The further back in time that the work I’ve been doing on the results archive stretches, the more it throws up interesting nuggets. The other week it was that fascinating photograph from the replayed 1946 Connacht final but the one I have for you today goes back much further, thirty years more to be precise and there’s a story to be told about this one too.
1916 is a year that has a very secure place in Irish history but, in the narrower world of Mayo GAA, it was an historic one too as that was the first year that we managed to reach an All-Ireland final. This being the case, I was able to add to the bare bones of that final result – which we lost to the four-in-a-row Wexford team on a scoreline of 3-4 to 1-2 – because the Complete Handbook of Gaelic Games provides details of every team that contested the senior All-Ireland final right back to 1887. I included those team details in the results archive for 1916 and thought no more about it.
But then Noel got in touch (all the way from Australia) to let me know that it had always been an accepted fact in his family that his grandfather was on that team but his name was missing from the list I’d put up (and, hence, from the team published in the Complete Handbook of Gaelic Games). As corroboration, he forwarded to me this wonderful photograph of the 1916 team, which was taken just before the Connacht final against Roscommon, a match that took place in Castlerea on 1st October that year. Sure enough, his grandad is in there.
It is, to my mind, quite a haunting photograph (to view the full sized picture, double-click on the image) from what, at this vantage point, appears to be an impossibly distant era. It was taken a little over five months after the Easter Rising had occurred and just three months to the day following the commencement of the slaughter on the Somme (which was still raging furiously when this picture was taken), with the War of Independence, the Civil War and all the rest still out there in the future. Everyone in the photo, along almost certainly with everyone else who was at that game, is surely dead and gone now but it’s impossible not to sense the life force that must have existed within this group of footballers when the image was captured for posterity.
Thanks, Noel, for digging out and sharing this wonderful photo, which was published in a Mayo News supplement over a decade ago. As I said in my email to you, I hope that my ongoing researches will be able to establish conclusively what the position is as regards that historic Mayo team.