Willie Casey RIP


Photo: Western People/Ronnie Naylor (from The Green Above The Red)

As has already been noted here on the site, the death occurred on Saturday morning of Ballina Stephenites and Mayo stalwart Willie Casey. An unused substitute at the age of nineteen in the 1951 All-Ireland final (he’s on the extreme left in the front row, next to the besuited Jackie Carney, in Ronnie Naylor’s iconic photo of that team above), Willie represented his county with distinction in the Fifties and Sixties.

An All-Ireland winner as a teenager (though, like Dr Mick Loftus and Paddy Jordan, he wasn’t to get his Celtic cross until as late as 2007), Willie hadn’t even played for the seniors before tasting Sam Maguire success with the county. A fortnight after that All-Ireland final he made his senior debut, lining out at corner-back (the position he played in most often for the county) in a National League match against Kerry in Tralee.

That 1951 success wasn’t his first national title with the county as Willie was also a member of the 1950 Mayo junior team that captured the All-Ireland. Still a minor then, he didn’t feature in the victory over London in the final, a match played in Ballina that October.

It was in the summer of 1953 that Willie made his senior championship debut for the county. He came on as a substitute for the injured Paddy Prendergast in the Connacht semi-final against Sligo that year. With Prendergast still unavailable due to injury, Willie made his full debut at full-back in the Connacht final at Hyde Park, where the county went down narrowly to Roscommon.

For several years after that Willie featured regularly on the Mayo team, mostly in the full-back line but also as half-back. In 1962, however, he lined out at corner-forward in a Connacht championship preliminary round match against Sligo at Charlestown. The match ended in a draw but Willie – whose selection in the forwards, according to the match report in the Western People, “caused a sensation” – contributed two points to his side’s tally. Playing again at corner-forward in the replay two weeks later at Markievicz Park, he pointed once more but Mayo lost by a point.

His final year in the colours was 1964. Back in his customary corner-back position he played for the county for the final time in that year’s Connacht final. Sadly, once again it was a day that ended in defeat, as Galway claimed the spoils at Tuam Stadium in a year where they won the first of what would became a three-in-a-row All-Ireland winning run.

There’s a nice tribute to Willie in today’s Western People (available in the print and digital versions), which was of help to me in putting together the above facts and figures on his inter-county career.

Willie Casey’s funeral mass takes place this morning (11am) at St Muredach’s Cathedral, Ballina, with burial afterwards at Leigue Cemetary. May this great servant of football within the county rest in peace.

16 thoughts on “Willie Casey RIP

  1. Was my mentor at Minor Level when we won the County and Connaught Club Title in 1980. Many fond memories. A great man to offer encouragement in the dressing room. A true Stephenite and Mayo GAA legend. R.I.P.

  2. Rest In Peace Willie. And hopefully someday soon you can twist some arm upstairs to help the Mayo seniors over the line.

  3. A wonderful piece on a wonderful man and player. Thank you, Willie Joe.

    Could you confirm or otherwise, what I always believed: that Willie played for Connacht in the Railway Cup competition before he actually played (championship? ) with Mayo. I understood that the Mayo selectors did not want to break up their full back line of John Forde, Paddy Prendergast and Sean Flanagan and drop the ageing Forde so Willie had to bide his time.

  4. Willie Casey was the first “star” I ever saw. Joe Corcoran and Seamus O Dowd were the next. Willie Joe says it all and I’m delighted to see recognition of those subs, Jimmy Curran, Paddy Jordan , Micky Loftus and Willie Casey whom
    The then county board treated disgracefully. Meeting and chatting to Mick Mulderrig a few years later, the anger still resonated with him. Mick saw it as a betrayal and an injustice to great men. Mulderrig himself and the team of 1951 got their All Ireland medals via registered post that Christmas. No presentation.

    A Dheis Dè ar ainm Willie Casey.

  5. I’ve just checked back on the papers from that era, John, and I can’t see Willie Casey listed as a player for Connacht in the Railway Cup before his championship debut for Mayo in 1953.

  6. Thanks, Willie Joe, strange how rumours grow legs over the years. That’s another shibboleth shattered!

  7. Willie Joe, this writer never had the privilege of playing with Willie Casey but was always very impressed with his style which was always very graceful and determined. However I made the same team as he also did in 1984, when we both selected on the team of the century of players who never won an all Ireland. Keep up the good work on the blog and it’s nice to see a star like willie Carey fondly remembered.
    I’ll rest my case with kind regards
    Willie McGee

  8. RIP Willie Casey. Before my time, but I think I played against one of his descendants in Eanna Casey if I have that right. Thought that was the case when playing underage.

  9. Correct JP. Eanna is Willie’s son. Condolences to all his family and the Stephenites club on their loss.

  10. Ever so slightly before my time, but remember the esteem he was held in by my father’s generation.

    RIP Willie Casey.

  11. RIP

    I hate bringing this up but I think its disgraceful to have people from other counties on social media making a mockery of this mans death. “Ha ha, only 2 left” “Ye will have to shoot the remaining members” are some comments I have seen. It reinforces my opinion that we are a laughing stock to the country which is ironic since most counties can’t even field a decent team.

  12. Agree with that yew tree. But not surprised, given what I hear some people saying these days. We seem to be going backwards as a species.

  13. I had the honour as a young kids growing up in Claremorris of seeing one of the greats in action for Mayo in the early 60s. My memory is vivid and absolutely clear of a really graceful, balanced and talented footballer. He was a true super star in those days.

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