Spare a thought on these dark but lengthening winter days for my uncle and namesake, Séamus Thornton of Clossagh, Foxford and Glasnevin, Dublin, who passed away last Friday morning. He was 96 years old.
Born in 1925, into a farming family of nine boys and two girls, Séamus joined An Garda Síochána in 1944, where he also played his club football.
Séamus had the honour of playing twice for the Mayo Senior football team in the early 1950s – a league game against Laois in the 1950/1 season but more significantly in the Connacht semi-final of 1951 where we prevailed against Sligo on a scoreline of 3-7 to 1-5. The game was played in Corran Park, Ballymote, on the 24th of June.
His first appearance in the Green and Red was as a substitute at right half-back. His second and last came as goalkeeper (possibly as replacement for an unavailable Séan Wynne). He didn’t do too badly, though, as I’m told he saved a penalty on the day.
Despite his short career as an inter-county footballer, he played a small but important role in Mayo’s last All-Ireland winning campaign, a fact I am very proud of, and which I never tire of telling anyone willing to listen!
Unfortunately, for reasons we will probably never know now, he did not feature any further on the panel that year as the team went on to claim their famous two-in-a-row.
Following this, Séamus settled into life as a guard in Dublin, marrying Kathleen, a local girl from Howth where he was stationed at the time and raising a family of their own together. Coincidentally, his brother-in-law, Paddy O’Flaherty, won a Celtic Cross for Dublin in 1958, also playing between the uprights.
Summers were spent back in his beloved Mayo, saving hay with his brothers or finding time to engage in his favourite pastime of fishing for salmon or trout on the banks of the nearby River Moy.
He outlived all ten of his siblings and is the last of his generation within our family. Like so many others they were of a generation that worked hard and sacrificed much for those who were to follow and for this we owe them much gratitude.
Séamus is survived by his three children, his wife Kathleen having left us in early 2020 at the start of the Covid pandemic. His funeral service and cremation took place on Monday last and his remains will be scattered back in his beloved Mayo.
I’d like to personally thank those current and ex members of the Mayo Senior football team who left messages of condolence on the RIP.ie website over the last few days. Given its nigh on eighty years since Séamus left Mayo and over seventy since he played for Mayo, these small gestures take on an added and poignant significance. These lads really are a credit to their county in more ways than one.
With his passing, I am conscious of redoubling my efforts to look to the future with a sense of renewed hope rather than backwards to the past (as some of us supporters understandably do with all things related to Mayo football). All those painful defeats (even our most recent one) need to be consigned to the history bin now as we continue our quest for that ever-elusive piece of silverware.
We’ll get there.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dilís.
Ní bheidh a leithéid arís ann.
Maigh Eo Abú.