Sunday 28 December 2014

Local hero Tommy was a special player – and an even more special man

Published 28/10/2013 | 01:00

WHEN friends and family of the late, great Tommy McConville gather for his funeral today, you can be sure that the tears will be interspersed with laughter.

Those who remember Tommy as a footballer fondly recall a special player. Those of us who came along too late to see him on the pitch in his peak only got the opportunity to know him as a special man.

In Dundalk, he was a proper local hero. He actually won five of his six Ireland caps while playing elsewhere, but his happiest days on the pitch were in the colours of his hometown club.

Tommy (right) made 580 appearances for 'The Town,' winning both the League of Ireland and FAI Cup three times and also sampling some famous European nights.

Unfortunately, he is often mentioned in the context of a miskick in the 1979 meeting with Celtic – a chance that would have booked a European Cup quarter-final with Real Madrid if he'd converted it.

As a solid defender, effective across the back four, he was the wrong man to be presented with that opening. He had the good grace to laugh it off, joking that Celtic bought him a house because of it.

Scan through the list of Soccer Writers' Association of Ireland Personality of the Year winners and 1982 stands out because McConville, the recipient of the award on that particular occasion, was a genuine personality.

He was a familiar presence at the annual awards and was frequently the life and soul of the party, a good foil for his partner in crime, Dermot Keely.

For a man that knew how to enjoy himself, he still kept himself in good nick to the point where he could play FAI Cup football in his mid-40s and embarrass younger folk who encountered him on a five-a-side pitch well into his 60s.

Illness claimed him in the end, but you can be certain that his memory will live on.

Irish Independent

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