Sean Lowry: ‘We thought it was going to last forever’
*By Cian O'Connell *
Sean Lowry looks out from the Hogan Stand and smiles trying to make sense of it all. A substitute when Offaly won the All Ireland in 1971, Lowry played in victorious Faithful teams in 1972 and 1982.
Thrilling times when Offaly were feared throughout the land. "I was very lucky, I came onto the Offaly panel in ’71 and I was only 19 and Offaly won the All-Ireland," Lowry states.
"So I says ‘happy days.’ The following year then I was playing centre-back and we beat Kerry in the All-Ireland Final and gave them the biggest beating they ever got in a final. That was ’72 after a replay.
"It’s frightening really when you think back; that time we thought it was going to last forever.
"A lot of things happened at the time and we were on the go for a few years as well. Then Matt Connor got injured and a lot of things happened, but sin sceal eile."
When Lowry stopped playing with Offaly, his work with the ESB took him to Crossmolina. It wasn't long before the Green and Red came calling. "I went with the ESB to Mayo in ‘84 and Liam O’Neill was the manager," Lowry recalls.
"He came knocking at my door, I had given up football and was just playing with Crossmolina. I had decided when I went down there I was going to forget about Ferbane because it was too far, it was a 100 miles and I had a new family.
"It was a great way of getting into the community anyway and they were so welcoming and looked after us. "I didn’t expect Liam O’Neill to come, and he came to me around May. Eventually he came around the second time, so I said ‘listen, I’ll give you a hand for a few months and whenever you are out of the championship then I’ll skedaddle.’
"Mayo hadn’t won a Connacht Final for a few years. We beat Roscommon then in the Hyde in the Connacht Final, and then Dublin beat us here in the All-Ireland semi-final replay. Padraig Brogan scored a goal that day.
"We had Eugene McHale, John Maughan, Peter Forde, Willie Joe Padden, TJ Kilgallon. It was a fine team and I think we had a great chance of winning the All-Ireland."
Is Lowry surprised that Mayo are stilling looking to claim Sam Maguire. "Yeah, absolutely and I think Mayo always had a lot of class," Lowry remarks.
"There’s a few things wrong with Mayo – and one thing is the county is very big. It’s very hard to unite the county and in Offaly it was much more of a smaller family and we minded one another.
"If we lost a couple of players, we wouldn’t have won the All-Ireland because we didn’t have the bodies. Mayo sometimes don’t persevere, and they don’t have to persevere because they always have another guy coming in.
"I always have the idea too that if you come to Croke Park and don’t play well, there’s no point in being out there. Some people don’t play well at Croke Park and there are people that Mayo persist with that they should have a re-think about.
"But I think they have a lot of class, and it’s just all in the mind big-time. I think if Offaly had that team; they’d win the All-Ireland. Maybe it’s just tomfoolery, maybe, but I honestly believe that.
"I honestly believe that in ’85 when I was playing and I told the guys this – if we had Offaly jerseys on we wouldn’t even dream of losing these matches."
Lowry remembers being struck by the power and poise of the footballers in the Mayo set-up. "When I went into the Mayo dressing room in ’85 there were about eight fellas bigger than I was with all the skills. If we had them in Offaly - and the Mayo fellas said we were too thick to know we weren’t good enough! But we were probably just confident.
"And I tell you what we always did; we always gave it our best shot and that’s all you need.
"Offaly always did that, but Mayo kind of think too much and analyse too much and these curses and all that oul’ rubbish.
"Offaly had no tradition, Offaly didn’t win a Leinster title until 1960 and now we are at the stage where our tradition has gone so far back that it is almost lost again. Mayo had tradition in the 50’s and then they lost it, so tradition only stays with you if you keep topping it up."