Mullingar Shamrocks: The Year in Review, A-Z

January 24, 2021

A:  the No.1 letter in the alphabet has to be assigned to the No.1 footballer in the club at the moment:  Anna Jones. Anna's great year for  club and county ended with an exhibition in Croke Park in the All-Ireland final against Meath. Impeccable free taking and a superb goal kept Westmeath in touch until the final stages. A is also for Australia and surely Miss Jones will be the first Westmeath LGF player to sample the professional Aussie Rules code. Remember where you read it first.


B is for Bingo; gone, not forgotten and unlikely to return. The  long standing Thursday night at The Clubhouse fundraiser and social outing for so many people was in intensive care on occasions and even had a spell on life support but survived, sometimes against all the odds, thanks mainly to the commitment of Pat Collins and Detty  and their team of helpers. The end came swiftly and Bingo was the first victim of the Covid-19 virus in the club when the session of 12 March was cancelled out of a desire to protect the health and safety of the patrons. It is unlikely to return,


C  is for Covid-19, no contest for a C word here. The virus that, almost overnight, changed the world as we know it. The new world of the GAA involved lockdowns, dressing rooms closed, abridged championships, a split season, matches behind closed doors,  e-learning portals,  etc, we all know the story and the final chapter is somewhere in the distant future.   

D is for Detty, President of Mullingar Shamrocks since 1992 or even earlier and still working on behalf of the club. Back in 1963, Mrs Riggs from Gainstown was the winner of the first prize of £15 in week eight of the club's  Silver Circle fundraiser. The winning ticket was sold by teenager Detty Riggs who happens to be the same Detty who is now our club president. Fifty-seven years later Detty is still dipping into the famous handbag and pulling out the tickets for the club. This was never more evident than in the recent Club Iarmhí draw. The Mullingar Shamrocks contribution to the success of this draw was considerable and this was almost totally due to the drive and organisation of  Detty. Just one of the many ways this remarkable woman has contributed to Mullingar Shamrocks over the past 60 years or so. D is also for Debbie who is setting very high standards in her commitment to Mullingar Shamrocks.

E is for Eight the number of Mullingar Shamrocks members involved in the journey of the Westmeath LGF team to the All-Ireland final. It was a source of pride for the club to have players Lauren McCormack, Niamh Spellman,  Tara Fagan, Anna Jones, Karen Hegarty and Chloe Smullen involved and Carole Finch and Daragh Ryan as part of the management team.  Apart from the disappointment of defeat there was personal and club disappointment as Karen Hegarty, who scored 3-3 on the road to the final (only Ciara Blundell scored more from play), and Niamh Spellman, who hardly put a foot wrong in the full-back line missed out on starting places in the final. 

F is for Fundraising and the two major events staged  this year, one for the community at large which is what differentiates the GAA from all other sporting associations  and the other to raise much needed finance for the club now that the traditional  opportunities are no longer available. Over the May Bank Holiday weekend just under €10,500 was raised for Pieta House and Heroes Aid. This was more than double what we originally hoped to raise. And then our Goodbye 2020 - Hello 2021 exceeded all expectations when our members contributed with incredible generosity to ensure the financial viability of the club. It was a remarkable vote of confidence in the work of the club and an appreciation for the input of the mentors and coaches at under-age level. Kieran Gavin and Ritchie Daly managed the first event and Ritchie, Barry Kelly and Adrian Keaveney led the team charged with organising Goodbye 2020 - Hello 2021.  

G is for Green Club.  Mullingar Shamrocks GAA Club  is  one of just  45 clubs, and the only one from Westmeath,  selected to participate in Phase One of the new GAA Green Club programme launched in December.  But it is even better than that as Mullingar Shamrocks is not only recognised as a Green Club but it has also been selected as a Mentor Club for clubs engaging with the biodiversity theme. One of the highlights of the national launch was the six minute video showcasing the club's walkway and its biodiversity signposted route.

 H is for Honor and Honor MacNamara in particular. Covid-19 had some positives for the club, if it is possible to use the word in association with a pandemic with such tragic consequences. There were  no work placements abroad, there were no J-1 visas on offer and some who worked abroad were back and ready for football action. Consequently, Mullingar Shamrocks LGF panel was at its strongest this year. Niamh, Cliodhna, Chloe, Rachel were all available. Honor MacNamara returned to LGF and completed a powerful full forward line with Karen and  Chloe, a line that scored 16-39 to the winning championship campaign. 

I is for intermediate LGF, the only county title won by Mullingar Shamrocks in 2020. Three clubs were beaten on the way to capturing the title:  Kilbeggan Shamrocks 4-17 to 0-6 and Killucan 7-7 to 2-6 in the group stages and Moate All-Whites II (7-21 to 0-3) in the semi-final. Killucan qualified for the final and once again went down to Mullingar Shamrocks on a 5-8 to 1-5 scoreline. Mullingar Shamrocks scored 23-53 on their way to winning the title and conceded 3-20. Mullingar Shamrocks lined out the following team in the final: Lauren McCormack; Melek Fagan (Sophie Hegarty), Niamh Spellman, Rachel Hannigan (Lorna Morris); Susanna Buckley, Tara Fagan (Captain), Chloe Swarbrigg (Cliodhna Spellman);  Anna Jones (0-1), Laura Whitelaw;  Clara Thornton [1-0] (Michaela O'Connor), Emma Morris (1-0), Áine Melody; Chloe Smullen [2-0] (Ally Bane), Karen Hegarty (1-7), Honor MacNamara (Carole Finch).

J is for Joan Ormsby our dynamic Healthy Club officer who was driven the Healthy Club initiative and explored many different ways of enhancing and financing the project.  

K is for Killucan and Coralstown-Kinnegad, the club's that ended our senior championship hopes in the 2020 season and we never saw it coming. A five-point loss to Coralstown-Kinnegad (1-11 to 1-6) set up a must win second match against Killucan and once again when the final whistle was blown by referee Keith O'Brien the scoreboard read 1-12 to 1-10 in favour of Killucan to end our championship campaign and introduced the possibility of relegation to the agenda.    

L is for lockdown. No  contest here and for the first time since the formation of the GAA in 1884, a total lockdown on all GAA activities and facilities  began on 25 March 2020 after initially placing an embargo on all training and games at all levels. This continued until 29 June when GAA pitches reopened and small group training was permitted at designated times. It wasn't until Friday, 17 July that competitions resumed when our Under-14 LGF team travelled to Multyfarnham to play ClannaGaels in the championship. Our Under-15 footballers were out on Saturday 18 July against Lilliput Gaels  and on 20 July our adult footballers resumed competitive fare with a league match against Shandonagh after resuming active service with a challenge against St Mary's Granard, one of the first adult matches staged in the country after the gates were officially opened by Sean Hynes on 29 June. 

M is for minors now established officially as  Under-17 and our team was apparently down and out after twenty minutes in the Shield semi-final  in what looked destined to be the team's final match of the season as they trailed Western Gaels by 2-8 to 1-1 just after the first water break. However, this team is full of spirit and battled back and at half-time had cut the deficit to just three points.  At the second water  break Shamrocks had pushed ahead on a 5-7 to 2-12 scoreline before eventually winning by 6-8 to 2-17. Oliver MacNamara, who later joined the ranks of the Mullingar Shamrocks players who have represented Westmeath at minor level, scored 3-4 but this was essential a team victory,  for a group that benefited from the  dedication, and management and coaching  skills of Vinny, Anthony, Seamus and Paul all season.  

N is for Ned gone as senior manager but will never be forgotten. In a distinguished career with Mullingar Shamrocks nothing compares with what he  achieved in 2018 when he managed the club to its twelfth senior title by defeating St Loman's in  the historic all-Mullingar final. It was a master class in management as Ned inherited a panel smothered in negativity and guided them to the  title. Garrycastle were too good in the 2019 semi-final and 2020 disappointed. Ned stepped down after Shandonagh were defeated to secure senior status for another year and have no doubt all that passion and pride in Mullingar Shamrocks will be channelled into other aspects of the club's business.   

O is for Outside and Outsider: In December, in what was a significant break with tradition, Mullingar Shamrocks made the decision to appoint a manager from outside the club for the 2021 season. Jack Sheedy was the appointed outsider. If Jack is no longer considered an outsider at the end of the season then the experiment will be considered a success.  

P can only be for Pat and there is only one Pat Collins, Pat Collins has been synonymous with Shamrocks’ underage for more than two decades and the Underage Secretary shows no signs of slowing down. Indeed, the presence of grandsons Seaghan Óg and Micheál in the SeamrÓgi groups has given the Collinstown native fresh impetus. Fixtures, bibs, jerseys, footballs and water bottles have been key words in the Collins’ lexicon for many years and he added a couple of new words in 2020, namely hand sanitiser. No underage player entered Springfield in 2020 from July to December without passing the various hand sanitising stations organised by Pat. He also managed to assist new County Minor Secretary Kevin Jordan in his new role and a very successful county underage programme was undertaken in the most trying of circumstances.

Q is for Questionnaire: An essential requirement of the Return to Play protocol as important as football boots and kit. First of all an online learning course was mandatory for all and this was examined by questionnaire. It was also mandatory that all players completed a questionnaire before each training session confirming that they were not  carrying symptoms of the dreaded COVID.  

R is for Robbie  the man who stepped up to the plate in 2020 and superbly managed the Mullingar LGF team. Under Robbie Boyle's management the  team  were very convincing winners of the county title and the girls gave a seriously good account of themselves in the Senior B championship before losing to Garrycastle after extra-time in a LGF classic in Springfield. 

S is for Shandonagh, linked forever with Mullingar Shamrocks in the season of COVID. The story of a season in three matches,  a season in which the  Mullingar Shamrocks senior team played just 5 matches in Westmeath competitions, three of them against Shandonagh and two of these were eventually declared null and void. And it will come as little consolation to our neighbours that these were the only three matches we won this season. It all began on 16 February  when the two clubs met in the ACL Div.1 in  Arctic-like conditions in Springfield with Shamrocks shading a 1-6 to 0-6 victory. Lorcan  Smyth returned to Mullingar Shamrocks and Dean Moore scored 1-3. This was the last ACL Div.1 2020 League match played by Shamrocks. It was back to Springfield again on 21 July when competitive fare resumed with a new abridged ACL League. On this occasion, with attendance limited to 200 including players and officials, Mullingar Shamrocks enjoyed the same margin of victory on a glorious summer evening. The scoring rate was a bit higher as Shamrocks finished 1-12 to Shandonagh's 0-12. Brendan O'Reilly was the goal scorer and Davy Coyne made a comeback from a cruciate injury after spending close to two years in the repair yard. Once again this result proved to be null and void as the mini-league was abandoned after one round. It was on to Kinnegad, on the last Friday in August, for the third match this one in a senior relegation semi-final played behind closed doors. Wilson Porter was organised to provide a live stream  by Shandonagh and Shamrocks to  facilitate our members and supporters. Conor McKenna and his co-commentator Kieran Conway provided an excellent commentary. Possible relegation was at stake for the losers and in the end Shamrocks were comfortable 1-15 to 1-9 winners but it wasn't until the final ten minutes that the spectre of relegation was finally exorcised from the Shamrocks psyche and senior status secured for the 2021 season. New player, Killian Butler was a key player on this occasion as Dean Moore chipped in with 1-6.      

T is for Tara as in Tara Fagan ... the captain fantastic of our LGF team, leading the way from the centre-back position. Tara's form in the championship was good enough to secure a place on the Westmeath team for All-Ireland championship. A wrist injury early in the opening match against Longford was ignored and Tara played through the pain barrier to the end. This seemed to have ended Tara's season as the wrist was encased in plaster but like the old school players the plaster was removed prematurely and Tara worked to regain her football fitness and earned a recall to the fullback line for the All-Ireland final. 

U is for Underage and in a year dominated by COVID numbers it’s worth noting that Shamrocks enjoyed their most successful year ever in terms of numbers of underage players participating. From Adrian Keaveney’s work  in leading his coaching crew with the under 4s, 5s and 6s to Karen and Sophie Hegarty’s efforts with our under 8, 10 and 12 girls to the Anthony Clinton led under 17s, Shamrocks’ boys and girls enjoyed a fantastic year of coaching and fun with over 60 dedicated coaches. Our under-13 boys qualified for the county final and Springfield was a hive of activity every day once restrictions were lifted. This large operation was smoothly coordinated, as ever, by Mr. Organisation himself, Pat Collins. Thanks to all those who volunteered to coach and encourage throughout 2020.

V is for video and video analysis has become a key element of team strategy in today’s GAA but Shamrocks’ members benefited in a different manner during lock down. Greg Gavin led the way with his team of eager assistants, Oísin, Anna, Harry and Lucy and our Under-11 boys responded wonderfully to Greg’s online promptings. Micheál Burke hired two able lieutenants in MJ and Josh and the Under-7 and Under-9 boys enjoyed their coaching drills. (A deckchair was demolished in the making of one video but hopefully Andrea hasn’t noticed !!!!). Karen and Sophie Hegarty’s skill challenges were also eagerly embraced by many underage players and were a Facebook highlight but the skills displayed by Efe and  Eddie Moore took the plaudits especially Eddie  when he skilfully drove the ball into Ned’s cement mixer at the first attempt, although the jealous ones suggested it was actually the  79th attempt !!!! 

W is for water break, the latest arrival to the GAA scene and a product of the COVID era and with it came the end of the Maor Foirne. The one minute break has added an interesting new dimension to the game and allows team managers an opportunity to impart some tactical advice across not always to positive it must be noted.   

X is for X-ray and its more accurate modern format the MRI scan and for Lisa Burke the worst fears were confirmed. The knee injury sustained by Lisa in the Senior B championship match against Garrycastle was  the horrible snapped cruciate and surgery was needed. The good news is that Ray Moran's scalpel and skill has fixed the cruciate and repaired the cartilage as well. In this winter of retirements, that has so far seen five Mayo footballers, three Kerry footballers, two Kilkenny hurlers, two Dublin footballers, two Cork hurlers several camogie players and two more hurlers from Westmeath hang up their boots, Retirement is not for Lisa, she  has every intention of coming back and to line out for Mullingar Shamrocks. We wish Lisa the best of luck with her recovery and rehab and look forward to the day that the First Lady of Mullingar Shamrocks LGF takes the field again with the Cantona-like  popped-up collar. 

Y is for YouTube founded on 14 February 2005 by three former employees of PayPal and sold in November 2006 for $1.65 billion. More than 500 hours of content are uploaded on YouTube every minute and over one billion hours of content are watched every minute.  Ollie Gallagher was one of those uploading content during Lockdown 1 and thanks to Ollie's generosity we were able to watch many of  our great occasions from the past starting with the 1986 county final, several Leinster club championship games and some under age finals. It was great to make this connection with past games and past greats. Ollie's video of the 2000 final was especially memorable with great pre-match and post-match interviews bringing it all back home. 

Z is for Zach.  It is Zach not Zak and Aherne not Ahern or Ahearn or Ahearne. One for the future and one to watch in 2021 as it may be the season when he makes the breakthrough to senior football. We also have a Zak and he is on standby and waiting eagerly for a date for the Under-13 county final, the local Derby occasion with St Loman's.  Zak Coyne is the young man in  question and is a player of great promise.      

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