John Reilly, if Mass could be brought forward half an hour to 11am. He had no problem but it could only be done if all the other families involved were happy to change.

Man of the Match Barry Leonard wins communion mass time appeal

Barry Leonard’s daughter Kathlyn who celebrated her communion

followed by her father’s winning appearance for Mayo.

“There were 10 other families making communion so I rang them all and thankfully they were all happy for the Mass to start early. Eileen then arranged the photographer to come to the house early in the morning so we got all the pictures done in advance.”

That was only half the problem solved. Then came the matter of getting to Carrick-on-Shannon in time.

“My brother-in-law Gabriel Walsh was waiting for Mass to finish around 11.40am and he drove me to the game,” said Barry. “I got togged out in the car and was on the pitch at 12.55pm — 35 minutes before the game started. It all worked out perfectly.”

And there was better to come. Mayo defeated Galway 1-12 to 0-13 to claim their first Connacht JFC title since 2012. And guess who was man of the match?

“It went well,” Barry said modestly of his performance. “The result was the main thing.”

The rest of the Leonard family made the second half of the game and Kathlyn, 8, Byron, 4, and Elaina, 3, joined the on-field celebrations with Barry.

Then it was back home to north Mayo. “We were meant to be going for dinner earlier in the day in Murphy’s in Lahardane and Michael there kindly rearranged the dinner for later,” said Barry.

“It was a dream day. The worry was we would go to all the hassle and not get the right result. Thankfully, everything fell into place.”

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