Monday, May 20, 2024


LIATROIM Fontenoys GAA chairman Sean McElroy was unexpectedly re-united last week with a sports trophy that he hasn’t seen in almost 40 years.

McElroy, a MacRory Cup winning midfielder with St Colman’s Newry, got the bug for travel while in university. When he completed his studies in Queen’s he headed for New York to “play football and do a bit of work”. Down didn’t have a football team in the Big Apple during the two years, 1982-4, that he spent there, but Sean made contact with a Newcastle native, Jim Green, who was involved with Donegal.

The Liatroim man linked up on the field with another Newcastle native and future Down All-Ireland winner and manager, the late Eamon Burns, and they were part of the Donegal team that won the 1984 New York football championship. “The pick-up point for some of the players who lived, like me, around the Woodside area of Queen’s was the Hideout Bar and we would regularly frequent it at other times,” Sean explained. “Pool would have been a big bar room game around home in the late 1970s and early 1980s. “Well, I got involved in a pool league in the Hideout when I was over there and actually won it and was presented with a trophy with my name on it, although they misspelt the surname as McElory. “Anyway, when I returned home in 1984, I hadn’t the plaque with me and, to be honest, I completely forgot about it – until I was handed it last Tuesday evening in Fontenoy Park.”

John McAleenan was the man responsible for re-uniting McElroy with his trophy from four decades ago. John, who also had played under-age hurling and football for Liatroim, emigrated to New York in the mid-1980s and has been involved in the construction industry since. While recently renovating a house in the Woodside area of Queen’s, he found the plaque among rubbish he was putting in a skip. “I reckoned the misspelt name on it was McElroy alright and I knew that Sean had been over in NYC before I had gone over. “But I also knew plenty of others of the same surname who had been over from Fermanagh, Monaghan as well as locals from County Down. “As I was coming home on holiday to Leitrim at the start of September, I threw the plaque into the suitcase. “I called down to the pitch then on Tuesday evening, saw Sean, went over to him, gave him the plaque and asked if he knew anything about it. “He just couldn’t believe it!” Sean takes up the story. “What a coincidence. Like it is unbelievable to think that a plaque that meant nothing to anyone in the house should still be there 40 years later. “Then for someone from my own parish to find it and link it to me. It is just unbelievable. “I have shown it to the family and they can’t believe I could play pool, never mind win a competition. “But now I have the proof, thanks to John!”

John has already gone back to the USA, but he has left a lot more than the plaque with Sean; he has rekindled great memories of a carefree time in the Liatroim chairman’s youth.

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