Exclusive interview with Seamus Darby

November 8, 2018

FOR Seamus Darby the public’s perception that his only claim to football fame is his goal in the 1982 All-Ireland final against Kerry can be annoying.
It sometimes gives him the feeling that people still believe he was an unknown player that fell out of the sky on that September day, and that he had never featured before at inter-county level.
It’s hard to believe but there are so many people out there who seem totally oblivious to the fact that he banged home a goal and three nice points against Dublin in the Leinster final that year.
Truthfully, there are thousands of GAA followers, Offaly folk included, who don’t appear to know that he was on the first Offaly panel to take the Sam Maguire Cup eleven years earlier, and that he is one of an elite group of Offaly players who hold three All-Ireland medals.
Statistics aside, Seamus Darby enjoyed his career at club and county level. Although he is not involved today, he has strong views on Offaly football and feels that until the Parish rule is brought back Offaly football will be in trouble.
In this interview he gives his views on his managers, Eugene McGee and the late Fr Tom Gilhooley. He talks of his favourite players, and his footballing colleagues. He also talks of training and playing with Edenderry and marking his own brother in a championship tie with Rhode.
Finally he lifts the lid and tells the real truth about drinking a bottle of brandy the night before the 1982 final

What did you achieve at club level?
‘Three senior county medals and one u21 medal. That’s about it’.

And at county level?
‘Three All-Ireland medals, four Senior Leinster medals, an u21 Leinster medal, A Junior Leinster medal and I have a Leinster with Offaly Vocational schools’.

What was the highlight of your career at club and county level?
‘Well I suppose the highlight of my county career would have to be ’82 and at club level was probably the ’75 county final but at club level none of the finals really stand out because they were all important’.

Growing up what footballer did you admire?
‘Growing up I admired Mick Casey of Rhode, I admired Jack Kenna of Laois and Mick O’Connell of Kerry’.

At senior football level, who was your toughest opponent?
‘Donal Monaghan of Donegal was always very tough’.

Are you happy with your achievements?
‘I am yes, I count myself very lucky to have been around during a good time for Offaly football. I would have liked to have gotten an All-Star but it never happened, other than that I am happy enough’.

Who was the best footballer you ever played with at club and county level?
‘Paddy McCormack was an outstanding club player, he was one of the best club players I ever saw playing. At county level it would have to be Matt Connor’.

Who was the most talented footballer you ever played with at club and county level?
‘I suppose I would have to go with Matt Connor again, for people who didn’t see him playing they will never know just how good he was. At club level Johnny Mooney was a very talented player’.

Have you seen anyone in Offaly to rival Matt Connor?
‘No. There probably never will be anyone’.

The best grounds you ever played in?
‘I had the distinction of playing in Wembley which was something special, but I suppose Croke Park for atmosphere and everything’.

Who was your funniest teammate at club and county level?
‘Padriag Dunne of Gracefield I suppose, he was a bit of a character alright. At club level more than likely Jody Gunning’.

What did you think of Eugene McGee as a manager?
‘He was a very good man manager, he done a great job putting the ’82 team together because while there was a lot of very talented players, there was a lot with very different personalities. He surrounded himself by good men as well and he had four very good selectors so it worked as a team and worked out well’.

Who was the best manager you ever had?
‘I played under Fr Gilhooley at senior level and Eugene McGee, both were very good managers. Both had different styles, Fr Gilhooley encouraged and praised you, Eugene McGee had a different style. I wouldn’t like to divide between the two of them so I will say both’.

You hold a joint record of the most All-Ireland Senior medals in Offaly, what does that mean to you?
‘I never think of that really. There’s a few more lads with them really and it’s not something I think about really. It’s an honour of course don’t get me wrong’.

You played for Edenderry and Rhode, two of Offaly footballs biggest rivals. How did that come about?

‘Well the reason that came about was I was living in Edenderry, I was more or less finished at Senior level in Rhode. I was managing Edenderry but playing junior for Rhode. So I said id try my lot with Edenderry because the year before I played against Edenderry for Rhode, these were the lads I was training and I felt it was bit awkward, But I ended up playing a bit of Senior with them’.

How did you come to manage Edenderry?
‘I was approached by the club to see would I take the job and I said yes’.

Is there still hard feeling towards you over playing for Edenderry from people in Rhode?
‘No I don’t think so, I speak to everyone, and they speak to me. There’s probably a few that won’t forgot it though’.

You marked Stephen (brother) in a county semi final, how did you feel about that?
‘It was awkward but I had decided I was going to do it so it didn’t matter who I was on at that stage. In the drawn game I had marked Charlie Conroy. I went out and played it like any other game’.

Did Stephen ever ‘discuss’ it with you after?
‘No, we both went out in a very business like fashion, he went out to play for Rhode at corner back and I went out to play for Edenderry at corner forward. That was it’.

Who won the battle?
‘Well they won the match but I got two points off him! And I guess that’s not bad at 39 years of age’.

Who were your earliest influences on football?
‘I would say Gerry Reidy, when I was going to national school he came to Ballybryan as a teacher. I would have to say Tom Ward was very good to me and my Mother and Father were very good to me’.

You’re Father is Rhode GAA life President. How would you rate his views on football?
‘He’s fairly good actually, very knowledgeable. He could tell you about nearly any player for the past 70 years or so’.

What is your feeling towards the negative publicity you receive particularly towards your private life?
‘Well in the game I am at (publican), you can’t afford to be sensitive because if you are it just eats you up. A lot of people don’t know me and they don’t know what there talking about. I have people asking me everyday of my life ‘did you push him’ and that’s been going on for 27 years, its gets a bit innocuous and hard to listen too’.

How is your relationship with Tommy Doyle?
‘It’s very good. We are very good friends. I would be on the phone to him regularly’.

What member of the Offaly panels that you played on would you still talk to?
‘I would talk to them all, were all very good friends but I suppose Padriag Dunne, Richie Connor, Seanie Lowry, and all the Lowry’s really’.

What was your reaction to Matt Connor’s accident?
‘I was devastated. It had an awful affect on Offaly GAA and of course Walsh Island, but I think with the Offaly team it just blew us out of the water. It finished us up’.

How did ‘The Goal’ change your life?
‘Well I suppose it did change my life really. Been recognised is one of the main things, in that sense, it changed my life. Maybe as I am getting older not so much but GAA people would still remember me. I would like to think it didn’t change me as a person though but it did affect my life’.

Are you frustrated that people forget you scored 1-3 in the Leinster final in ’82 and you’re not just a one goal hero?
‘Well most people forget that I was around before, a lot of people think it’s the only day I appeared on the scene. Anyone who really knows anything about the game or follows the game will know I was around for a while. Normally the people who say otherwise don’t put any effort into finding out or checking out things before they talk’.

Do you no if it is true that you weren’t Eugene McGee’s first choice to come in as a sub that day?
‘I have been told that, I don’t know if it’s true or not, I presume it is’.

How do you feel about it if it is?
‘It doesn’t make much difference now, its history’.

Your two nephews play for Offaly, how do you rate them?
‘They are two good lads. Hopefully they can win something with Offaly before they retire, which is a bit away yet! They have both worked hard and deserve to be there’.

How far off a Leinster are Offaly?
‘Well I am inclined to think we are a good bit off a Leinster, I no that is a negative thing to say but I think the club scene in Offaly is the problem. I think we definitely have to bring back parish rule. It is affecting our county team in a big way.

What was it like to be part of the first Offaly team to win a Senior football All-Ireland?
‘I was very young, I was 20 years old. You’re inclined to believe this is going to happen every year and it doesn’t. I was only a sub but to be part of the first group of lads was certainly an honour. When ’82 came around I knew what it meant and also at 31 I knew it was the last roll of the dice for me which made it all the more enjoyable’.

Having won 2 All-Ireland titles in a row but then a ten year gap, leading into ’82 where you starting to loose your appetite?
‘No, I was enjoying playing for Rhode. I thought I was in very good shape, I thought I would have been around a little earlier but I was dropped for 6 years. I was very determined in ’82 when I got the call back’.

Eugene McGee had dropped you. How is your relationship with him now?
‘Yeah we get on ok’.

When your home, who is the first person you would go for a pint with?
‘There is far too many to mention whether it be in Rhode or Edenderry. I enjoy going out in both because I have a lot friends in both places’.

Who is the best player you have seen playing for Rhode?
‘Paddy McCormack’.

If you where a betting man, who would you back to win this years Senior championship and why?
‘Rhode, even though I don’t think they are as good as they were. It depends how much they want it and how greedy they are. At the minute there is just no other team around good enough, no real challengers’.

Can they win the Leinster? Should they have won one last year?
‘I think they will get it hard to win the Leinster and they definitely left one behind them last year’.

What was Richie Connor like in the dressing room before a match?
‘Well he wouldn’t have had too much to say but he would have been good in fairness’.

Would you ever get back involved with GAA at any level?
‘Well at any level I wouldn’t rule it out but at the minute I have no plans’.

Do you have any regrets?
‘God yeah I have a lot of regrets’.

Any regrets regarding football?
‘I didn’t give myself much of a chance. I was hard on myself at times’.

Do you hold any grudges?
‘No life’s to short for grudges’.

‘Tell us about the brandy incident the night before the All-Ireland final in ’82?
‘I had come home from a team meeting. My wife was pregnant, I knew I wouldn’t sleep so I rang my brother in-law Kevin Farrell and asked him had he anything to drink. He said he had a bottle of brandy but had nothing to put into it. I said I would find something to put into it, I got a bottle of red lemonade and between the two of us we had a good sup’.

The full bottle?
‘Well there wasn’t a whole lot left in it no’.

What is wrong with Offaly football?
‘Well like what I said earlier, the day they done away with parish rule didn’t help. It’s a serious problem. You have guys playing with the county who are playing with clubs that are playing against teams that are not senior standard. Their going out and they’re able to play very well. Then when they go out to play better teams, like the Dubs, they’re not able for it. They’re getting hit harder. The pace is much quicker, less time on the ball. They are starting at a total disadvantage. When the parish rule was in people prepared harder because they knew, no matter whom you were playing, when they were going out on the field, they were going to get all they wanted. That’s the very first thing that needs to be addressed. Then the underage’.

What was training like in 1982?
‘The training in ’82 was savage. I get it very hard to believe that teams today train any harder. It was cruel. I know I was 31 so I know naturally it was harder on me, but going up and down that hill in Clonin outside Rhode was no joke. I went back on the panel at 13st weight which meant I was in good trim and within one month I was 12st weight. I didn’t think I had much to loose but I had. It was very hard’.

Do you think because of your six year absence you missed your best years with Offaly?
‘Well I don’t know 25 to 31 was a very important time. When I went back onto the ’82 panel I really enjoyed my football, really enjoyed the training. I really got into shape and it was probably the most enjoyable time of my career’.

What do you make of these ‘Beer Bans’ been placed on club and county teams?
‘I don’t think there should be any total ban. I have been told very lately that Kilkenny and Tyrone don’t have beer bans that the players are left to their own discursion and naturally enough. When you’re trying to get your place on the team you won’t go mad. I don’t think its any harm for a little blow out once in a while. So no I don’t agree with them’,

Today, Seamus runs a pub in Toomevara in Co. Tipperary. The official opening was performed by another footballing colleague and a member of the ‘B’ panel in ’82, An Taoiseach, Brian Cowen. The guests included, believe it or believe it not, that great Kerry stalwart, Tommy Doyle!