By Charlie Keegan
THE death on Thursday last at St Luke’s Hospital, Kilkenny of Mick ‘Yank’ Farrell, The Moate Hill, Tinryland, Carlow, marks the passing of a man who was the ultimate GAA clubman. Throughout his life, Mick Farrell’s dedication and loyalty to Tinryland GFC was total.
Mick’s death at the age of 81 followed a period of hospitalisation over recent months.
His playing career in the blue and white hoops of his beloved Tinryland lasted from the late 1950s until the early 1970s.
Mick’s greatest moment is well remembered by all Tinryland supporters. That came in the 1972 Carlow senior football final between Tinryland, the defending champions, and their great rivals, Éire Óg. With the final in the melting pot in the final quarter, Mick fisted home a goal that broke the Éire Óg resistance as Tinryland prevailed by 2-14 to 1-10.
That clinching goal came in the 51st minute. An account of the score goes: “The man to explode Éire Óg’s chances was full forward Mick Farrell, veteran of many championship games. Collecting the ball a dozen yards from goal, he sped forward, collided with the advancing Andy Ellis (the Éire Óg goalkeeper), but coolly boxed the ball over the ‘keeper’s shoulder and into the open net.”
Mick had won a senior football championship medal in 1971 when Tinryland bridged a 21-year gap to their last win by capturing the championship with a 1-9 to 0-7 final win over defending champions Kildavin. Mick was introduced as a substitute in that final.
In a tribute at the end of Mick’s Funeral Mass in St Joseph’s Church, Tinryland on Sunday morning, Tinryland club chairman Michael (Mick) Murphy described Mick Farrell as “a Tinryland legend” who, as a player, played a major role in Tinryland’s re-emergence as a team to be reckoned with in Carlow senior football.
“Yank was known to all in the club from the youngest to the oldest,” he said.
The club chairman said when Mick hung up his boots shortly after the 1972 final he continued to work as a selector for another decade, helping the club to a further three titles – he was a selector when Tinryland claimed the senior titles of 1975 and ’79.
“Yank was on the club committee for many years and was never shy in expressing his opinions on how things were going within the club. Whenever the club ran fund-raising events, Yank was always to the fore selling tickets.”
There was never a dull moment, Mick said, when Mick served as a barman in the GAA clubhouse in Rathcrogue, ably assisted by his good friend, Clem Delaney, who was among the readers at Sunday’s Mass, along with Brendan Hayden.
A strong, tough man, Mick Farrell had shown his resilience when recovering from a car crash some years ago. “He bounced back to his normal self and returned to driving. Something like that was not going to keep him down!”
Mick Murphy said ‘Yank’ was respected far and wide in the GAA and also in his local community.
“This was demonstrated as recently as 2015 when many of his (football) opponents joined his Tinryland colleagues, family and friends to celebrate his 80th birthday in the clubhouse. He was delighted on that occasion to meet so many people from his playing days from clubs like Éire Óg, Ballinabranna and Kildavin. He often spoke about that night – it was the first time he was ever caught for words.”
Mick reminded the congregation that Mick Farrell was an accomplished athlete, winning awards in cross-country running for St Laurence O’Toole AC in the years before the formation of Tinryland AC.
The Tinryland chairman said the name ‘Yank’ was bestowed on Mick when he came back from England in the early 1960s.
“At that time it was rare enough for people to travel out of the country so someone called him the Yank.”
And Mick did get to the United State in 1997 when a group of over 50 people from Tinryland travelled to Daytona Beach, Florida.
Mick Murphy described Mick Farrell as “a gentleman who always had a word for everyone. He was well read and a mine of information when it came to debates on history, politics, sport or, indeed, any subject.”
When Tinryland took part in the Jimmy Magee Play Sports Quiz on RTE Radio almost 30 years ago, he was the first name on the team. “He really enjoyed that event with the late Tommy O’Neill and Eamonn Byrne.”
He loved listening to radio, in particular the BBC World Service, keeping in touch with world events, where he got the daily racing tip. “This tip would help him pick his banker for his daily 50 cent lucky 15. He loved the horses and, for very little outlay, he had some spectacular wins.” He was also a good pool player.
Some five years ago Mick had a recurrence of arthritis and was in severe pain. After being hospitalised he returned to Tinryland and moved in with his sister, Kay and her husband, Peter. But he had taken bad in late 2016 and “unfortunately this time he could not beat it.”
Pat Foster, a close friend of Mick’s, spoke of first meeting Mick in Sheehan’s Field, where Tinryland trained at the time. He recalled Mick having worked in England and going racing in Royal Ascot. He was effusive in his praise of the wonderful work Mick Farrell carried out for the Tinryland club.
They had travelled to many matches together and Pat recalled the 1972 final when Mick’s goal turned the final in Tinryland’s favour.
Pat, a former club chairman, who served on the Tinryland committee for 33 years, said Mick retired from work at the age of 58 and having endured severe pain in his final illness had now gone to meet family and friends.
Mick was waked in Carpenter’s Funeral Home, Barrack Street on Saturday. Members of Tinryland GFC formed a guard of honour at the removal of the remains that evening to St Joseph’s Church, Tinryland where Fr Tom Little, PP, Askea-Bennekerry-Tinryland celebrated his Funeral Mass on Sunday morning. Seán Byrne, Kilmeaney, sang the hymns at Mass.
The Tinryland number 14 jersey was placed on the coffin and Tinryland GFC again formed a guard of honour outside the church. Many of the GAA clubs of the county were represented at the funeral.
Following Mass Mick was laid to rest in the adjoining cemetery, with Fr Little reciting the final prayers at the graveside.
A single man and the eldest in a family of nine, Mick is survived by his siblings John, Beth, Billy, Pat, Ann, Kay and Doreen, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, nephews, nieces, relatives, GAA colleagues and many friends.
He was predeceased by his sister, Mai Roche.