The county has lost another one of its legendary 1950/1 All-Ireland winning team, with the passing of Mick Mulderrig. John Cuffe pays tribute to this great servant of Mayo GAA.
Seasons come and go but winter finally arrives for us all. This week in the glorious sunshine that we all remember from our youth, one of Mayo’s legends passed to his eternal reward. Genial Mick Mulderrig, boy wonder of the 1951 Mayo All-Ireland winning team, joined his team mates on the great plains of Heaven.
Photo: The Road to 51 (James Laffey)
Flowery words and tributes tend to be written about a great when they pass away. Mick merits them all but the words would mask a steel and fire that was visible from meeting the man. A fist that could crush you but instead warmly greeted you, an eye that was unerring and accurate, as Mick went back over his career, leaving nothing out.
Mick arrived onto the Mayo team in 1950 aged twenty. In his debut he nailed 1-3 against Roscommon in the Connacht final out of a scoreline of Mayo 1-7, Roscommon 0-4. He was the only forward to score that day. The remaining 0-4 was notched by Padraig Carney from midfield. The following year Mick was a regular all the way to the All-Ireland final again. After a tight two games against Kerry, Mick and the equally brilliant Peter Solan were dropped for the final against Meath.
In 1955 – again after a replayed All-Ireland semi-final, this time against Dublin, Mick, not yet 26, stepped down, never to tog for his beloved Mayo again. Three Connacht senior medals, two All-Irelands and a National League medal tell only part of the story. The Mulderrigs were steeped in all things Mayo and its football. The father, a school teacher and a player of note, inculcated a desire in the sons Sean and Mick that saw both attain top honours.
Last October a mutual friend set up a meeting for me with Mick and his wife Jo. I arrived nervous and wondering what I might say or how the visit would go. I wanted to meet a member of that team from that era. At the door a sprightly man met me. Dancing eyes, strong hands and a brain that was faster than a computer made the evening for me, one never to forget.
Mick was a proud Mayo man. He called a spade a spade and didn’t always agree with official history. His demotion along with Solan for the final weighed heavy on him especially as it was orchestrated by some of the backs. His stories about the 1951 final – where the referee never gave Mayo a single free within scoring range, how Tom Langan sorted out a “spot of bother” on the pitch – made me feel as if I was out on the pitch with Mick.
His wife Jo, a woman of noble Cork football linage, she being the aunt of the Cahillanes and Davis’, gently mocked Mick as we talked. She reminded him that it wasn’t only Mayo that produced football royalty. It was that kind of night, sitting on a sofa in the midst of legends. Jo passed away some months ago. Mick now joins his beloved sna Flaitheas Ard.
Before I left I got a photo of Mick’s medals. I held a winning All-Ireland medal in my hand and won by a Mayo man to boot. Time didn’t blunt the pain Mick felt when his All-Ireland medal was posted to him in 1951. His last game was the replayed All-Ireland semi-final of 1955 against Dublin. Mayo lost by a point, Jimmy Curran scored all Mayo’s 1-7. At 26 Mick Mulderrig got a lift to O’Connell Bridge on the Dublin bus after the game and walked into history across its bridge.
Photo: John Cuffe
A Dheis Dé ar a ainm Dilís agus go mbeidh sna Flaitheas Ard anocht lena muintir agus a clan. By my reckoning Paddy Prendergast, Padraig Carney and Peter Quinn are now the surviving members of the 1951 team. Micky Loftus and Willie Casey were togged out subs that day and merit equal respect. Ní fheicimid a leithid aris.