My buddy Larry Maher has a saying to cover those rare occasions when an event actually goes to plan.
“It all went off like a bad tractor,” he’d say, waiting for the inevitable reply of, “In what way?” before laughing, “Without a hitch!”
Well, a few years ago, Toddy Warren, who probably hasn’t farmed since before the invention of the bale wrapper, had an old Leyland 272 that might as well not have had a hitch, given that its only function was to ferry him to Nóirín Byrne’s pub and home again.
Toddy’s logic was that no garda would bother stopping someone out on a tractor late at night, allowing him a few cosy pints without needing to worry about a lift home. As has often been the case, of course, he left his mouth run away with itself and the wheeze wasn’t long reaching the ears of Sergeant Terry Kelleher. Not wanting to put a septuagenarian off the road, Terry worked out an arrangement where he’d be on duty on the nights Toddy went for a few pints, giving him a spin home in the squad car.
Terry, who retired last month four decades after arriving here out of Templemore, is a Kerryman originally but became one of us, an intrinsic member of the GAA club and the wider community. His footballing lineage – winner of an All-Ireland minor medal – was a huge boon to us when he transferred after finding the commute too much.
While we produce a lot of good, nippy forwards, we’ve often lacked a strong defensive presence, but Terry provided that and the local paper had christened him “The Sergeant of The Square” a good 10 years before he actually received such a promotion professionally.
A few years after graduation, Terry and his classmates returned to Templemore for a refresher course and he was regaled with stories of high drama from the lads sent to Store Street
He learned at the shoulder of Sergeant McNamara, who had been here since before the second world war. A few years after graduation, Terry and his classmates returned to Templemore for a refresher course and he was regaled with stories of high drama from the lads sent to Store Street, as well as the tips they’d picked up. “Our inspector says to make sure to bring a pencil as well as biro on the beat,” he was told, “as it’ll work in the rain.” That contrasted with Terry’s own experience: “Sergeant Mac has an even better plan,” he replied. “He says to stop away in until it dries!”
Terry had the bandwidth for more mental stimulation in his job, but he was wise enough to understand the need for a positive work-life balance and the club certainly benefited as he became involved in coaching and administration after his career ended, even if his humour went over some heads.
Courtney, you really do put the ‘b’ in ‘subtle’!
When I was under his tutelage with the minor footballers, one of my teammates, wing-back Paul Courtney, was a fierce man for what he thought was a sly tug of the jersey, but he kept getting caught.
“Courtney, you really do put the ‘b’ in ‘subtle’!” Terry roared, though English wasn’t Paul’s strongest subject so he was just left confused. Similarly, a few years ago I heard him tell the U21 team that their tackling wasn’t up to much and he’d seen rougher stuff in the Arcadia – the long-gone ballroom that was on its last legs when he arrived here.
Like a lot of rural gardaí, his arrest rate was low, but that wasn’t just down to the clichéd “couldn’t be bothered with the paperwork” reason – as trite as it sounds, he was keen to rehabilitate, or prehabilitate, by offering alternatives to those who found themselves caught in situations that were hard to explain away.
With younger offenders, Terry tended to employ his own version of community service when he found fellas – it was always fellas – scutting. He’d bring them to the station alright and take down the details, then he’d tell them that they qualified for a special pilot scheme that would avoid a court appearance.
Then, loading them into the squad car, he’d leave them off at their home and tell the parents that their son would spend the week helping Willie Shaw, the GAA club groundsman, or with the Tidy Towns Committee or whatever else was ongoing at the time. “It’s part of the teenage one-dee-ten-tee initiative,” he’d say, “just make sure they write to the super to thank him.”
And that’s why there’s a special file in a drawer in the divisional headquarters in Glanduff, full of letters to the superintendent, expressing gratitude for inclusion in the Teenage 1D10T Programme.