John O’Mahony RIP

Photo: Midwest Radio (David Maher/Sportsfile)

The sad news was announced earlier today that John O’Mahony has died. The Kilmovee native, who had been ill for some time, was just 71 years of age.

The man known simply as Johnno played underage and senior for Mayo. He was part of the All-Ireland minor winning team of 1971 and the All-Ireland U21 winning team of 1974. It was at U21 level that he cut his teeth in management too, leading Mayo to that memorable Clarke Cup success in 1983.

Appointed manager of the senior team in 1987, he led the county to its first All-Ireland final appearance in 38 years in 1989, in which Mayo lost out narrowly to Cork. That day produced perhaps the most memorable image associated with Johnno, standing on the Croke Park pitch after the final whistle, with the Keep the Faith banner in the background. The late Tommie Gorman of RTÉ is also, as you can see below, in that iconic shot.

Photo: Henry Wills/Western People

There will always be an element of what might have been arising from his departure from the manager’s position, far too soon, in 1991, following a disagreement with the County Board over the issue of who should pick the team’s selectors. The Board’s view prevailed, Johnno walked and the county lost out badly as a result.

Our loss was, though, Leitrim’s gain and, more spectacularly, Galway’s too.

Johnno won a record-breaking eight Connacht SFC titles as a manager, three of them with Mayo and four with Galway, but the one he led Leitrim to in 1994 was surely the most storied of the lot. What a campaign that was too, as Johnno’s unfancied Ridge County outfit beat Roscommon in Dr Hyde Park, Galway in Tuam (after the teams drew in Carrick) and then Mayo in the final back at Hyde Park to seal their second provincial title and their first since 1927.

But it was with Galway where he really hit the jackpot.

Under him the Tribesmen stormed to All-Ireland glory in 1998 and, via the backdoor, again in 2001. They could well have won the 2000 one too, but failed to seal the deal the first day against Kerry and lost out in the replay. Still, two Sam Maguire wins in four years was a huge achievement for him and for the county.

There were, understandably, high hopes when Johnno returned to the helm with Mayo at the end of 2006. These dreams came to naught, however, in what was an unhappy second term, which ended with the nadir of Longford in 2010.

The blog was in its infancy during that turbulent era and, as I recall from back then, I rarely spared the manager the lash as his team repeatedly fell short. Much of the strident stuff I wrote then was certainly too cutting and perhaps too cruel as well.

A year after his return as Mayo manager, Johnno was elected to the Dáil as a Fine Gael Deputy, in which he sat for nine years. He was subsequently appointed to the Seanad by Taoiseach Enda Kenny and he served four years there.

Football remained in Johnno’s blood in more recent years. Some months back former Galway player Finian Hanley paid tribute to him on the Mayo Football Podcast for the support and encouragement Johnno gave to him as manager of the Salthill/Knocknacarra club, whom the Mayo man himself had managed beforehand.

John O’Mahony’s death robs not just his native county but the GAA within Connacht and more widely too of one of its most distinguished sons. Condolences to his family and friends on their very sad loss. May the man who kept the faith rest in peace.

36 thoughts on “John O’Mahony RIP

  1. RIP John
    Has there ever been a more consequential figure in Connacht football.

    I never knew of the strong links between him and Tommie Gorman until last week

  2. I would say that winning the Connacht title with Leitrim was even bigger than those all-irelands with Galway. Galway had incredible players during his time (not minimising his achievements there). For Leitrim to win a Connacht title beating the top three teams on the way was incredible and likely will never be repeated. It was a truly astonishing achievement. I remember it clearly and the entire county of Leitrim pretty much shutting down for a week in celebration.
    RIP John and condolences to all the friends and family.

  3. To the family of John O’Mahony and his extended family and to his brother Fr Dan may he rest in the arms of our blessed lady and our divine lord Jesus Christ. May he be surrounded by all the angels and saints in heaven

  4. I was at the Leitrim v Dublin semi final and they really performed, and put it up to Dublin for most of the match. No sports psychologists then, but that aspect of preparation came naturally to Johnno. An absolute gentlemen.

    He also followed Galway hurlers and managed Alan Kearns’ dual hurling/football commitments in 2001, with incredible accommodation. Alan was devastated after losing the hurling final (his first love), early Sept. but went on to win the football, beating Meath in the final.
    Ni bheidh a leitheid…

  5. Rest in peace John O’Mahoney and condolences to his family. One of the most well known families in East Mayo.
    I was coached by John O’Mahoney with other East Mayo clubs around 1991 or 1992 in Kiltimagh.
    The Connaught win by Leitrim is one of my ingrained in my mind GAA images.

  6. RiP Johnno. As a young 9 year old in 1989 you ignited ours dreams and belief that we, Mayo, could win the All-ireland. You reawakened our belief and told us to keep the faith. Your team of 89 was the bedrock of all our hopes and dreams since and one of the main reasons we have so regularly contested so many All-ireland’s since. It’s up to our generation now to keep the fire lit and to keep the faith. RiP Johnno.

  7. Rest in Peace John O. Was my teacher in Nathy’s years ago. A gentleman and always would remember your name. Respected by everyone whether you were a Ros or Mayo.

  8. I actually forgot that John O Mahony was manager of the u21 All Ireland winning team of 1983.

    His tactics worked a treat v Meath in the 2001 final, basically tested Meath out in the 1st half and deployed P J has a stationary full forward, then after halftime Galway changed their style of play and a few positions and destroyed Meath in th 2nd half.

  9. Rest in peace Johno. I met him in NY in 2009. A lovely man. Condolences to his wife and family.

  10. Ah no. I only saw him in McHale Park a few short months ago at a league game. Also heard him commentating on one of Mayo’s U20 Connacht Championship games. Looked and sounded in good form. I remember reading an interview with some of the 1994 Leitrim players and they said that they could not have won it without Johnno’s professionalism and coaching excellence. There’s no quantifying what a master coach can bring to a team. I was too young to remember Mayo’s 1989 campaign but have watched the videos and heard all the stories. That photo of the 1989 Mayo team lineout in Croke Park still hangs in manys a pub around the county. They all brought the pride back into Mayo football and had us believe we could compete at the top. Condolences to his family and friends. RIP Johnno

  11. It was with great sadness to learn of the passing of the great John O’Mahony earlier today. We were lucky to welcome John twice to our Club over the last year or so. First to give a talk to our senior panel around this time last year and then again in May, along with his wife Gearldine, as our special guests for our 75th year anniversary celebrations.

    We will be forever grateful for his generosity of his time, spirit, enthusiasm and knowledge of gaelic games and beyond. His incredible achievements in gaelic football simply speak for themselves, but as countless others have stated, he was first and foremost a gentleman.

    All at Ardnaree Sarsfields wish to extend sympathies to Gearldine and John’s family and many friends.

    Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

  12. RIP Johnno. A great man. Taught me in St Nathys and was held in very high esteem as both a manager and a really decent human being. Went on to achieve great things. Gave us the summer of our lives in 1989. The replay win v Ross followed by us hitting the last 6 points v Tyrone in semi final are days I will never forget. The final v Cork was our first huge day in Croke Park when we performed adequately and were almost content to be runners up. He changed our mind set and runners up was no longer acceptable. Winning a Connacht title with Leitrim and beating the 3 big dogs was a remarkable achievement even if I was desperately disappointed to see them beat us in the final. Was in Croker to cheer Galway v Kildare in 1998 (wouldn’t happen now) to see Sam return to Connacht and to see them win again in 2001 and get beat in 2002. I Came back to us again and gave us one great day in 2009 in Pearse Stadium in 2009. But it wasn’t just football. Johnno was a gentleman who had time to speak to everyone and who was always friendly and personable. Remember him as a good ref too who never talked down to players and was always fair. To his wife Geraldine and his daughters, sincere condolences. A genuinely great man and more importantly a decent man, RIP Johnno.

  13. 89 was magic. The Monday after the final here in Maynooth is still referred to as “Mayo Monday “ . Lads home from England and America and a huge amount of our people living in the town and surrounding areas, all in the pub singing Mayo songs. Noel Brady “rip” told me he sold 90 barrels of Guinness that day and 14 bottles of orange. Johno really gave us hope.

  14. Nephin……….I too lived in Maynooth in 1989. My wife and I had a houseful the weekend of the AIF and I have a lovely memory of my late father and I having a pint in the Leinster Arms, watching Up for the Match. Johnny McEvoy came on and sang The West’s Awake and there were tears in my Dad’s eyes. I managed to get him a stand ticket for the final and I was on the Canal End terrace. The final was seriously exciting….We lost by 4 but A Finnerty’s goal was a great consolation. A massive day that put Mayo football back at the top table….

  15. 89 was surely magic, the replay v Galway, the drama v Ros in the Hyde, the semi in the rain v Tyrone, and the crack in Dublin on the Saturday night.
    88 semi v Meath was the start of it, a great game but Meath finished well.

  16. Very sad to hear about Johnno. He was a legend really – soundtrack of my Mayo-following career – minor, u21, senior and then manager, who brought us so close in that magical year of ‘89. The big ones came elsewhere, and the 2006 era didn’t work out, but the demand for his services post 2010 showed the esteem he was held in nationally.

    I met him a few years ago in Croker at a fund raiser – he was there for a Galway reunion (!), but when he heard what was involved (a tribute to Peter Quinn), he came over to our table and chatted for half an hour, a half an hour of wit and wisdom.

  17. I remember watching the 1989 final with my uncle who died the following year. He had attended the 1951 final as a young man with his brother. We didn’t say much to each other as we watched the game but he watched silently and with great focus.
    I barely understood that this was a special and important game, only that he was watching it. Now I have an idea of the interest and emotion he must have felt realising Mayo might win the Final after all the years that had passed since he saw them win in Croke Park.
    I believe 1989 started off the Mayo competitive team we have come to know.
    What a gift John gave us – and those great players on that team too.
    And imagine he was only 36 when he managed that Mayo team to play in the 1989 final.
    Rest in peace John O’Mahony.

  18. Had the pleasure to talk to John on a few occasions over the years an absolute gent. One that sticks out in the memory was I met him in the bookies shop in Claremorris a good few years ago – he was killing time for an appointment he had later in the day. It was Cheltenham week and we were looking through the card and I said to John we should have a few bob on this one ‘Whysomayo’ we both laughed but did put a few quid on and dually collected !!….RIP John..

  19. I remember that ’89 final like it was yesterday. Leaving Ballyhaunis at dawn, stopping in Mullingar to get the papers on the way, parking up in The North Star hotel and going in for the full Irish, down to The Red Parrott to settle the pre-match nerves and sneaking in the side door as it was “holy hour”, (the Ballyhaunis porter sharks had the inside line in that fine establishment). The county was full of every returning immigrant from Leeds, London, Coventry, Birmingham, New York, Philledelphia and Washington DC (there was no Dubai or Australia back then). Great times. Looking back to that day, who would have thought it would take another 35 years and another 12 Finals yet we are still waiting to win it!!!
    RIP John, he really did Awake the West.

  20. I met John o Mahoney briefly on a few occasions and was always amazed he remembered my name.was on the platform at ballyhaunis train station back in 2008 on the way to the qualifier against Tyrone in croker.I was surprised to see the mayo squad there and John came over and had a few words.i remember him saying we won’t be standing off them.There is a huge sense of sadness around mayo Galway and Leitrim today as all 3 counties have their own special memories of the man.The 88 Connacht final and Tom Reilly’s goal is one stands out for me and of course the magical journey in 1989.Rest easy johno

  21. Very SPECIAL people like John O’ Mahony don’t come along too often, but the INPRINT that he’s left in GAA lore won’t ever be erased !
    John’s – gone way too soon, but what he has left is an indomitable mark on the memories of young and old alike and it’s now up to the upcoming footballers of MAYO to harness his SPIRIT that he leaves behind and BREAK THAT JINX and eventually push the County over the winning line to much deserved and way over due All-Ireland glory!

  22. Condolences to the O’Mahony family on the loss of John. Gone too soon. He has given us some great memories – the 1989 final in particular when he brought us back to the big table for the first time in almost forty years. May he rest in peace.

  23. I only had the pleasure of meeting John O’Mahony once, a few years back, in Vienna where I’ve been living for over a decade now. His daughter works in international diplomacy and was involved with our GAA club here, so he was over for a gig at the embassy.

    He told a great story about Leo Vardkar being appointed as Minister for Sport, and Leo, no harm to him, wouldn’t exactly be regarded as a sports fanatic. O’Mahony dropped into his office to wish him luck and apparently managed to convince him that the Minister for Sport throws in the ball on All-Ireland final day!

    He also had some great stories on Leitrim’s 1994 success and Galway’s odyssey later on.

    A sad loss to Connacht football, RIP.

  24. RIP John, had the pleasure of meeting you on a few occasions and always very free with your time . talked about bringing people with you in football , a lesson a lot of modern managers and coaches could learn , a gentleman and a true Gael who will be sadly missed

  25. I had the good fortune to win an u21 medal in 1983 with John as manager….he seemed years older than his 30 young years at that time in terms of experience, man management, attention to detail and overall approach that led us to victory. I also had the pleasure of dealing with him in his political career in later years and can attest that he demonstrated the highest level of integrity and commitment to the betterment of the west of Ireland. May he rest in peace and condolences to Geraldine and all his family, we have lost a great Gael.

  26. What a man! Condolences to all especially Geraldine and the girls, Dan, Steven and all other family members. You are all distraught and rightly so What a colossal loss. He will not be forgotten. May God comfort you all and may his soul rest in peace. He will not leave you alone. Ar deis De go raibh a anam dilis,

  27. He campained for the reopening of the Western Rail Corridor from Galway to Sligo even for a Roscommon to Sligo train service too.

  28. Our special podcast show, in which we pay tribute to Johnno’s life and legacy, is now online as a free pod. Mike is joined by Ed McGreal, Martin Carney, Andy Moran and Stephen Drake on it.

  29. RIP John, it was lovely to hear all the great stories this week on how he impacted so many people’s lives, truly a life well lived

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *