The first time I had any dealings with Sean Og O’Ceallachain was on the evening of Clan na Gael’s 1985 Senior Championship win, the Castletown club’s first in 26 years.
I shared the St Brigid’s Park press box with Paddy King, who was correspondent for the dailies, and as he had a lot on his plate, Paddy asked if I’d send a report off to Sean for inclusion in the page he was writing at the time for the Evening Press.
It was only a few paragraphs, and I remember how I opened: “Sixteen-year-old Stephen Staunton was the hero of Clan na Gael’s Louth Senior Championship win.......”
This was the year before the youngster crossed the Irish Sea in pursuit of a soccer career that would see him win a record number of caps for the Republic of Ireland, as well as gain acclaim in the Liverpool and Aston Villa jerseys. He scored the only goal in Clans’ 1-6 to 0-4 win over Roche Emmets, his all-important strike coming in the 21st minute.
I was reminded of this and the subsequent working relationship I had with Sean Og O’Ceallachain on hearing of his death at the age of 89 on last Sunday week.
In due course I succeeded Paddy King as this area’s RTE’s GAA correspondent, and part of my brief was to provide Sean with Louth club results for the programme he presented on radio each Sunday night for 58 years up until it came off the air two years ago. That was staying power that no-one could match.
When I began there were no e-mails or even fax machines. Details had to be sent through by phone and invariably it was Sean, not a copy-taker, who’d be on the other end, ready to take not only the result of, say, Newtown Blues’ Cardinal O’Donnell Cup match with Cooley Kickhams, but all others, including those from the third-tier Ranafast Cup.
I often marvelled at Sean’s patience and enthusiasm for the job. He had not only to take a call from me, but a representative in each of the other 31 counties. But he knew he had a widespread audience in other parts of the world as well as Ireland; before the advent of local radio, mobiles and e-mails, followers would not know the results until they heard them on Sean’s show.
As nice a man as you could wish to meet, Sean launched one of his books in Croke Park a number of years back, and I was privileged to be asked along. He signed my copy, referring to me in a message as “my old pal, Joe”.
That will do as a memento.