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Seamus O'Rourke, now a poet and actor, at his GAA club
in Carrigallen

Seamus O'Rourke, now a poet and actor, at his GAA club in Carrigallen

Seamus O'Rourke, now a poet and actor, at his GAA club in Carrigallen

LONG-suffering GAA fans will know exactly what he means. When a former footballer told what it was like to actually see his county at Croke Park on its one and only appearance on the hallowed turf, it became an internet sensation.



Seamus O'Rourke played at both minor and senior level for Leitrim between 1980 and 1989 at a time, he says, when it was "harder to get off the county team than on it".

And when the carpenter turned actor followed his county as a fan for its appearance at Croker in an All-Ireland semi-final in 1994, he described the joy and despair of the defeat to Dublin in a poem.

'The Day Leitrim Played In Croke Park' had rarely been heard or performed until Seamus posted it on YouTube five days ago. But then he found that he connected with fans of smaller counties everywhere.

"Sure there's more to football than winning ... there's the sandwiches," he says in one line, summing up the lack of hope of a Leitrim fan and others.

The father of three says he thinks many GAA fans don't appreciate what it means to see a county side at Croker.

"If you're from Leinster, sure there's always a chance for your side to be at Croke Park but for us in Leitrim, 1994 was our one and only visit," he said.

"The whole county went up to Dublin that August weekend with no real sense at all that we had any chance. We went to celebrate just being there.

"I can still smell the Deep Heat the Leitrim players had plastered themselves in, probably in the hope that it would frighten off the Dubs. Of course, it didn't. We were well beaten."

YouTube

Leitrim were Connacht champions that year -- for only the second time. On the first occasion, back in 1927 -- when managed by Sean O'Hehir, father of the legendary commentator Micheal O'Hehir -- their All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Kerry was in Tuam.

"I wrote the poem a few months after the defeat to Dublin when the jet-lag had finally worn off," he laughed.

When his own club Carrigallen ("never won a county championship and going since 1889") asked him to video the poetry reading for the GAA, he said he was delighted.

"I was asked to email it into them but sure we don't have that kind of broadband around here, so I eventually uploaded it to YouTube and it's gone mad on there ever since," said Seamus.

"I think it has struck a chord with GAA fans everywhere who rarely get to Croker. It's a story of despair and hope -- not one of victory and triumph."

The former county player started his working life as a carpenter before becoming an engineer in recent years. But he gave that up last year to follow his one true love -- acting.

His own play 'Victor's Dung on Tour' is currently touring GAA clubs around the country, playing in Offaly last night and in Cookstown, Tyrone, tonight (Saturday). Last year his growing reputation on the stage won him the Best Supporting Actor Award at the RTE All-Ireland Drama Finals in Athlone.

"It was great to win an All-Ireland at last, but it still wasn't at Croker," he laughed.

Irish Independent