Westerns GFC paid tribute to their ‘Mighty Men of 1977’ on Sunday evening, as the last side from Reaghstown to lift the Louth GAA Junior Championship were honoured and celebrated on a memorable night for all associated with the club.
Supporters, families, friends and current players were in attendance at the Nuremore Hotel in Carrickmacross to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Westerns 1-08 defeat of the Glen Emmets in Ardee, whilst among the special guests on the night were RTE GAA commentator and friend of the club Brian Carthy and former Dublin footballer and All-Ireland winner Barney Rock.
Captain of that famous team, Brendan Matthews, remembered his teammates as individual presentations were made to the entire panel and management team and selectors too, remarking, “It’s a great honour for me tonight. 40 years is a long time. After 40 years, we’re all so much older now but no wiser. In our hearts, the dream of that success is just the same.
“The success of 77 just didn’t come on it’s own. We had the golden years from 1971 to 1980.” Matthews recalled the last gasp defeat against the Dreadnots in 1975 saying “We took a long time to get over that – but in 77, we came together. We all remember that day.”
As well as the panel of players honoured, tributes were also paid to the management team – the deceased trainer Patsy ‘Blondie’ Callan and his selectors – Tom Marron, Enda Matthews and Alec Martin.
The team honoured were – Dick McMahon, Malachy Fitzpatrick, Eugene Matthews, Paddy McCormack, John Murray, John Smyth, Peter Martin, Michael Clarke, Tom Byrne, Martin Fitzpatrick, Brendan Matthews, Tommy Doran, Johnny Rogers, John Maguire, Patsy Smyth. Subs: Eoiny Duffy, Liam Brennan, Dessie Smyth, Gerry Matthews, Alec Martin, Joe Martin, Tommy Mulholland. Awards were collected on behalf of the decreased Tom O’Neill and Jim Durnin.
Over 150 locals were in attendance as RTE commentator Carthy, told the assembled crowd about his own connections with the Reaghstown based club and paid tribute to members of the Westerns both past and present.
“I’d like to compliment the Westerns for their endeavours over the years. It’s been difficult at times but they’ve always persevered and produced some top class players and it’s great to see them,” Carthy said. “You had representatives other the years who played for Westerns and played for the county as well like Martin Fitzptarick and Michael Clarke and of course you’re current inter county player – a great ambassador and role model – Tommy Durnin.
“I had many happy memories of days spent in the Westerns club in the early to mid 1970s,” Carthy remembered, he as recalled his time training with the club in the build up to the 1971 final. “Since then, I have always had a close affinity with it and always liked to see how the players are doing, how the club are shaping up and to see how Tommy is doing also.
“I used to travel out to Ardee, with my brother-in-law, the late lamented Paul Sharkey. We had many enjoyable evenings there with a wonderful group of players.”
Carthy recalled how the Westerns team of the 1970s endured final heartache not once or twice but three times – in 1971, 1974 and 1974 – before finally securing the Championship in 1977.
“To win the McEvoy Cup is a wonderful achievement and the celebrations on that night – they tell me – have become as legendary as the match itself,” Carthy said. “I heard a story that that the handle was broken off the cup on the first night. Brady’s Bar was packed on that night.
“When we drink the water, we have to remember who dug the well. The younger generation of Westerns players, they can follow in that tradition of great players that played in the 70s, 80s an right through. You are the inspiration for the future generations. Those are memories that will live on forever.”
Former Dublin footballer Barney Rock, a three-time All-Star and one time All-Ireland winner joined Carthy on stage for an interview, in which he remembered some of his memorable days in a Dublin shirt and discussed his son Dean and the current crop of All-Ireland winners.
Rock also believes having a high profile inter-county player such as Durnin in the ranks can help inspire and improve those around him. He said if the Westerns can tap into that, some long-awaited success could be around the corner.
“Tommy is the father figure and everyone will be looking up to him. The more he’s playing with Louth and the more he’s playing with your club as well, if you can get a few more players to go with him, there is a junior championship there to be won. Who knows what might happen after that?”
Rock also joked that Carthy himself could play a key role in helping the Westerns recruit more players for their Junior Championship assualt. “Every team needs players, so if you could get Niall Sharkey!”