Spillanes can reflect on great inspiration
Published 06/02/2010 | 05:00
Rivers a small boy could jump over in summer raged under old stone bridges. The rains sluiced down from the crags like a burst pipe and the flow created day-pass waterfalls on the road home from Templenoe.
Further up, near the top of the mountain, we stopped at the Ladies View. Down below was a panorama of murkiness that drained the blue out of the lakes and the usually high sky was as low as it could be without touching the sudsy grey water. It was like looking out through an unwashed net curtain.
Even then the Da Vinci perspective rolled on as far as the eye could see. The Lakes of Killarney are lakes for all seasons. There was enough splendour there to make the stop worthwhile. If you ever need a place for a good think, then this is it. But only in winter. The Ladies View is the epicentre of tourism Ireland. And at the roof of Heaven's Reflex, I got to thinking about Maura Spillane, who was laid to rest that very day.
Yes, she will be known as the mother of the Spillane brothers from Templenoe with their 18 All-Ireland senior medals between them, but that is only a part of her story. She was Lyne herself, as we say in Kerry, and her own people were footballing legends.
Maura's husband Tom died in the early 60s. Tom was a fine footballer and a Kerry selector. Maura was left to run the family pub and rear her four young children.
Footballers need a support team at home as well as in the dressing-room.
There were novenas when the boys played but it was the hard work, self- sacrifice and a mother's love her children will remember best. Believe me, and I should know better than most, it's not easy for a mother to rear a family and mind a pub, but Maura managed both and did an excellent job on two fronts.
The lads were the first out of the dressing-room on match days. Six hours of hard driving without a stop and they were back behind the counter; but it was Maura who ran the show.
There was a band of women back then who were selflessly devoted to family. They were holy, honest and for the most part happy in that their happiness was derived from the satisfaction they took out of seeing the vocation of parenting through from the cradle to the grave. My own mother would get her place on that team. At 80 and three quarters she's not able for the shifting of the heavy barrels anymore, but after 55 continuous years' service, the redundancy would break me.
Togs were washed, dinners made, a few pounds handed over for the night out, words of encouragement spoken, candles lit at exams. And on the days of big matches.
It must be stressful having just the one son playing in an All-Ireland, but three ...
Maura went to bed for the games. She kept the transistor under the pillow and didn't turn it on until the drama was over.
Her family stood tall and with great dignity in the front pew of the little church of Templenoe -- the New Temple -- as they greeted the huge crowds who turned out to say goodbye to their mother.
I gave Mick away; we shared luxury accommodation in Marlboro Road before he married Fiona. It was a three-month long stag party. He was on the Kerry team at the time and I mashed an egg up in a cup every morning for my lodger and brought it to his bed with a glass of noni juice, before anyone even heard of it.
You'd never meet Tom in bad form; he looks for the good in everyone. And Margaret, the only girl, is a dote. She was very good to her mother.
The real Pat Spillane was in front of his mother's coffin. People take TV far too seriously. Most of that is just performance. And Pat has a disconcerting habit of speaking his mind even if there are times when he revs up our opposition into a frenzy. In private he is courteous and kind.
And a little story from the funeral mass. Mick O'Connell travelled from Valentia Island. There wasn't enough room in the church for the congregation and the mourners spilled out into the worst of the weather.
Capless, 70-something, fiddle-fit Mick O, with the collar of his coat pulled up like his jersey into parallel triangles, shifted from one foot to the other at the back of the crowd. It was as if he was waiting impatiently for a kick-out from a slow goalie.
"Let Mick O in", whispered an old man who was half indoors and half out in the weather.
The crowd parted. You would think Mick O had a motorcycle escort as he was ushered into the porch of the oratory.
I hope you will not mind my placing this little tribute before the Six Nations in order of importance, but everyone in this country takes time off work to honour our dead. It is one of our more enduring and praiseworthy customs. The Irish do death well. We really are sorry for your troubles. Most of the time anyway.
And so it goes on. There was a handsome gang of fair and brown-haired grandchildren chatting not irreverently, but with the family joie de vivre, as we queued up to pay our respects. Their grandmother would have approved mightily. Maura loved to talk to the people. And there was substance to her talk.
Her job is done now.
The lights are turned off and the customers have gone home.
God has called closing time on Maura Spillane.