29 January 2017
The fan drove me up the wall.
It was a great time to be a Louth football supporter when I was growing up. They were among the elite teams in the country in the forties and fifties, winning the Leinster title five times and reaching the All-Ireland final twice. The excitement would build up all week when Louth had an important game, reaching fever pitch on the Sunday. After Mass, all the talk would be about the match to be played that afternoon and Ben Connolly’s car was parked outside the chapel, decked out in the team colours, ready to drive the fifty miles to Croke Park in Dublin, full of fanatical supporters, a large red and white flag proudly fluttering in the breeze.
The rest of us headed off home, to wait in anticipation for the broadcast on Radio Eireann and the unique atmosphere Michael O’Hehir brought to the proceedings. There was no television then and in those pre-electrification days most people in Ballymakellet didn’t have a radio either, so they would descend on a neighbors house where there was a radio to hear the great commentator in full flow.
His description of the game and its participants was very colourful and brought instant excitement as we savoured his inspiring voice Sunday after Sunday. Top players from around the country with great names like Paddy Bawn Brosnan, John Joe O’Reilly, Eamon Mongey and Peter Mc Dermott “the man with the cap” as well as all the Louth players were our larger than life heroes, gigantic gladiators in our imaginations, as were the great hurling players of the time like the legendary Christy Ring, a man so skilful at striking the ball that it was said that he could knock swallows out of the sky. O’Hehir would use graphic phrases to embellish his commentary such as “a terrific schomozzle going on in the parallelogram”. The parallelogram was the rectangular area in front of the goalposts, similar to the penalty area in soccer, which the rest of us referred to as the square!
Louth were Leinster champions in 1943 and 1948 but the first broadcast I have any memory of is the 1949 Leinster final between Louth and Meath, the start of a great rivalry between those neighboring counties, Dad took me to Tommy and Patrick Mc Dermott’s house. The kitchen was full of excited neighbors gathered around the wireless. O’Hehir was at the peak of his powers as he described the game and later the two replays it took to decide the outcome, Meath eventually winning by a single point.
“One, two, three, four, five, Meath men gone down winded”, he counted, a euphemism for players laid low by fouls off the ball unseen by the referee.
“IT’S A GOAL, IT’S A GOAL FOR LOUTH” his soaring voice would scream into the microphone and then make sure we knew who had scored it “MICKY REYNOLDS, MICKY REYNOLDS, MICKY REYNOLDS”.
Louth bounced back the following year and went all the way to the All-Ireland Final in 1950. We had our own radio by then and listened in to what is still regarded as one of the greatest Gaelic Football finals ever played. Alas the result was not what we wanted, Mayo winning by two points 2-5 to 1-6.
In school the next day Mr Dennedy was a very disappointed man, as we all were and the classroom had a funereal feel to it. We composed an essay in Irish describing the match and our feelings about it. ”Ach mo bhron” we wrote as we recalled how Louth seemed to be on their way to victory until late in the game, when our goalkeeper Sean Thornton slipped, allowing Micky Flanagan brother of Sean the Mayo captain to score the crucial winning goal.
Louth were Leinster champions again in 1953 and met Kerry in the All-Ireland semi-final. We listened in as usual, and were somewhat baffled when Louth made a substitution, bringing on a mystery player called Kevin Mc Ardle. Nobody had ever heard of him, but we were all very pleasantly surprised as we listened to O’Hehir describe how he ran the Kerry team ragged, going on solo runs leaving the dour uncompromising Kerry backs floundering in his wake. It later transpired that “Kevin Mc Ardle” was in fact Fr. Kevin Connolly, a native of Ravensdale who had been a Louth stalwart before his ordination in 1948. Great though his performance was, it was not quite enough to defeat the mighty Kingdom, the Manchester United of Gaelic Football.
As I grew into my teens I began to attend some major games, including most of the 1957 campaign when Louth once again reached the All-Ireland Final.
Arrangements were made to be in Croke Park to see them play Cork. We went in a car driven by Paddy Dooley, and the other passengers were Packy Goss, Jim Burns, Maureen Hillen and her sister Beulah.
We set out early convinced that this would be our year at last, it had been forty five years since we had lifted the Sam Maguire Cup. All went well until a few miles the other side of Dundalk when the fan belt snapped. The rest of the journey was spent calling at houses every few miles to get water to top up the radiator. Most petrol stations and garages were closed on Sundays in those easygoing days, but we eventually got a replacement belt near to Dublin.
All the delay meant that we arrived at the stadium much later than we intended. In those days spectators paid at the gate to get in but we were too late and they were all closed. Thousands of supporters were milling around outside but we noticed some people climbing up a wall and onto a roof at the back of Hill 16. Packy and I joined them and when we got onto the roof we saw a Guard looking at us. I froze, fully expecting him to send us back, but to our amazement and delight he waved us on!
We found ourselves at the back of a vast crowd on Hill 16. The Minor Final was nearing its end but we couldn’t see the pitch or any of the players, just a glimpse of the ball now and then as it was kicked high into the air. More supporters kept piling in behind us until the all the increasing pressure from behind caused a great heave forward with the result that I could now see most of pitch. Packy was no longer by my side however, he had been pushed a few yards ahead of me, and away over to my left.
Looking back, it’s a miracle that nobody was trampled on and seriously injured or worse, in the crush. I have forgotten how Paddy or Jim got into the ground but the girls listened to the game on the car radio!
It was a great day for the Wee County, and I can still see Jim “Red” Meehan’s heroics just below us to save the day at the death and the legendary Stephen White belting the ball high into the Cusack Stand to kill time near the end of the game as Louth ran out worthy winners 1-9 to 1-7
Little did we know that this was the end of a golden era and that our county would never again to this day be a major force in Gaelic football.
Sam Maguire made a tour of the county over the next few weeks, but unfortunately when he came to our area I was laid low with a dose of the vicious Asian flu we had that year, but some lucky people got to hold the great trophy aloft outside Dulargy school.More > (0 comments)
29 January 2017
Making Sausages in 1953
Sawdust was scattered on the terrazzo floor and a roll of white string hung from the ceiling its end dangling on to the marble slab where the meat was laid out and beside it was a wide roll of brown paper. My Uncle Willie tore a piece off it, lifted 6 lamb chops from the counter and whistling through his teeth as he worked - wrapped them. Taking the string- he tied the parcel and with a deft flick of the wrist and fingers he broke the cord with a skill that obviously took years to perfect. The parcel was named and addressed and placed in a large wicker basket for delivery to Cooley or for dispatch to the post office, who in return would deliver it by post.
This was 1953 in Woods’ butcher shop in Newry St. Carlingford. I was 9.
If you could get to the back door of the butcher shop without being noticed that was the place you really wanted to be. There was a sausage machine there. Large bowls of minced sausage meat were ready to be stuffed into what looked like a hollow canon with a hollow narrow barrel at the end of it. Beside the minced sausage meat was a glass jar full of sheep’s gut immersed in water that had been cleaned of whatever it contained the previous day: only now can I imagine!
The first job in the process of sausage making was to take a long piece of gut and work it all down the hollow narrow barrel of the machine. That done: you picked up handfuls of the sausage meat and stuffed as much of it as you could into the hollow canon. You sealed the back of the canon with a steel clamp attached to a handle, which when turned forced the meat through the canon down through the narrow barrel. With your hand holding one end of the sheep’s gut you were ready to go.
Your heart would be in your mouth for you knew that if you were caught you could get a ‘thick ear’ but the temptation of been able to make the biggest sausage in the world was to great and always overruled caution.
By gently turning the handle the meat would ooze into the sheep gut spluttering and spitting trapped air as it did. It would quickly pass the 12 inches long mark but inexperienced hands left it with gaps where pockets of air were trapped, together with wide and narrow circumferences of meat that soon stretched longer than five feet in length. It looked nothing like a sausage but took on a life of its own twisting and turning like a deformed snake out of control. My young mind always knew when to make a run for it and there was no more opportune time than at that moment. In seconds I was gone. I never knew who cleaned up after me. I was never caught and I never did master the art.
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29 January 2017
Bavan OmeathMore > (0 comments)
29 January 2017
Milk didn’t always come in bottles and cartons
In 1957 I attended school in the Christian Brothers Dundalk. It was tough. The leather strap was used at will and I was a regular recipient. Brother Obrien was best at letting you have it.
Primary school in Carlingford and Master McGraths cane had prepared us well for entry to secondary school. Our palms were well hardened.
At school end I went to my father’s office in Francis Street to “study” and await a lift home at 6pm.
The pattern was always the same. We called on the way home, in our Volkswagen beetle.to Castletown House in Castletown Cooley.
I would open the gates to the driveway; my father drove in and moved to the passenger seat. I got in to the driver’s seat and driving lessons began at 12 up and down the avenue. The house belonged to my bed ridden grand Aunt Ann wife to the deceased Tommy Woods.
My Uncle Thomas Woods, brother of my father ran the farm for her and minded a cow owned by the father. Thomas had an understanding that my father would receive the cow’s milk and he would be the owner of any calves it produced.
The milk was ready each evening for collection in a 2 gallon steel can, the cream thick on the top of it. When we finally got home the milk was poured into large jugs, no pasteurising here and placed in our newly acquired first fridge.
I spent 3 years with the brothers in Dundalk and learned little other than how to drive a Volkswagon beetle.
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29 January 2017