A reply to the question posed by Francis Mooney in The Irish News on September 30th when he asked ‘Is the Carrickmore legend fading to myth? ’.
Someone once said "Don't judge a man until you walk a mile in his shoes." I would urge Francis to bear that in mind when he is interviewing someone who has just managed a team to two consecutive finals only to lose both. I would doubt that Barney Gormley Carrickmore manager, past winning captain, the holder of six senior championship medals and a player regarded by many as one of the best club players ever to play in this county knew the context in which his answers would appear when he had the decency to speak to Francis Mooney minutes after his team were denied victory. I would also doubt that he would want his responses to appear in a way which seems to lend weight to the assertions of the author.
Francis is a journalist of some note and in fairness to him he has played a significant role in raising the profile of Tyrone club football since the late 1980’s. His work is a vital record of club history in the county and he must be applauded for that. However, it is disappointing that he sees value in posing the key question in his article a day after a club has suffered the heartache of championship defeat in what most of those who played the game would recognise as cruel circumstances. I would imagine some degree of empathy would be a useful quality for a sports writer. Many like Brolly and Spillane can be quite scathing at times but the reader is always forced to remember that they walked the walk. There is some suggestion by Francis that loosing County Finals is a new phenomenon to our club given that he was kind enough to remind us that we have lost four of them (2006,2010,2013 and 2014) since our last victory in 2005. He states that ‘an almost mystical reputation is wearing thin’. Francis’s interpretation of the game must exist on some higher astrological level where mystery supersedes real life but I can tell him that winning and losing championship’s is far from ‘mystical’ and exists in a world of sacrifice, hard work and discipline which are all very earthly qualities.
His continuing reference to our series of defeats and his theory that this has in some way eroded our traditional qualities holds little water. Historically our senior teams have been no strangers to defeat and in fact we have lost more senior finals than any other club in the county. Our first defeat in a final was in 1936 and we have had 11 since (’58,’67,’71,’74,’81,’94,’00,’06,’10,’13,’14). What most involved in either playing for or managing teams realise is that a team who consistently reach finals will inevitable loose some. Our senior team has contested 27 finals since our formation in 1932. Everyone in the county will be aware that we have won 15 of those(’40,’43,’49,’61,’66,’69,’77,’78,’79,’95,’96,’99,’01,’04,’05) and yes that is a record in the County. Probably more relevant though is the fact, yes fact not myth, that we are the only club in Tyrone to have maintained senior status.
Furthermore, a ‘myth’ is a widely held but false belief or idea. Francis Mooney’s news item is suggesting that a particular view of our club that was once widely held is now untrue. Are the facts, some of which are acknowledged by Francis, that we still lead the Senior Championship Roll of Honour, still top the Tyrone ACL Division 1 winners table and that we are the only club to have remained in senior football now untrue? Do clubs such as Ardboe, Clonoe, Trillick and Errigal Ciaran who also boast a rich history of championship success now regard us something less than they used to. Is the deep seated mutual respect that exists between us and our historic rivals throughout the county no longer there? Do worthy county champions Omagh now have a diluted view of what our club has stood for down through the years. Will they forget the way that our players and supporters shook their hands and congratulated them despite the devastation of defeat or that we did not begrudge them their celebrations after a 26 year wait. I would think not.
I would ask Francis to delve a bit deeper into what makes football clubs tick. It is not catchy sound bites, sensationalism or cheap shots. The building blocks of a club like our own are hard work, community spirit and natural talent none of which exist in the realms of ‘myths’ or ‘legends’. Every club in Tyrone has these qualities and are driven on by the tireless dedication of ordinary club men and women. Sometimes it delivers success but more often defeat. The history of a football club cannot be studied through a narrow lens focusing on the course of a few years but is a broad canvass of heartache and defeat interspersed with moments of elation that mark championship success. Omagh, Derrylaughlin, Clonoe, Coalisland, Moortown and Dromore have all lost successive finals but far from fading away they all returned to win championships. Art Mc Crory once told me that there were only two certainties in football - disappointment and injury. Everything else, he said, is a bonus. Players in our club have been very fortunate in that the bonuses have been quite considerable over the years. One thing remains certain as history dictates it. Carrickmore will lose more senior finals in the near and distant future but we will also win many and it is then that the real quality that is the ‘Spirit of Carmen’ not the ‘myth’ will once again be to the fore.
Gavan Mc Elroy, Carrickmore.