Saturday 20 October 2018

Honour for Rush GAA legend - the mighty Seamus McGuinness

A large attendance of members, friends and supporters turned out at St. Maurs GAA centre in Rush last week to honour one of its most reknowned footballers - the redoubtable Seamus McGuinness, who had a most successful inter-county career with Dublin during one of its most e

By Shane Cassells

Sports Reporter

A large attendance of members, friends and supporters turned out at St. Maurs’ GAA centre in Rush last week to honour one of its most reknowned footballers - the redoubtable Seamus McGuinness, who had a most successful inter-county career with Dublin during one of its most exciting periods - the 1950s.

Well known RTE GAA radio commentator , Brian Carthy acted as MC for the function and related Seamus’ career in some detail to a most interested and receptive audience.

Seamus McGuinness was only 16, but of strong physique, when he was promoted from Minor ranks to the Junior A team in 1946 and went on to help an up and coming St. Maurs combination to win the Fingal Cup, beating recent Dublin Junior Champions Portrane GFC in Balbriggan. It was the start of a resurgence in the fortunes of the club, with Seamus a dominant figure at midfield, a position he was to make his own for well over the next decade.

The old Fingal league, now defunct, catered for the clubs of North County Dublin and was a most competitive one. Rivalry was intense, especially during the 1940s and 50s, with a high standard of football played by the neighbouring clubs. Notably O’Dwyers, Skerries Harps and Lusk Round Towers.

In 1950 St. Maurs had a very successful campaign in the Dublin Junior championship, and although they succumbed to O’Dwyers in the final, they came back the following year to take the title. Seamus formed a most effective partnership with the great Jack Newcomen.

His sterling displays before and during those two championships brought him to the attention of the Dublin selectors and Seamus became an automatic choice on county junior teams. In fact, it was proof of the high standard of Fingal football, that six Fingal players figured on the Dublin team that won the Leinster junior championships in 1950. Seamus was captain on the team and was partnered by Mick Jenkinson of Lusk at midfield.

Representation on Dublin junior and Fingal selections, with considerably good displays, became a constant for him and when the Dublin senior team, powered by the great St. Vincent’s, broke on to the scene in 1952 Seamus was eventually added to the panel.

His first major contest in Senior county football came in 1952 when he was selected for Dublin against Meath in the Leinster championship. It was a mighty tussle with the Royal County coming out on top by one point at Drogheda.

Despite this setback Dublin continued to play a consistently fast moving brand of attacking football and Seamus proved his ability by commanding a permanent midfield place with Jim Crowley. Another National league final win over Meath set the scene for an assault on the 1955 championship, and when Dublin took the Leinster title that July, it was their first win since 1942. Seamus made a considerable contribution to that long overdue success.

Dublin’s resurgence had the effect of bringing thousands of Dubliners out to support the team and the All-Ireland semi-final against a talented and experienced Mayo team attracted over 60,000 to Croke Park. It was a close encounter in which Seamus was pitted against the great John Nallen. The game ended in a draw as did the other semi-final, Kerry versus Cavan.

Both replays were fixed for 11th September 1955. Again the Dublin/Mayo game was a hectic match with Dublin coming through in a nail biting finish on a scoreline of 1-8 to 1-7. To quote from John D. Hickey in the Irish Independent, “Seamus McGuinness gave a power packed display at centre-field. This was surley the Rush man’s finest hour in the Dublin jersey and won him the Sportstar of the Week award with John Cronin of Kerry”.

It was trainer Peter O’Reilly’s opinion that, to some extent, those two hard fought games against Mayo had an adverse effect on Dublin and some players carried injuries as they prepared for the eagerly awaited final against Kerry.

An old knee injury sustained in earlier encounters began to bother Seamus and hampered his preparations for the final. Dublin would also be without their sterling centre-half back, Norman Allen, who went down with appendicitis.

The build up to the 1955 final was massive and excitement ran high in anticipation of the clash between these great rivals - the first since 1924. Seamus true to form lined out and gave it everything in the middle of the field, until forced to retire in the second half. Kerry went on to win by three points. It was a huge disappointment, not alone for the Dublin team but for the large Dublin following in the record breaking attendance of over 87,000 people at Croke Park.

Dublin however, resolved to come back and Seamus recovered to join the team in October to play New York at Croke Park. In that game they became the first county to win the St. Brendan’s cup by beating New York in a torrid encounter on a scoreline of 2-9 to 0-10. John D. Hickey again wrote, “Seamus McGuinness gave whole hearted support to the man of the match Jim Crowley at midfield, and finished off a workmanlike display by scoring a vital goal, which knocked the heart out of New York in a bruising encounter”.

Seamus was still holding his midfield spot in April 1956 and partnered Mark Wilson against Kerry at Woolwich Park, London. A trip to America followed in June, when Dublin beat Kerry at the Polo grounds and played two further games against New York selections. This hectic American tour resulted in injuries to some key players and when Dublin were surprisingly beaten by Wexford in the Leinster championships it heralded the departure of some stalwarts from a team that had brought so much glamour and excitement to the game.

A reoccurrence of the old knee injury continued to hamper Seamus’ commitment to the county, but his loyalty to St. Maurs saw him play up until 1960, adding several more Fingal league medals to his collection. In a way fate was not too kind to him, for when Kevin Heffernan lifted the Sam Maguire for Dublin in 1958, Seamus had already departed the inter-county scene in his prime at aged 28.

The evening was also highlighted by the presence of many of Seamus’ former team-mates and opponents including Norman Allen, Jimmy Lavin, Mick Moylan, Paddy O’Flaherty, and Mark Wilson of Dublin. Packie Brennan of Tipperary, Gerry O’Malley of Roscommon and the great Meath full back Paddy O’Brien all joined in the warm tributes.

Brian Carthy congratulated St. Maurs and especially organiser Seamus Clerkin on an excellent function, which was a credit to a club which had a proud tradition in Dublin since its foundation in 1928.

To mark the unique occasion a specially produced souvneir photograph of the 1955 All-Ireland Dublin team will adorn the Clubroom as a lasting tribute to Seamus McGuinness who wore the colours of St. Maurs and Dublin with distinction during a brilliant career. The annual Memorial mass for deceased members preceded the function and was con-celebrated by Monsignor Conor Ward and Fr. Seamus Cullen, CC Rush.