I was honoured to be with a group of fellow septuagenarians for a night of wonderful nostalgia, specially convened to commemorate the 1966 championship win by the minors of Dungannon Clarkes.
Organised by committee man and scoring forward in the team, Sean McHugh, it was a special occasion for what ‘man in charge’ Bertie Foley described as the best team he’d ever worked with, in a couple of decades of the role which preceded ‘management’.
The team members came from near and far - Derraghadoan man Tommy O’Connor within walking distance of the venue, while Sean Casey had travelled from Australia, and the warmth with which the guys greeted one another demonstrated just what the playing experience meant to them all even now, a half-century on.
McHugh explained how he got the ball rolling at the start of the year, fully backed by the club and with the invaluable assistance of Foley amongst others, the players and their guests also addressed by club vice-chairman Mickey Corrigan, development officer Art McRory and Foley who gave a run-down on how the title was won, his great memories containing lots of much-appreciated and well-received humorous anecdotes.
With the function taking place precisely 46 years to the day since he emigrated to the Antipodes with neighbour and fellow team member Paddy Leonard, also present at The Gables, Casey - who spent decades on the administrative side of Gaelic Games throughout Australasia, delivered (understandably with the aid of a team-mate) an impromptu address which also got a rapturous reception.
Assisted by Corrigan, the club’s lauded All-Ireland winner, Gerald Cavlan handed out impressive Clarkes centenary medals to all the players or representatives in the cases of two deceased team members, Gerry Ryan and Barney McRory, and the two who couldn’t be present, Kevin Comac and Martin McIlhatton.
Having begun with a warm welcome and a delicious meal, following the formalities the proceedings ended with some country and western music, even if few of the guys and gals now is their late 60s didn’t quite manage to make it onto the dance floor.
On behalf of all those who were honoured so wonderfully well by the Clarkes club, sincere gratitude is expressed.