Mayo Gaels dinner-dance report January 2002

November 8, 2018

The community spirit of the Mayo Gaels Club was much to the fore when well over 200 people attended the club’s annual dinner dance which was held recently in the Welcome Inn Hotel in Castlebar. Retaining senior status against the odds was generally regarded as the highlight of the year for this small country club.

Michael Vahey, the new club chairman, was in fine fettle as he tore into his maiden address. He spoke of the honour it was to be chairman after ten years involvement with the club. Like a candidate about to embark on an election campaign, Michael was loud in his praise of the club’s ‘constituents’ and he spiced up the address with some fine humour along the way.
The chairman paid a wholesome tribute to the former chairman, Bernie Commons, whom he said was the ‘backbone’ behind the development of the two pitches.
Invoking words from the Hail Mary … ‘Blessed art thou amongst women’ …. he said he felt the same as he was in the very good company of three great lady officers at the Mayo Gaels Club. They were Ann Duggan and Phil McDonagh – ‘two mighty ladies’ – and Ann Connolly who was an excellent treasurer. He also thanked the outgoing P.R.O. Paddy Gibbons and the new P.R.O. James Duggan.
Michael had special compliments too for Bord na nOg under the guidance of its officers Tom Connolly, Maureen Burke and Martina McGing. The Under 12 team was taken care of by Peter Mannion, James Duggan and Michael Vahey while Michael McGurren, P.J. Walsh and Paul Quinn took charge of the U-14 panel. He thanked Tom Connolly and Paul Judge for their work with the U-16s and Jimmy Duggan and John Griffin who looked after the minors. And he had special plaudits for the senior team management of Billy Fitzpatrick, Mike McGurren and Richard Duggan.
The chairman said he was very pleased to see the Mayo Gaels Ladies Club enjoying a good season. Victories in the U-14 League and championship (‘B’) reflected the interest and ability there is in the team under the guidance of Michael Gibbons and Denise Duggan. ‘Girls football is very important and a great thing to have in the club,’ he said.

Gang of plasterers!
The FAS team played a major role in ongoing developments at Mayo Gaels and in Mayo Abbey and the parish. Thanks was tendered to Ger Maguire and his team. ‘Their work is there for all to be seen. We have an awful gang of plasterers in our club,’ said Michael.
Mayo Gaels shared the South Mayo award for Best Pitch and Club with Garrymore in 2001 and he thanked Martin Gibbons and colleagues for their work in relation to the pitch and presentation.
The lotto remained the main source of income and there were words of thanks for the organisers, sellers and supporters. ‘It costs in the region of ú35,00 to run our club on an annual basis,’ he said.
Sponsors continue to play an important role. The commitment of Malachy and Margaret Byrne in Mayo Abbey, the Rendezvous and Bridge Inn in Balla, John Daly and Daly Foods, Paddy Prendergast and Monaghan Brothers was remembered and thanked on the night.

Those bottles
Michael’s pride in the senior squad was clearly evident and their achievement in retaining senior status against the odds at the end of the Senior League campaign provided the club and supporters with two of their most memorable days of the year. Their win over Castlebar Mitchels after extra time in Kiltimagh was a huge achievement while they continued the roll with a two points victory over Kilmaine in the final match.
‘It was only what they deserved,’ he told the faithful. ‘They had 136 nights of training and some of them were on nights that ye wouldn’t put milk bottles out.’
Referees were important and it is getting more difficult to secure the services of new referees all the time. He had words of thanks for John Boyle and himself who took charge of the ‘whistle’ on a good few occasions throughout the year.
Club pride in the players that sported the county jersey during the year was reflected in his congratulations to Aiden and Declan McDonagh, James Fallon, Damien Quinn, Adrian Heneghan and Colm Jordan, all of whom were involved with the Mayo junior team that reached the All-Ireland Final before losing narrowly to Cork down in Ennis.
Jonathan Morrin was on county duty with Mayo minors in Croke Park while Brian Adams and Jarlath Walsh were members of the Mayo Under 16 squad. Brian Flatley represented the Mayo Gaels at the Mayo School of Excellence.

Peter Browne
One of the great servants of Mayo Gaels over the years has been Peter Browne and his contribution and dedication to the club was remembered in a special way on this occasion. ‘Pete Browne has played football with Mayo Gaels for 25 years … and he’s going playing again this year!’ said Michael Vahey.
The umpires, linesmen and gatemen and ‘everyone else’ were thanked too while the faithful supporters were not forgotten either. ‘We love our team,’ concluded Michael in thunderous fashion and to appreciative applause.
Earlier, he had extended a special welcome to all the club members and supporters and to the guests who included Fr. Austin Fergus, P.P., Fr. Gerry French who was visiting his home parish, Hubert McNicholas, and Sean Feeney, secretary of the County Board.
Fr. Austin Fergus said it was a very special achievement for one of the smallest clubs in the county to have senior status. The club could be proud of its work and the role its played in the life of the parish. He said there were some fine young players in the club and he had special words for Jonathan Morrin who played with the Mayo minors in the All-Ireland semi-final in Croke Park last August.

Community spirit
Sean Feeney said he was pleased to accept the invitation to the club’s annual dinner dance. He referred to the fact that there had been ‘some difficulties during the year’ between the club and the County Board (over the 3-way play-off at the end of the senior league where Mayo Gaels felt they were given the short straw).
He paid a special tribute to what he termed ‘Michael Vahey’s heart-warming delivery’ in his address as chairman to the gathering. ‘The community spirit here is unbelievable,’ said Sean Feeney.
He had special words of praise for Billy Fitzpatrick and he complimented him on his dedication to football in Mayo and the manner in which he took the Mayo juniors to the All-Ireland Final. Tom Connolly and the Bord na nOg officers also came in for mention.
On behalf of Bord na nOg, Tom Connolly presided at a number of presentations and the recipients were Brian Flatley, Brian Adams, Jonathan Walsh and Jonathan Morrin.
The ‘Supporter of the Year’ award went to the one and only Hubie McNicholas, the legendary ‘daddy’ of the club.
Peter Browne was also honoured with a lovely presentation to mark his 25 years as a regular player with the team … a deserved tribute to a man who has given such wonderful and loyal service to the club over all those years.
The chairman wrapped up matters with thanks to Ann McHugh and the staff of the Welcome Inn Hotel, Margaret Byrne and Malachy for their support, the press, and all the friends of Mayo Gaels club everywhere. Music was provided by the popular and accomplished group Twice as Nice who kept the dancers happy for the rest of the night. 

Article printed originally in the Western People by Michael Commins