Every GAA club has its secrets and ours is closely guarded, lest anyone else benefit: it’s easier to score a sideline cut from one side than it is the other. And it’s all down to the late Mashie O’Mahony.
Mashie was the kind of fella who always came to a quick – if unconventional – solution.
The nickname originated from primary school, when Mrs Crowley asked him what he would do if there were five potatoes to be shared among three people. “Sure wouldn’t I fecking mash them?” was the logical answer he provided.
He was one of those guys who wasn’t uncommon in our club – skill questionable but heart never in doubt. His career wasn’t stellar but he wasn’t without use. Rarely foraying outside the full-back line, his greatest moment came in the county junior final replay in 1984.
O’Donovan was sufficiently spooked. He didn’t kick a ball all day
In the drawn game, he was given a bit of a chasing by Killountain’s David O’Donovan, a skillful player who was on the fringes of the county panel. O’Donovan could be a bit windy though and so, before the replay, Mashie stood outside the Killountain dressing room waiting for him with a sheet of paper in his hand.
“Here you go,” he said, passing the sheet to O’Donovan as he went in, “it’s the supper menu for the Regional Hospital tonight – just in case, like.”
O’Donovan was sufficiently spooked. He didn’t kick a ball all day and Mashie had the game of his life, without needing to commit a single foul.
How many grandchildren have you now? Sure you’ll get a ticket for each of them too, imagine if they won!
A man with Mashie’s appetite and thirst was never going to have a long career, but he stayed heavily involved with the club. While he’d never profess to having the most innovative coaching methods (he stood in as a selector at a few different levels), it was off the pitch that he did his best work.
His natural charm was well utilised in selling lotto tickets – “How many grandchildren have you now? Sure you’ll get a ticket for each of them too, imagine if they won!” – and his day-job as a builder for Roly O’Shea meant that he was often roped in to do what needed to do be done at the pitch.
In 1989, it was decided to build a new clubhouse and, to ensure the meeting room had a good enough view of the pitch on wet days, our shallow bank was reshaped.
He was a rugby man who lived locally and so naturally we always felt he was a bit superior to us
That meant the building of a wall down at the level of the pitch (which was to be turned 90 degrees, parallel with the river and the woods) and Mashie was the man for the job. While he might have looked unkempt, his work was immaculate; his favourite line was to boast of how he’d brush your hair with his trowel.
I said at the start that this was all Mashie’s doing but ‘credit’ must also go to Spencer Woods, the civil engineer. He was a rugby man who lived locally and so naturally we always felt he was a bit superior to us.
Not that he was necessarily good at his job – you know the way an optimist says a glass is half-full and a pessimist says it’s half-empty? Well, Spencer was told how much water was there and still made it twice as big as it needed to be.
It was Spencer who laid out for Mashie where the wall was to be – but in measuring from the goalposts, he had the dimensions of a rugby pitch in mind rather than that of a larger GAA field.
Mashie didn’t feel the need to question Spencer and set about putting down the blocks and then the green and white bricks, spelling out the club’s name. It was such a good job that, when the original error was spotted, nobody had the heart to undo the good work. Moving the opposite sideline into the river wasn’t really a runner either and moving the goalposts would have meant shifting the big net behind, too.
It was all a bit too much effort, especially after Mashie’s premature death in the mid-1990s. The lopsided pitch makes sure he’ll always be remembered and a pointed sideline cut by one of our players – at home or elsewhere – is lovingly referred to as ‘a Mashie’.