FÁILTE! I’m Sam Maguire and dear God but I’m glad to be home again at last.
I’ve been knocking around the country for the last 20 years and, as ye all know, I’m delighted to be amongst my own again. As soon as the big city fuss is over this week please bring me down to Mallabraca outside Dunmanway, where I was born, and let me spend even one night in the valley between Nowen Hill and Yew Tree Hill under the Shehy mountains as the evergreens whisper welcome home. The last few years have been tough and I’m not getting any younger.
It is not easy for a West Cork man to be comfortable in Kerry and I’ve spent too much time there in recent years.
The Kerry lads are alright but dammit they think they own me and that is not the truth at all.
When I’m there I’m likely to be thrown holus polus into the dark boot of a car for days on end before being brought down to small halls round Dingle and having to sit up there for the night listening to long speeches from Kerry men praising Kerry men.
I’ve taken more dents and bruises in Kerry down the years than anywhere else in the country. I was never a boozer but I’ve been filled with raw booze in Kerry more times than I can count. The guts are burned out of me from Kerry booze. My life has never been easy since O’Dwyer’s time when I seemed to spend an eternity there without getting away.
I’ve a different kind of West Cork spirit in me and in fairness I like to travel a bit.
It was that spirit that brought me out of Mallabraca when I was 20, for Heaven’s sake, and into the heart of London town to play for Hibernians and captain them too in my young days. But its great to be home again at last. Amongst my own.
It’s a pity ye let my home place fall down but at least ye named the local GAA field after me and mine and there’s a grand monument too.
I don’t ask for any more than that. I’ll also admit I was always a bit crabbit and that is why I was sacked from both the English civil service and the new Free State one when I came back to Ireland.
But, quite apart from that, I like to think I did my bit in hard times for my county and country. If I go over the top a bit in this piece then forgive me.
I’m not a man to boast but it was myself that swore a young post office lad from Clonakilty into the IRB in Barnsbury Hall in Islington on an awful cold night in November 1909 and that lad was Michael Collins, who went to the same Ardfield primary school a few years after myself. And Collins and myself, as most of ye know, became great friends and IRB colleagues in the days that mattered. He made me Director of Intelligence in Britain and it’s no secret that myself and the lads opened a fair few British Government letters and passed on the news.
A batch of fine rifles disappeared from the Post Office one time too and finished up back home in West Cork later speaking out from the mountains on behalf of the lads that were away. But that’s history. And it is great to be back home again.
To tell the God’s honest truth I’m glad not to be heading North across the border again this year.
I’ve spent a lot of time up there in the years since 1960 when the Down lads brought me home first to the Mournes.
And I’ve spent time in Tyrone and Armagh since. They are great people but, as a decent Protestant, it does hurt me that my own Protestant people, for historic reasons, don’t get a chance to enjoy my company for the times I’m there. That is very sad in my view. When I’m in the North I have to spend all my time with Catholics and even Republicans and (especially in the earlier years) I tend to become involved in political divisions of one kind or another.
That was never the way in Dunmanway when I was growing up on the farm and there was no division at all between Protestants and Catholics, all good neighbours all the time.
Still things are improving now and I think I will be able to enjoy my next trip across the border more than before.
But please try to keep me in my home place for at least a couple of years.
There were times last Sunday, up waiting in the stand, when I was sure I was bound for the North again.
Even after half-time it looked as if Down would triumph – and there’s an All Ireland in them too.
I’ve watched many better games in my time, mark you, and it was maybe my Protestant prayers as much as anything else that tipped the scales at the finish.
Again being honest not too many teams win me over whilst playing as poorly as Cork did on the day.
But that is history now and I’m back home at last. And I can rest through the long winter and spring and go out to have great nights amongst my very own any time I want. And no Kerry men to throw me into the dark boot of a car for nights on end. That’s a relief. I’m going to enjoy myself.
But bring me back to Mallabraca as soon as ye can and to the graveyard of Saint Mary’s in Dunmanway where my bones reside. I was only 48, sure, when TB brought me back there to lie amongst my own family bones and I gave away my last fiver just before I died because I knew I would not get to spend it myself.
Spend a few fivers this week to welcome me home properly.
I’ll appreciate that and I’ll be there in spirit.
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