BEFORE Joe and Henry, before Ring and Doyle, there was one man. Limerick’s Mick Mackey owned the 1930s in hurling.
Mackey’s legacy can be seen today every time a player gets free and throws the ball up on his hurley to go on a solo. It was the Limerick man who brought that art to perfection, even though he bounced the ball on the bas rather than leaving it dead on the stick.
It brought rich dividends: he picked up three All-Ireland medals and five National Hurling League medals. Respected judges put him in the very first rank of hurlers, an evaluation borne out by his selection at centre-forward on the Team of the Millennium and the Team of the Century. Little wonder: he all but defined the duties of the modern centre-half-forward.
However, the Ahane clubman suffers the same disadvantage as other legends like Lowry Meagher and Jamesy Kelleher: the absence of a filmed record of his exploits.
Tonight’s episode in RTÉ’s Pride of the Parish series should go a little way to redress that. The series has focused on GAA clubs, and Mackey’s Ahane features this evening – and so does its most famous son. There’s a deep, long-running Mackey involvement with the GAA in that part of Limerick. Mackey’s grandfather lined out for Castleconnell, the Limerick village which would eventually field a GAA team as Ahane GAA club, while his father, nicknamed ‘Tyler’, captained the Limerick hurlers.
Let Ollie Moran, current Limerick hurler and another Ahane man, explain: “Loosehorse, the production company behind the series, got onto us and said they thought they’d unearthed some footage of Mick Mackey in his playing days.
“They brought my brother Niall over to London for a couple of days and they went through the Pathe newsreels in a museum and sure enough, they found some film of him.”
The newsreel will be broadcast tonight, echoing down the decades from Mackey’s heyday. But the production company gave the footage its premiere in Ahane. Where else could they have rolled out the red carpet?
“In fairness to them, they had a night in the club where they showed the film to the members,” says Moran. “It was fantastic to see it. We had a good few people there who knew Mick and who had even played with him, so it was great that they were able to see the footage, because obviously it’s a long time ago for them as well.”
Following his father and grandfather’s footsteps, Mick was himself joined in the green and white jersey by his brother John, a fine player in his own right. That long-standing tradition still drives the club.
“It’s fair to say that the Mackeys are still an inspiration in Ahane,” says Moran. “The pitch is named Mackey Park but it’s far more than that, Mick is certainly not a distant part of the past that we don’t relate to.
“The Mackeys remain a big part of what Ahane club is all about and we’ve always taken huge pride in what they achieved for the club and Limerick.”
Hence the term: the pride of the parish.
* Pride of the Parish, tonight, RTÉ 1, 8.30pm.
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