I was expecting the news I didn’t want to receive. And then the phone call came. Packy McGarty passed away last night at his home in Dublin three weeks short of his 88th Birthday.
A Mohill hero. A Leitrim hero. And a national GAA icon.
A fellow Mohillian described him so - ‘McGarty was to most other footballers what Everest is to drumlins’
Packy’s footballing exploits are covered in other articles. This article is about the man who never forgot his home club Mohill. The McGarty family were immersed in Mohill GAA Club.
Packy now joins sister Kathleen and his brothers Willie, Eddie, Dan, in the ‘Heaven Stand’ and every match that was ever played will be replayed. Games that were lost in real time will be won in hindsight.
His medals and award collections include, three Ireland Jerseys v the Combined Universities in aid of the Catholic Social Services, three Railway Cups, Sunday Independent Team of the Century, one Connacht Junior Medal and two McKeever Cups.
Mohill was where his heart was.
In his Dublin home hangs one photo, his Mohill school team from 1946.
The photo of his school pals is Packy's most prized possession and sits proudly on the mantelpiece of his Dublin home. The school principal was Master JJ Kelly.
Team photo - Front row L-R- Seamus Clyne, Christy Clyne, Michael Crossan, Eddie Rowley, Packy McGarty, Brian Bohan, Jack Conboy, Michael Sammon
Back row - Mel Kenny, Paddy Maguire, Sean Mitchell, John Mulligan, Seamus Gallagher, Pascal McKeon, Joe Mitchell, Cyril McGovern, and Eddie Foley
Teacher - Mark Keegan
The photo was taken by Tommy McTaggart – Glebe Street
Packy was the most humble man you could meet. He hated fuss and he hated attention. He turned down more invitations to functions than he accepted.
In 2019 Leitrim played Derry in the Division 4 National Football League Final in Croke Park and when Leitrim get to Croke Park it always makes the headlines.
On the eve of the match Seamus O'Rourke was going to appear on the LATE LATE SHOW and Seamus asked me would I contact Packy to see would he go along to the Late Late and say a few words on the last time Leitrim played Derry in Croke Park in the National Football League Semi-Final in 1958 (61 years ago). That match in 1958 was the only time Packy played with Leitrim in Croke Park, he played a number of times with Ireland v The Combined Universities and of course with Connacht in the Railway Cups. I told Seamus in my opinion Packy had no interest in going but I would phone him.
I phoned Packy, explained the story to him and of course Packy turned me down despite my telling him he would become more famous if he went on the LATE LATE. In my final attempts at persuading him I told him ‘not too many turn down an appearance on the LATE LATE' and Packy replied ‘well Eamonn, I am going to turn it down.’ And that was that.
Mohill was never forgotten and he did his bit by attending Mohill GAA Club functions and he loved talking to footballers and to GAA Supporters. We travelled together to the County Final replay in 2015, Mohill v Glencar. I was pulling in to the car park in Pairc Sean and as I was parking, two Fenagh club members came over to say hello to Packy. Packy won two minor medals with Fenagh in 1950 & 1951 as Mohill had no minor team at the time. Everyone wanted to say hello to Packy Mohill won the 2015 final with a last minute goal from Chick Kennedy and Packy was delighted.
At the insistence of Brian Gordon, Packy visited the winning dressing room and held up the cup with Mohill Captain Danny Beck. In a distinguished career he never won a Senior Club Championship medal himself in Leitrim, Dublin or London. He would loved to have won one with Mohill.
Packy did promise he would play his last GAA game with Mohill and he did in 1977 when Mohill played Gortletteragh in the losers group of the senior championship. Des Kegan collected Packy at his shop in Clondalkin and drove at speed to the match. Mohill lost on a sore line of 1-4 to 0-3. As a 17 year old I played in that game and when non Leitrim people ask me do I know Packy McGarty my reply is ‘do I know him, sure I played with him’. The reaction is priceless until I explain.
Packy always supported Leitrim both at games and in whatever fundraising we undertook. He loved the Live streaming of games and knew as much about the Mohill & Leitrim’s team as anybody. When I approached him to buy a brick in the Leitrimwall at the Leitrim GAA Centre Of Excellence in Annaduff, he said of course he would. He would donate but there was no need to put his name on a brick. Over many years I asked him could I mention him in some way or another and his reply was always 'I would prefer if you didn’t' and I never did. However I wasn’t taking no for an answer on the brick and the wording we agreed was:
Proud to wear the Leitrim Jersey
And the brick in the wall sums up Packy McGarty.
May the great Packy McGarty rest in peace,
With deepest sympathy to his wife Ella and all the McGarty family