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The Spirit of Carmen

By procarrickmorestcolmcilles Sun 17th Apr

The Spirit of Carmen
The Spirit of Carmen

馃搶The Spirit of Carmen 馃挌馃馃挍

Many among us have pondered and debated over the years about this thing called the 鈥楽pirit of Carmen鈥. Of course we have been lucky to experience this spirit following the many championship victories since our foundation in 1932. It has also been put into words in a poem of the same name penned for our first club history 鈥 The Carrickmore Tradition Vol 1 1982. However, it is much more than that and in many ways hard to quantify.

The following story is one which I feel typifies this intrinsic, engrained quality which exists amongst the players, supporters, committee and members of our club. This thing we call 鈥橳he Spirit of Carmen鈥.

54 years ago, in 1968, two young 鈥榖rickies鈥 arrived at a river crossing at the 鈥樷檉oot of the rock鈥 in the townland of Lower Carrickmore. The crossing was the access to land just purchased by Carrickmore Gaelic Football Club. It previously belonged to brothers Felix (Falay) and Mickey (M铆ceal) Mc Nally.

The club needed a bridge across the Granagh burn to provide foot and traffic access. The two young men who arrived that morning were there to solve this problem. They were there to build a bridge that was going to be much more than just a bridge. It was to be a bridge providing the way to a new future for the club.

John Fox (1969 Senior Championship winning mentor) prepared the site with his Massey Ferguson digger. He had previously worked on another iconic project, the building of the Patrician Hall, in the village. The river was redirected to dig foundations for the supporting walls. It was on these foundations that Seamus Mc Cartan and Peter Loughran laid the blocks for the bridge walls. The close friends were workmates but also senior players who had shared the joy, 2 years previous in 1966, of capturing the Tyrone Senior County Championship. The passing of time would make another link with that team with the son of Paddy and Christina Mc Elduff, Shane, marrying Peters daughter, Fiona.

Once up the walls had to be traversed to create the bridge. Again the solution would come from within the club as it has many times before and since. Jim Mc Elduff (past club player, 1949 captain, club officer, committee member) had the body of Joe Fox鈥檚 ( PJ Fox Grocery Store in village) old lorry behind his garage in the town. It was stripped and the metal chassis conveyed to the new bridge. Here it was set across the walls and built in by Peter and Seamus. The bridge opened up the new ground for development and today we can witness the results of the pioneering spirit of our clubs鈥 men of action. Today this bridge still stands as if to punctuate the end one chapter and the beginning of a new one in our clubs鈥 history.

Step forward to 2022. It is the 12th of April. After many years of friendship Peter and Seamus are once more together. However, this time it is different. Seamus is attending the funeral of Peter in Castleknock, Dublin. As he looks up the chapel the Carrickmore club jersey rests on Peters coffin put there by another of Peters lifelong friends, Tom Mc Caughey. The jersey will remain there for the duration of Peters final journey.

Going back to that day in April 1968 we can only imagine the scene at that river crossing. Knowing the men involved there would have been the hard work but the laughter and craic too. Even they could not imagine the significance of this shared experience. When their work was done the two young men climbed back down into the river bed and marked their names in mortar under the bridge and dated it 鈥17/4/1968鈥.

Inspection today has revealed that the waters of time have removed Peters name as if in some way indicating that he would be the first of the two to leave us. However, Seamus鈥檚 name as it is higher up on the wall, perhaps out of the reach of the many raging floods since, remains as indelible as the friendship that brought the two men to this river crossing 54 years ago and which reunited them again on the day of Peters funeral.

So we have arrived at that answer many of us seek but are unable to find. This thing called the 鈥楽pirit of Carmen鈥 is not that which can be bought or arrived at just by uttering the words. It is not found in conversations about football being a 鈥榩roduct鈥 or debates over player expenses. It is not a fleeting thought or trendy soundbite. It is about people and is only discovered when loyalty and commitment are absolute. It is only felt by shared experience, some of it tough and disappointing but much of it joyous. Very often we associate it with success on field of play which of course it is. However, more often it is found in the everyday lives of all of us who hold the club so dear. It is the collective loyalty and empathy shown to families who need our support in the dark days. It is the words that get them through when all seems lost. It is the strength of a community that at some stage we will all need and one which we can learn from and use when it is our turn to provide that support.

All of this of course is not news to the generation who crossed the Granagh Burn in 1968. Unlike us they didn鈥檛 have time to write about it. They simply lived it and showed it in their actions.

Today, the 17th April 2022, two of that generation bookend one example of what this 鈥楽pirit of Carmen鈥 is about. It is about staying the course from start to finish. Just as Peter Loughran was there for our club on 17th April 1968, so too was our club there for him in April 2022. So too was his primary school comrade, workmate, fellow Carrickmore player and lifelong friend Seamus Mc Cartan. A relationship that stretched back well beyond those days in April 1968 and the memories of which will stretch well beyond Peters passing.

Seamus was there to close out this chapter and show us all the way to be part of this thing called 鈥橳he Spirit of Carmen鈥.

Thanks to the following whose memories helped to tell this story.

Seamus Mc Cartan, Pat Loughran (brother of Peter), Pat Fox (brother of John), Christina Mc Elduff (niece of Jim Mc Elduff), Frank Mc Elroy, Peadar Montague.

Written by
Gavan Mc Elroy

Pictures:
Picture 1: John Fox on his Massey Ferguson digger with Fr Donnelly at the building of the hall.


Picture 2: The 1966 team


Picture 3: Seamus McCartan signature and dated 19th April 1968 below bridge.


Pictures 4 & 5: The Bridge


Picture 6: Jim Mc Elduff


Picture 7: Jim Mc Elduffs Garage


Picture 8: Peter Loughran kitted out for Carmen


Picture 9:PJ Foxs Shop


Picture 10 & 11: Seamus McCartan as club player and president in 2018

Picture 12: 1966 championship winning team

Picture 13: Peter Loughran RIP

Picture 14: The chassis of Joe Foxs lorry. Still holding up the bridge today

 

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