Mayo mourns passing of legendary GAA personality Paddy Prendergast
The death has been announced of Paddy Prendergast, Ballinorig, Tralee, Co. Kerry.
The news has evoked a tremendous sense of loss across the Mayo GAA community where he held in such high regard.
A native of Ballintubber, Paddy was a member of the last Mayo team to win an All-Ireland final, lining out at full-back in the victory over Meath in the final in 1951.
He was also a member the title-winning side in 1950, defeating Louth in the decider.
Aged 95, he spoke of his love of Mayo football on many occasions over the years.
In a tribute on her Facebook page this morning, MEP Maria Walsh said she was very sorry to learn of Paddy's death.
She described him as 'an absolute gentleman, community man and memory sharer'.
In an interview published on the AIB GAA blog in August 2017, when Paddy was honoured by the GAA, he told the story of how he had no plans of playing for his native county while serving as a member of the constabulary in Donegal back in the late 1940s.
But that all changed when he received a letter in the post from Mayo GAA in 1948.
He explained: “I just got a declaration form saying: ‘please declare for Mayo’.
“I had no intention and no desire to declare for Mayo when I was playing for Donegal, who I had been playing with for two or three years.
“I ended up playing for Donegal because I was stationed there as a member of the Políní, the constabulary, and I was playing at club level with Dungloe and we had some great matches against the likes of Gweedore.
"So I was happy as Larry playing with Donegal. It’s a huge county and God knows at times travelling to matches was difficult because cars and roads were bad and so on.”
So in 1948 after that letter came Prendergast made a switch back to his native county where he knew Mick Flanagan and few others.
Disappointment followed as Mayo lost to Cavan the 1948 All-Ireland SFC final by a point.
He recalled: "Under trainers Jackie Carney and Gerald Courell we came from nowhere and went into the final and we should have won it that year.
“I remember there was a 14-yard free which Padraig Carney was taking, and it’s amazing I remember but when it hurts you, it doesn’t go away.
"Padraig never missed a free of any kind and he went up to kick it over the bar, and one of the Cavan players just up and blocked it, which was completely wrong.
“It wasn’t retaken and then Peter Quinn was on the point of fisting the ball over the bar for the equalising point, and the referee blew the whistle.
"The ball must’ve been half-way over the bar at that stage. To make matters worse, we had a gale behind us and the ball didn’t come near centre field during the whole half, out to 40 yards maybe.
“Peter Quinn was just punching the ball over the bar as the whistle went, and we were still a few minutes short of full-time.
“The referee said afterwards that he thought it was a draw, and maybe he did when he cancelled our last point.
"That was our first effort, our introduction to senior football in county Mayo, for me anyway.”
Mayo lost a semi-final clash to Meath the following year, and Prendergast feels that the playing of three forwards in the half-back line was costly.
For 1950, Mayo made a move that would raise eyebrows even now — with the panel living together as they prepared for another All-Ireland tilt.
He recalled: “We lived together in Ballina. There was about 25 of us there. We were full-time footballers for a number of weeks. We were very happy doing it.
Mayo beat Louth in the 1950 final — a game refereed by Simon Deignan who had lined out in the final for Cavan in ’48 — and then Meath in 1951.
“It was an amazing time. I think we had a great team, I don’t include myself in that, but we had great footballers.
“Padraig Carney, Eamon Mongey, Tom Langan and these, you know. We probably should have won at least four All-Irelands during that period because we were deprived of the first one in 1948. These things happen, you know.”
May his gentle soul rest in peace.
He is survived by his wife Irene, loving family Petra, Siobhán and Mark, grandchildren Will, Callum, Patrick and Helena, sons-in-law William and Andy, daughter-in-law Dayna, his dear sisters Carmel and Barbara, nephews, nieces, relatives, neighbours and friends, to shom sympathy is tendered.
Paddy was brother of the late Tommy, Philip, Murt, Ray, Dell and Sal.
Reposing at his residence in Ballinorig, Tralee, on Tuesday from 4 to 7 p.m. for family and close friends.
Funeral arriving to St. John’s Church, Tralee on Wednesday morning at 11.30 am where Requiem Mass for Paddy will be celebrated at 12 noon (streamed on www.stjohns.ie) followed by Private Cremation.
The Prendergast family will further celebrate Paddy’s life in Ballintubber Abbey and on the shores of Lough Carra in Summer 2022.