Kevin McTernan, who passed away in October, was a mainstay of St Finbarr’s in Cork, but his influence extended beyond the Togher club.
“We were first cousins,” says Joe Kavanagh of Nemo Rangers.
“We knew each other as kids, obviously, even if we didn’t play against each other a whole lot as adults.
“There was always a bit of slagging, as you’d expect, but it never went over the top. It was just banter, because Kevin was a guy you’d always get on with. He was just a great character, always.
“He was the Barr’s to the core — married to Charlie McCarthy’s daughter, got involved in underage training and was also a senior football selector, all of that, but the slagging never went over the line.”
Paddy Hayes of the Barr’s recalls McTernan both inside and outside the white lines of the playing field.
“I’m a bit older but we soldiered together at intermediate for a few years. We got pally, though, as we were both working weekends for a long time, so it suited us to have a pint on a Sunday evening when we’d be free. We would head out to the Barrs’ club for a drink, relax and let the kids run around.”
Hayes took over the Barr’s senior team and encouraged McTernan to keep plugging away when he was losing interest.
“Kevin was the understudy to John Kerins and John O’Brien, so he’d have been on the sideline for a good while, and he was thinking of giving up.
“I met him and told him to bide his time, that he’d get his chance eventually. And he stuck at it too, in fairness, and after John O’Brien went, he got his chance. He was disillusioned at 30, but had a great career from age 30 to 50.”
McTernan was a crucial figure as the Barrs tried to win back their senior status after their relegation in 2007.
“That was a big deal, a huge challenge. The club was at a low ebb when we were relegated by Douglas. Tony Leahy took over and we got straight back up because we won the Premier Intermediate.
“Kevin played a huge part in getting us back up to senior because that intermediate county final could have gone any way. The first game was a draw and we only won the replay by a couple of points, and I remember him making one crucial save at a vital time in the replay in particular.”
The Barr’s got to two senior county finals after getting out of premier intermediate, and though they lost both, Hayes points out that McTernan’s decision to stay on was vindicated: “He was a great influence on the younger lads.
"Being the age he was, he’d seen it all, he’d been there and played with and against a lot of big names, and the younger lads responded to that experience, and to the fact he was just a great character to have around as well, a great guy to have in the dressing room. He drove them on and they responded.”
As the years rolled by, McTernan drove on his contemporaries as well.
“We played Night Owls (soccer) together,” says Kavanagh. “Cold evenings up there on the hockey pitches by the airport. Great craic, he enjoyed playing in goal all over again.
“And he was a great man to organise an evening out as lads hit their 40s and kids, jobs, all of that came into play. He was working shifts and weekends in recent years so he’d text around ‘I’m off on the 11th, that’ll be the night off so organise yourselves’, and that’d be it.
“And then there were the trips away.”
McTernan would organise an annual trip for a dozen or so pals, but Kavanagh soon detected a recurring theme.
“We’d be going to Liverpool one year, say, and lo and behold West Ham were playing Everton the same weekend. What a coincidence. “Then the following year we’d head back to Liverpool — and West Ham were visiting Liverpool.
“Twelve or 13 lads at a match and one of them in his element — McTernan, the lifelong West Ham fan. But great craic.”
Paddy Hayes backs up the story: “Joe’s right. We saw the Crystal Palace-West Ham game last February and we also saw West Ham-Spurs in September, which was the last game we all went to together.
“Look, if we went to London it was West Ham we were going to, end of story. There would have been 13 or 14 lads on those trips and one West Ham supporter among them, but we’d always end up at their games.
“But Kevin was the man with the influence anyway. If we were out somewhere and he didn’t like it, that was it — we’d all have to head off if he said so.”
Awhile back Hayes and McTernan decided on a change of scenery when it came to Sunday afternoons, so they hit upon The South County in Douglas.
“There are three lads down in The South County who have a traditional music session every Sunday,” says Hayes.
“Jimmy, Tommy, and Johnny, and we fell in there with them. It was great craic, a couple of drinks and a few songs — Kevin loved to sing — and we didn’t miss one of the Sundays, I’d say, in the time he was sick.”
The crowd at that Sunday evening session grew and grew, says Kavanagh.
“It went from five or six one week to 15 or 16 , and if there was a bank holiday there could be 30 of us down there. It was great, a mix of friends of his but obviously a lot of Barr’s lads.
“It was all for him. That was how well liked he was. The funeral was a massive occasion, so was the month’s mind. He was a great character, and people loved him, really.”
At those Sunday sessions McTernan sang The Cliffs of Dooneen. Nowadays Paddy Hayes sings it for him.