By Seán O’Domhnaill
There aren’t many All-Ireland senior football medal winners living in Westmeath, even fewer are living in Mullingar, but this week Topic caught up with one man who has been living in Mullingar for many years and has three All-Ireland senior football medals.
Seán Cleary is a retired teacher from St Mary’s CBS in Mullingar, but Sean was also a member of the famous Galway football team that won three All-Ireland’s in a row in 1964, ’65 and ’66.
Sitting in the conservatory in his Mullingar bungalow, Seán recalls those happy days of his youth in Ballygar, in East Galway. “The first shot was kicked in the field in front of the house, in the middle of it were two beautiful cherry-blossom trees, a 100 years old, 15 feet apart.
We put a rope across and that was the goals. We put two jackets or something the other end. There were about 18 young lads in Ballygar, and they went to Cleary’s field to kick football. There could be a cow chewing grass in the mix as well, but that’s where they were and my father, who was a school teacher, was delighted because it kept us off the streets.
He says it was a great boost to football in the town. “The seven-a-side games, those from uptown versus those from downtown, was where a lot of us started kicking football. Then a young teacher, Joe Sweeney from Donegal, came into town and he organised things on a higher level. Some good footballers played there. Ballygar was lovely,” recalled Sean, who will be 80 on his next birthday.