Football hero priest who lifted Sam gets best 'pew' at Croker
ONE of the players who helped Mayo clinch victory in the 1951 All Ireland football final will return to Croke Park on Sunday as a guest of the Taoiseach.
Fr Peter Quinn (88), one of only three surviving members of the team, missed last year's final as he was unable to secure a ticket, but this year he will watch the action beside diehard Mayo fan Enda Kenny.
Mr Kenny will be on tenterhooks as he stands to win €10,000 for the Irish Heart Foundation (IHF) if Mayo beat Dublin to capture the Sam Maguire.
"His father, Henry, played football with me and we're friends," said Fr Quinn. "I'm very excited – it's a really big event. There are just three of us left from 1951 – myself, Paddy Prendergast and Padraig Carney, so it will be good to meet up at the match.
"We stay in touch and we meet up at the matches when we can. So far we haven't met this year so I hope we do on Sunday."
Fr Quinn was a priest when he played on the winning team, and had had to seek a special dispensation from the Bishop of Meath. He also had to change his name to Quinlan.
"The rules state that if a person going into the priesthood is hurt or causes hurt in violent games, it is a serious breach of canonical laws," he said. "The easiest thing was to stop me playing, and that's what they did for a year."
Shortly after clinching glory for his side, the missionary left for the Philippines where he spent most of his life before moving to America where he lived until last year. However, he kept abreast of all things GAA, making it to matches when he could.
While Fr Quinn admitted that 62 years was a long time to wait for Sam to return to Mayo, he rubbished any claims of a curse on the county, insisting that none of the 1951 players had ever believed it.
"The whole thing is laughable," he said. "I am an ordained theologian priest, yet people try and push this curse stuff down our throats. It's just a bit of fun, but it's keeping the hoax going. I certainly would not agree with it, and neither did any of the team.
"I think this will be our year. We have good hopes and I think everything will go our way."
Mr Kenny will be forgiven for biting his nails on Sunday – last October he placed €500 at 20-1 on Mayo to win the cup with Paddy Power.
The winnings, if his home county obliges, will go to the heart charity.
Aidan Stacey, head of fundraising for the IHF, said yesterday: "As a Dublin-based office, we're very conflicted ahead of the final, but whatever the result, we'll have something to celebrate, and we'd like to thank the Taoiseach and Paddy Power for their generosity."
A Paddy Power spokesman said: "I doubt Enda Kenny will need any added incentive to get behind the green and red, but I'm sure he'll be only too happy to take us to the cleaners for a good cause."
Mayo are available at evens to win the game, while Dublin remain favourites at 4-5.