The Hogan Steps

Last year in Croke Park I watched Méabh lift the Agnes O’Farrelly Cup from the entrance to the Hogan Stand tunnel. It was an image I had formed in my mind’s eye time and again ahead of the match. That and the imagining of her speaking the immortal lines spoken by so many All Ireland winning captains before her. ‘Ta athas an domhain an corn seo a glacadh. . .’.

Seared into my mind since then as part of the vista of celebrations was the image also of my mother in law Patsy Casey to the left. As Méabh’s granny and godmother the winning had a particular resonance for her – she was an immensely proud grandmother and loved the fact her grandsons represented Derry with distinction in football and her granddaughters Gráinne and Méabh played for the county camogie team.

The night before last year’s final she had attended the McKenna Cup Final in Armagh en route to Dublin. Indeed, one of her proudest photographs was a picture taken after Eoghan Rua won their first Derry senior Football Championship in 2010. In the picture with Patsy and the John McLaughlin Cup are Barry, Sean Leo, Ciaran, Colm, Niall and Hugh, six grandsons who were part of the winning panel.

Angela and myself and the children stayed with Patsy over Halloween weekend last year. It was like all the visits to Patsy’s house, convivial, plenty of chat and some wine to ease the conversation along. During the weekend we watched on DVD part of the Ulster Camogie Final we had just won. Patsy enjoyed watching the girls, delighting in their skill, speed and sheer beauty.

Just over a week later, she had passed away, after having endured a battle that weakened her body but never her indomitable spirit.

And so it was that we returned to Croke Park yesterday, again triumphing against what seemed after 30 minutes to be unsurmountable odds. At the finale as Méabh and Gráinne lifted the Cup, my eye glanced across to where the familiar loved figure had stood to one side last year.

Benevolent, beaming with satisfaction and pride. There was no-one where Patsy had stood, but in her absence I felt a tangible huge presence, soaring overhead and sweeping and swirling through my emotions. It made the occasion utterly poignant, but I know that even more than last time, she was with us, smiling on as she watched not one granddaughter, but two lift the Agnes O’Farrelly Cup.

Ádh Mór Patsy, agus go raibh mile mile maith agat.

2 thoughts on “The Hogan Steps

  1. Congratulations Joe Schira and all the girls
    Fantastic performance on Sunday. I’m sure the half time talk was a classic because it was a different team that came out. lovely article I agree that Patsy was looking down and enjoying the whole amazing atmosphere.
    Time now to enjoy the achievement and take a well deserved break!

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