Even now, a decade on, amid the jagged bays and bleak hillsides of the Beara peninsula, John Lock O’Sullivan is remembered.
Young sportsmen pass away occasionally in their prime and after the brief flare of a headline, many are forgotten.
But O’Sullivan made an impression on people.
For instance, Brian Blake can recall the exact moment he learned of O’Sullivan’s death, ten years ago.
“I can remember it clearly, I was in the house I lived in out in Bandon, sitting at a desk in my room when the phone rang. It was a pal of mine from back home who’s a garda, and he told me that John had died suddenly.
“I was shocked, obviously, but it was deeper than that. I remember going up to the house he was living in in Cork that time to tell them what had happened, and there was a Scottish girl sharing the house with them, and I remember her saying to me ‘he’ll be home there shortly’. It didn’t sink in, because it was so unbelievable.”
Blake and O’Sullivan were clubmates. A few days earlier O’Sullivan had kicked the winning score for Adrigole in a county junior semi-final. He was 26. As Blake recalls, that county junior game wasn’t even O’Sullivan’s most testing physical challenge around that time.
“It was a heart condition, something that he didn’t know he had himself,” says Blake.
“The amazing thing is that I ran the Dublin City Marathon with him a couple of weeks before that, and you’d imagine that if the heart wasn’t right that something like that would trigger it, but it didn’t.
“I knew him a long time, we were neighbours back home in Adrigole, but when we left to come up to college and to work in Cork we got to know each other better.
“He’d have been a mainstay in the club, in Adrigole, but he’d have been well known in Beara because he was part of a very successful underage team that won all around them – U12, U14, two U21 titles back to back as well as All-Ireland Colleges title with Beara Community School, not to mention the Cork senior title in 1997. Alan O’Regan and Donagh Wiseman, for instance, would have been part of that team as well, and though they’d be from Castletownbere and traditionally we’d be fierce rivals, all the lads on that Beara team would have been very close.”
That Castletownbere won the John Lock O’Sullivan trophy a couple of months ago brought the Adrigole man back into focus.
The men in the black and white jerseys made a point after the game of mentioning O’Sullivan, and as Brian Blake says, the fact that the local rivals didn’t forget him meant a lot.
“I think naming the intermediate trophy after him was a great gesture. When it was first played for his parents went to the final, Castletownbere against Ballingeary, and Castletown lost after a replay.
“In Adrigole we were desperately disappointed not to make the final this year, and given that it was our rivals, Castletownbere, who put us out, that was even more disappointing.
“But to be fair to them, they’d have known John well, we knew he’d be in their minds if they won.
“And fair dues to them, when they won it a few weeks ago they went to John’s grave with the trophy and called up to his parents with it afterwards.
“That’s got to be a hard thing in a lot of ways, seeing a cup with your son’s name on it.”
Given that it’s a decade since John died, Blake and his friends were looking for some way to commemorate the milestone.
“We came up with the game, the 1997 Beara team that John was part of and the 2006 Adrigole team that he would have been part of. We got a great reaction from all the Cork players we approached – they all made themselves available straightaway.”
A bereavement in the locality meant they postponed the original game, which was scheduled to take place in November, but now it takes place next Saturday down in Adrigole. They’re hoping that the novelty value – a draw will see the game decided by a penalty shoot-out — and celebrity presence will bring a few people west along the road, and that they’ll collect a few bob for Co-Action Beara and Bantry Hospital.
The fact that it’s a night or two before New Year’s Eve could be a factor: an incentive to people home for Christmas to hang on for an extra day or two: to meet up, to see a game, to meet old friends.
And to remember one old friend who won’t be there.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved