ONE of my favourite sayings – origin unknown – for summing up the disappearance of something or someone is, “There it (or he or she) was: gone.”
In one way, it’s nonsensical, but there is a certain kind of Irish logic to it – so accustomed are we to the ubiquity of the object or person that their absence is noticeable and worthy of remark.
That’s all well and good with the car that’s usually parked outside the kitchen window and is conspicuously elsewhere one morning or the man who always drives the bus you take to work. However, when it’s a lower-key presence, it can take a while to realise that it has disappeared.
Oliver Dorgan from Ballinaglough in Carraig na bhFear was one such low-key presence.
A few years back, I tried to work out how much money I had ‘saved’ by getting in free to so many matches but of course the project was flawed in that I wouldn’t have been attending all of them if I wasn’t reporting. It is, ultimately a vocation – for instance, last Saturday, with no county championship matches on, I didn’t go seeking out another game to go to – but for Oliver it was firmly an avocation.
He was never doing it to be seen or felt the need to advertise his attendance to all and sundry – not for him an Instagram account with ‘Just another match!’ and the sunglasses emoji overlaid on a picture of a rural venue. Similarly, it wasn’t about the big occasions; you were just as likely to encounter him at a schools game on a Wednesday afternoon as you were in Thurles on a big championship day.
Ten years ago, Paudie Palmer dedicated an Echo column to Oliver, revealing that his love for Gaelic games had developed in the 1950s, listening to matches on the radio with his brothers Willie, John and Jimmy and then replicating the gallant feats in neighbourhood-wide games later on.
He covered the county and beyond in his attendance of fixtures at all levels, meaning he was always well aware of who was coming up the tracks and how they might fare but he wore his vast knowledge lightly.
Clocking up so many games, it was hardly surprising that he would be regularly roped into umpiring. Paudie’s column recalled a Cork v Tipperary challenge match in Fermoy in the 1980s – Ken Hogan’s first in goal for Tipp, leading to a strong friendship between the two. Between the sticks for Cork was Tom Kingston, who, after letting in a goal, muttered that he “couldn’t do anything about that one.” Oliver’s reply: “I could do less!”
With games now back in full swing again, it eventually occurred to me that I hadn’t seen Oliver at any match in recent times. A search on the internet sadly revealed that he died in June 2020, a time when so many of us were ensconced in our homes and unaware of so much that was happening in the wider world.
On the Carraig na bhFear GAA Club Facebook page at the time of his death, he was described as “avid supporter of during his lifetime and in recent years, his prowess and commitment was often seen on the sideline, as a member of various management teams.”
County councillor Sheila O’Callaghan summed things up perfectly when she commented: “Oliver was a true supporter. May he rest in peace.”
At the end of the day, they are the ones who keep everything going with little or no fuss.
It’s an overused cliché to say that we won’t see somebody’s like again but, with the changed nature of the GAA, people of Oliver’s ilk are certainly few and far between. May he rest in peace.