Orchard Stars Of ’53 Reunited At Maghery
03 September 2003
By Eamonn O’Hara
3 September 2003
AS the colour and craic builds with relentless energy towards Armagh’s All-Ireland final derby clash with Tyrone, part of the Orchard carnival will see a 50th anniversary reunion take place this weekend.
Armagh’s 1953 final squad that played Kerry for the Sam Maguire Cup half a centenary ago are being assembled at Maghery on Sunday.
The brainchild of Maghery chairman John Robinson and 1952 fullback star Jack Bratten, players and family members representing those since deceased will attend a function at the Ferryside Inn.
An important part of the county’s preparations for the final 50 years ago was a decision to bring the squad together for collective training.
It was unusual at the time. Before last years final the youngest player to field for Armagh that year, centre half-forward Brian Seeley, recalled the novel preparations put in place for the final.
"After the win over Roscommon in the semi-final a request was made to each of the players’ employers. It was asked that the players were allowed time off to be based in Maghery for two weeks of squad training, something that had not been done before.
"We stayed in Mackle’s Hotel. It is still in existence. The field we trained on is gone though, but they have a new field just down the road from the place we trained at for the game with Kerry.
"But, it was a great Armagh team who reached the final. Eamonn McMahon was a great goalkeeper. He went on to play for Glasgow Celtic and at that time Jock Stein was the centre half for Celtic."
The hotel is still in existence but is now called the Ferryside Inn, so this reunion has that added significance to it as the venue will be where they all stayed for that two weeks of training.
"Jack (Bratten) has given us tremendous help in organising this weekend’s 50th anniversary get together, contacting the former players and the families of those players deceased. It will be a very special day for the club and all those involved and we’re looking forward to it immensely", said Maghery’s chairman.
"We felt that it had to be marked in some way. It’s 50 years since they played in the ’53 All-Ireland final and this weekend’s reunion will bring back a lot of great memories to a great many people.
"It may indeed be the last time we have the opportunity to bring the ’53 squad together again. There will be a mass for deceased members to begin the day at 11.30am on Sunday followed by a function at the Ferryside Inn.
"The players will then be introduced to the crowd, by Armagh’s 1977 captain Jimmy Smyth, at the interval between the minor football final between Harps and Silverbridge and the junior football final between near neighbours Clonmore and Annaghmore."
The junior game adds a further twist, with this months first ever all Ulster final to decide where the Sam Maguire Cup will be brought back from Dublin to by Garda escort on Monday, September 29.
Clonmore’s manager is none other than Joe Mallon, who played at right back for Tyrone in the 1986 All-Ireland SFC final against Kerry. Former Armagh senior players Bill Devlin and Declan Fox will be managing the interests of rivals Annaghmore.