Loyal supporter hoping for a repeat result

Saturday, 18th August, 2007 9:00am

Story by Tom Kelly

MEATH`S achievement in reaching the All-Ireland final 40 years ago turned out to be a significant event on the life of Bob McCormack who is edging close to half-a century in the one job. 

The Navan native will be among the Meath supporters cheering on Colm Coyle`s men against Cork in Sunday`s All-Ireland SFC semi-final at Croke Park.  And when the two teams take the field for the eagerly awaited clash he could be forgiven for harking back four decades ago when Cork defeated Meath in another big game.

McCormack was among the attendance that showed up for the 1967 All-Ireland SFC final between Meath and Cork. It turned out to be a day to remember for the Navan man and his county.

Meath claimed the Sam Maguire for the third time with 1-9 to 0-9 winning margin and the same day McCormack was offered a job as a bar assistant in McGraths on the Drumcondra Road. He still works there, a familiar face behind the bar in one of the best-known hostelries in the capital.   

McCormack had actually started his apprenticeship in the licensing trade in McGraths in 1959. Like so many of his fellow compatriots he decided to emigrate to England in the mid- 1960s to sample the bright lights of London.

McCormack went to England in `66 and may well have ended up staying there however, with Jack Quinn, Peter Derby, Pat Collier and the rest making it to the All-Ireland final the following year his life changed.

When Meath defeated Mayo in the All-Ireland semi-final to set up the clash with the Munster champions, McCormack was anxious to return home and get to the big game. After all Meath hadn`t won the showpiece event of the summer for 13 years and there was a buzz of anticipation around the county.

McCormack was also invited to a wedding in Ireland around the same time. "I decided to kill two birds with the one stone," he recalled.

On the day of the game he joined the thousands of  supporters from the Royal County going to Dublin and called into McGraths on his way to Croke Park.

"I had been in London for about 12 months and when Meath got into the All-Ireland final I came home to go to the game," he recalled. "On the day of the match I called into McGraths and the bossman offered me the job back. I had come home for the game and the wedding, but I started back working in McGraths the following week.

That wasn`t all McCormack remembers from that day. He also clearly recalls that Meath were somewhat lucky to win the game and take Sam back to the banks of the Boyne for the third time.

"One thing I recall from that match was that Meath were lucky. Terry Kearns got the goal that was the difference between the teams. He punched the ball to the net and he had his back to the goals when he scored. The ball could have gone anywhere, lucky for Meath it ended up in the net.

"We were also helped by the fact that Mick Burke, the great Cork player, picked up an injury and had to go off."

Almost 50 years in any one job is a remarkable achievement and Bob is not going to call time on his career behind the bar just yet.

There are close family connections with sport as one of Bob`s brothers, the late Tony McCormack, was the first player to be presented with the Keegan Cup when he led Navan O`Mahonys to victory in 1953.

His grand nephew Brian McCormack played international rugby for Ireland at youth level. Bob`s sons Kevin and Ronan are also top ranking Irish dancers.

As the world has changed so has the licensing trade. Once a pint of Guinness and "a small one" was the staple drink of the average Irish male. Now there are a variety of beverages from home and abroad available. There have been other big changes.

"There was a lot more manual work to the bar business then, there`s no real manual work now, but the biggest change is the nature of people. People have changed a lot. In 1961 there was 91,000 at the All-Ireland final between Down and Offaly and we didn`t have to have doormen. If there`s any kind of a game down there now we have to have doormen."

"People that time who went to the games, and I firmly believe they were more interested in the games. It often amazes me. You could get a good double bill in Croke Park and when the first game is over the people involved with the counties just leave, they don`t wait for the second game. I maintain if they are really interested in the football they will stay for the second match."

For years Bob McCormack attended games, making the short trip to Croker during the `holy hour`. He would make an extra effort to be there when Meath were playing.

He`ll be hoping they can get the better of Cork on Sunday, just like they did 40 years ago.


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