The late Mary Hunt perfectly captured the magic of The Boys in Green

The late Mary Hunt perfectly captured the magic of The Boys in Green
GOAL-DEN MOMENT: Ray Houghton celebrate one of the most famous goals in the Republic of Ireland's history against England at Euro '88. Picture: INPHO/Billy Stickland

FOR many RTE’s two-part The Boys in Green brought it all back... again.

The memories of reaching the first major championship finals in Euro 88 in Germany and a first World Cup two years later in Italy have long since faded.

I mean it’s 32 years this summer since Jack’s Army annexed Stuttgart, Hanover and Gelsenkirchen, for a few days, anyway.

Nostalgia is playing an important role in these unprecedented and uncertain times so we won’t scoff at it.

Chris Hughton and physio Mick Byrne celebrate after the win over England. Picture: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE
Chris Hughton and physio Mick Byrne celebrate after the win over England. Picture: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE

But it was news from colleague Noel Spillane which sent a shudder down the back and was more forceful than the tv offering.

The name Mary Hunt probably doesn’t strike a chord and that’s understandable.

For soccer fans of an older generation, particularly those with a good recall, two books produced around the time of our arrival on the international stage should provide a clue.

Mary penned both, There We Were: Germany 88 and There We Were: Italia 90.

They were written in the present tense and recorded her experiences and those of players, fans and journalists covering the finals.

Our paths first crossed around 1981-82, when she worked as secretary in the Irish Times sports department.

Even that was praiseworthy in itself because Mary was now entering a male-dominated arena surrounding herself with crusty old codgers with a high degree of self-importance and entitlement.

Her role, among others, would be to keep everyone, subeditors, printers and reporters/writers singing from the same hymn sheets and pulling in the same direction.

Mary’s dealings with regional correspondents also showed her organisational capabilities and a natural ability to get on with people. Her phone manner was exemplary.

I probably first met her in person at one of the home games at Lansdowne Road, when press seat tickets weren’t as tight as now.

Mary was a big soccer fan and managed to get to Germany as an FAI interpreter of all things.

What we didn’t know at the time was Mary had spent six years in German-speaking Europe on leaving school in 1973.

She attended university in Heidelberg and Vienna, graduating in Ethnology (study of two or more cultures) before returning to Dublin.

There, she worked as a freelance translator with the then Coras Trachtala, the export body, and the IDA before joining the Times.

Mary was very good company and always fitted in whatever the grouping, which, again, would have been very male centred in keeping with the era.

For a couple of years after, Mary continued working in the newspaper before stunning everyone with news that her life was about to take a very different course altogether.

In 1994 she joined the GOAL Charity as a programme manager and headed to the sub-continent, rescuing street children, particularly girls, in Angola, India and Nepal.

Mary placed a big emphasis on young girls attending school as early as possible, ever mindful of their vulnerability in areas of the world that generally didn’t respect females, regardless of age.

She stayed with GOAL for five years and in the subsequent 21 years Mary worked for a wide number of reputable aid agencies in Sierra Leone, Egypt, Libya, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Kenya.

In semi-retirement, Mary settled in Galway, where she ran a guest house for foreign students.

And while we had lost contact during that time her passing last month at the age of 64, following illness, came as big shock.

Mary’s funeral was private, as she wished. She is survived by two brothers and a sister.

The Irish Times obituary summed her up perfectly, ‘superb organiser with a light diplomatic touch. Everyone listened to her.’

Rest easy, Mary.

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