I mentioned yesterday that the lads at Club Mayo Dublin have a load of stats relating to the minor panel up on their website, which were put together and circulated by the County Board. Amidst all this info is the interesting fact that three of the current minor panel have bloodline connections with others who have worn the Green and Red and, in one case, who still do and who will hopefully continue to in the years ahead.
Jonathan Donoghue from Belmullet – who featured in the Connacht semi-final against Galway but who isn’t listed among the 24-man togged-out squad for Sunday – is a son of Liam Donoghue, who played in the half-forwards for the county for a few seasons around thirty years ago. Liam Donoghue made his senior debut for the county in our opening league match of the 1977/8 NFL campaign, which was against Cavan at McHale Park. We won that match by four points (0-12 to 0-8) and Liam, who lined out at left half-forward, scored one of those. Looking at John Melvin’s Connaught Telegraph match report just now on the excellent Irish Newspaper Archives, I see that Liam’s contribution to what John termed was an “unimpressive display” by the team as a whole was described as “wholehearted” and that his point came at the end of a 40-yard solo-run.
Unimpressive though that league start may have been, it turned out to be a good NFL campaign for us as we made it all the way to the final. We put up a good performance in that Croke Park decider in April 1978, going under to the might of the then All-Ireland champions Dublin on a scoreline of 2-18 to 2-13. Liam got 1-3 of that total and he then went on to make his Connacht championship debut against Leitrim a month later. He also featured in that year’s Connacht semi-final loss to Roscommon, where he scored a penalty goal for us in a 1-12 to 1-9 defeat. He played for much of the 1978/9 league campaign too and lined out at no.10 in the Connacht championship of 1979, where we beat Sligo in the semi-final before losing to Roscommon by 3-15 to 2-10 in that year’s provincial decider. From what I can see, that was the last time Liam lined out for the county.
Danny Geraghty from Ballintubber – who will be on the bench at Croke Park the next day – is a nephew of Ger Geraghty, who featured for the county at senior level for a few years before emigrating to the US. Most football aficionados within the county would, however, recall Ger’s role as midfield partner to Sean Maher in that coruscating U21 team of 1983. Sean was the big, strong midfield enforcer on that All-Ireland winning side while Ger was the elegant, skillful attack-minded creative force and between them they were the beating heart of a wonderful side that included such other luminaries as Gabriel Irwin, Peter Forde, John Maughan, John Finn, Padraig Brogan, Noel Durcan and Kevin McStay. To this day, they remain my favourite Mayo team of all time and that stirring All-Ireland final replay victory over Derry up in Irvinestown on a dank and dreary November day twenty-six years ago remains a precious memory (as well as the source of a truly monumental hangover) for me.
Ger, like Kevin McStay, made his senior championship debut for the county prior to helping the U21s to All-Ireland glory later in the year. He made his senior debut at midfield in a league defeat to Offaly in March 1983 and then lined out at no.10 in all three Connacht championship ties that year, a campaign that ended in a 1-13 to 1-10 Connacht final defeat to Galway at McHale Park, where the quality of the battle we put up to Galway that day went some way towards making up for the hiding we’d endured in Tuam twelve months prior to that. Ger continued to line out for the seniors over the course of the 1983/4 league campaign and was back at right half-forward for the 1984 Connacht championship, where the side now included a number of that victorious U21 team, Sean Maher included.
That 1984 Connacht final defeat to Galway in Pearse Stadium was one that Mayo supporters always regard as one that got away and it wasn’t the only thing to get away because that was the last time ever that Ger Geraghty appeared for the county. He emigrated to Chicago soon after and although, as Keith Duggan recounts in The Book, Johnno subsequently went to considerable lengths to entice the Ballintubber man back after he’d taken over the senior team in 1988, he wasn’t able to persuade him to return to the colours. You’d have to wonder how 1989 might have turned out had Johnno been able to do so but that’s water that long gone from under the bridge by now.
In contrast to the other two, the third connection between this year’s minors and players that have lined out for the senior team is one that isn’t rooted in the past. Breaffy’s Conor O’Shea (born 13th May 1993) is, as you’ve already guessed, the younger brother of Seamus and Aidan. At the tender age of sixteen, it’s no surprise that he’s not listed among the team plus subs squad for Sunday but you can be damned sure that he will be twelve months hence. When I was down in the West a few weeks back, I was idly flicking through the sports pages of the Western and a team photo of the Breaffy U16 side caught my eye. I didn’t need to read the caption to know that the gigantic lad in the middle of the front row clutching the cup was one Conor O’Shea.
Fast-forward five or so years from now and what will we see? The Ó Sé dynasty in Kerry will surely have cashed in their chips at that stage but it would be nice to think that our own O’Shea trio (for whom we have, of course, the Kingdom to thank) will be backboning the county side in its quest for honours. Well, we have to have our dreams, don’t we?