On September 5, 1992, Mullingar Shamrocks were scheduled to play Milltownpass in a junior football league match.
A young man from New Zealand had been living in Mullingar for 18 months and at the time lived in the Delvin Road area. He occasionally wandered down to Springfield to watch the Mullingar Shamrocks senior play and train as they prepared for the county final against Athlone. He was also friendly with some of the Mullingar Shamrocks lads that he got to know as he played with and trained and coached the Mullingar rugby team. John Fagan, who played senior football for Mullingar Shamrocks, was president of Mullingar Rugby Club at the time and was associated with recruiting this New Zealander for Mullingar RFC.
The Kiwi in question, Joe Schmidt, was anxious to play a game of Gaelic football before he returned to New Zealand, as he had no plans to return to Ireland after he completed his gap year from teaching at Tauranga Boys High School in the Bay of Plenty.
Patsy Fagan organised to grant Joe his wish, and team manager Seán Hynes cleared his inclusion with Seán Moran – who was in charge of Milltownpass – although Joe had fulfilled all the residency requirements and was perfectly eligible to don the green jersey of Mullingar Shamrocks.
Mullingar Shamrocks defeated Milltownpass 2-8 to 1-5 on the night, and it is recalled that Schmidt raced up and down the wing in a most impressive manner and scored at least one point in the process. His replacement in Mullingar, Kerry Whale, was a second-half substitute.
The Mullingar Shamrocks club notes recorded that “Tom Hunt had a good game, clearing his lines when required and receiving good cover from his defenders. Adrian Keaveney and David Cornally won good ball at midfield, while Mick Greene and the Maguire brothers were the best of the forwards”.
Mullingar Shamrocks fielded the motliest of crews on the night in what was essential their third team, and included a father (Des Maguire) and his two sons (Darragh and Barry) in the forward line; some players had passed their use by date (including the goalkeeper and maybe one or two more!); some had exceeded their best before date but possessed a distinguished back catalogue, some had bright futures that were never fulfilled and some just enjoyed their football without having to endure the rigours of training.
Mullingar Shamrocks lined out as follows: Tom Hunt; Niall Devine, Robert Cornally, Matt Cullen; Ritchie Daly, Patsy Fagan, Joe Keoghan; Adrian Keaveney and David Cornally; Darragh Maguire, Barry Maguire, Joe Schmidt; Mick Greene, Terry McKague and Des Maguire. Sub: Kerry Whale.
Amazingly, most of those on active service that night are still deeply involved in Mullingar Shamrocks almost 26 years later. Seán Hynes, then the team manager and Mullingar Shamrocks secretary, is now chairman; Ritchie Daly, who lined out for Westmeath over-40s this week against Sligo, is currently club secretary; Tom Hunt is PRO, Des Maguire is registrar and a county board delegate; Adrian Keaveney, who made a significant input to winning the 2000 senior title, is club vice-chairman, and Patsy Fagan, as a minister without portfolio, is a key clubman.
Mick Greene, former championship winning captain, was chairman at the time and recently returned to active service at the Thursday night bingo. Barry (currently logistics manager with the club’s adult teams) and Darragh Maguire and David Cornally are deeply involved in underage coaching, while Matt Cullen is never far away when Mullingar Shamrocks are playing or seeking sponsorship; Rob Cornally specialised in hurling refereeing, and became one of the county’s best whistleblowers.
Truly extraordinary service or maybe immersion in Mullingar Shamrocks and the GAA is really an incurable disease.
Oh... as far as we know, Joe Schmidt is also still involved in coaching rugby football.