Like many people, I’ve been to far many funerals than I would have liked in my life.
Rarely though have I seen someone get as good a send-off as Tommy McConville last Monday week.
When a spontaneous applause erupted throughout the Holy Redeemer as the great man’s coffin was being carried out of the church after Mass, it brought a lump to many a throat.
It was a proper goodbye to one of Dundalk’s greatest characters.
‘Mac’, as he was affectionately known, was an entertainer. Whether it be on the field or in social settings, you couldn’t help but be in good form around him.
For many people he made up a percentage of what made Dundalk such a great place to live and that is one hell of a compliment.
Tommy’s playing career is the stuff of legend and it was fitting that current Lilywhites manager Stephen Kenny described him as Dundalk’s greatest ever player in his programme notes for the recent home match against Cork City.
Apart from on a few occasions in JJB though and, of course, his testimonial and exhibiton matches, I never got to see Mac play. certainly not in his prime at least.
It is a great regret for many that he never got that dream move to Manchester United in his heyday, but Tommy didn’t do regrets. He lived life to the full and met every challenge with a laugh and a smile.
It was his superb sense of humour that made him so popular. A former colleague once told me that he’d almost pay to be in Mac’s company as craic and laughter were guaranteed.
That, I can personally testify to. My fondest memories of Tommy are of each January when myself, Gerry Prendergast, Des Denning and his good friend Dermot Keely set out for the Soccer Writers’ dinner dance.
Together with other locals such as Tony O’Kane, Jim Smyth and Kevin Mulligan, this group became christened the Dundalk mafia.
The craic was always good and, of course, Tommy was at the heart of it.
At such an event you are surrounded by journalists, players, managers and coaches from all over and – to a man – you could see that each of them held Tommy in the highest regard.
He had a lot of famous and well-known friends but Tommy always stayed true to his roots. A prouder Dundalk man you could not meet and in his own way he was a great ambassador and promoter of the town.
There are very few people that can instantly lift your mood when they walk in a room. Tommy was one of them.
Even when illness was upon him, he maintained his good spirits and on my last occasion meeting him socially he even gave a rousing rendition of his old favourite “I left my heart in San Francisco” in McAlester’s in Bridge Street.
This January his presence will be sorely missed when the Soccer Writers convene once more. There’ll be no sign of that mischievous grin that was always present when Tommy and Keely got together.
His spirit will be there though and we’ll think back to the many great memories he gave us.
Tommy McConville, one of life’s great entertainers.
Many people talked a great game. Tommy Mac lived one.
He used to always say we’re here for a good time, not a long time. Tommy Mac lived a great life and he made many other people’s lives a little bit better too.