Sean liked team sports … when we bought him a green ‘Ireland’ tee-shirt at the time of the 1994 World Cup, when he was about three, he said, ‘Great! Now I can be on a team!’
In rural Ireland, the GAA club is often the hub of the community. Sean played some soccer as a young kid in Dublin, but when we moved to the country it became obvious that Gaelic football was the natural outlet for youngsters interested in sport.
Sean played first on, I think, an under-12s team (possibly under-13s – I can’t remember) with the local Munterconnaught club. He had started Gaelic later than most of his team-mates, and wasn’t particularly good at it … he found some of the technical skills difficult. But he loved to train and play with his friends and classmates, and the team won a county championship in their division, which was a big thrill for Sean. We went to most of the matches, and all the home ones. Sean tried hard and was popular with the coaches.
In his mid-teens his physique developed and his skills improved. As I have said, he was a stylish, well-balanced runner who covered the ground well. He played in midfield and became one of the best players on his under-16 team. I remember he scored a nice goal in a county semi-final at Lavey, when the team lost. He also played for his under-16 school team, which was of a much higher standard than the club team. The captain of that team – an excellent footballer who was born on the same day as Sean – died tragically in a road accident last year.
Sean played a few minor (under-18) club matches, but the sports he loved were rugby and soccer, and he had no real interest in Gaelic except as a way of spending time with his friends. It lost its attraction as he found other ways of doing this. Although he played it, he never followed it, and seldom if ever watched matches on television.