A farewell to the force night is being organised for Castleisland based, Ballyduff native, Sergeant John O’Mahony at the River Island Hotel on Friday night February 22nd at 8:30pm.
As he clears out his personal belongings in preparation for his imminent retirement, he reflected on four decades in uniform since he stepped out of Templemore.
Athleticism and Height
It’s a career John O’Mahony never even contemplated as a youngster.
His athleticism and height – the latter was once a vital prerequisite for ‘The Guards’ – didn’t go unnoticed by an eagle eyed old member of the force in the North Kerry village of Ballyduff.
The old sergeant and Mrs. O’Mahony conspired to get her son into the guards as he had a crazy notion of going to England to work on building sites over there.
Contacts in England
“Nearly everyone my age was going away in the mid to late late 1970s and I would have had plenty of contacts in England with lads who left Ballyduff around that time,” John recalled.
After spells of duty in Dublin and around the border with Northern Ireland before moving down to West Cork and back to Dublin all was going as well as any member of the force was entitled to expect.
All Would Change
All that would change in early January 1990. Detective Sergeant John O’Mahony and his colleagues fulfilled a long overdue appointment with a notorious criminal gang of Dublin based bank robbers known as The Athy Gang.
Bank of Ireland branches in rural towns around the midlands, in particular, were being targetted by the robbers who were amassing huge sums of money from their unchallenged forays into the countryside.
In 1989 alone they robbed over £300,000 in just over 30 raids.
In spite of having a man inside the gang, last minute changes of plan often postponed that inevitable clash between the lawmen and the lawless.
When it did come on January 12th 1990 it was brutal and the resulting shoot-out left John O’Mahony with a gunshot wound to his left thigh and losing blood and consciousness on the street.
Back of an Ambulance
On his way to hospital in the back of an ambulance he looked across to see the attendants working in vain on one his fellow wounded. He was one the gang members and his hour had come.
Knowing that he was losing blood and wondering if he’d make it, he eventually woke up in hospital and was told that he missed certain death by millimetres.
After almost two years in recouperation he returned to duty and Moyross in Limerick beckoned and ‘was an interesting experience’ he recalls.
Welcome to Castleisland
However, the Shannon-side experience didn’t prepare him for his move to Castleisland in 2003.
“My first day on the street here I met a man who shook hands with me and welcomed me to town, it was John Shanahan – the publican. I had to adjust my way of thinking and I knew then this is the place I wanted to be.
Met Georgie O’Callaghan
“The next man I met here was Georgie O’Callaghan and he shook my hand also after attempting to convert me from my GAA leanings and towards soccer.
“I met Georgie after making enquiries from Vincent Murphy about who to contact about getting a soccer town league started here. We were solid friends from then until the day he died.
“Georgie took me to my first cross-channel soccer game to Old Trafford and he had the tickets arranged so that the whole squad sat together for the game,” said Sgt.O’Mahony.
Never Seen his Likes
“I saw him working at close range over all those years and I’ve never seen his likes anywhere. Nothing was any bother to him and his attention to detail and his dedication to his teams was unequalled.”
On the day of Georgie’s funeral in Castleisland Sgt. O’Mahony was on duty and he saluted the passing cortege.
I hadn’t seen any member of the force here doing that before and I asked him about the gesture of respect afterwards. “You’d do it for a sound man,” he replied.
Events of the Year
Ever since he founded it in 2003 the Garda Soccer Town League is one of the most highly anticipated events of the year for young and aspiring soccer players.
From the start, Sgt. O’Mahony’s town league initiative caught on because he consulted with the youth of the area.
Over all those years himself and Georgie were in the thick of it all from start to finish aided and abetted by the various KDYS officers.
A Fitting Statuette
Sgt. O’Mahony and the KDYS made a joint presentation to Georgie for his unfailing support for the August league.
In turn, Sgt. O’Mahony was presented with a very fitting statuette as last year’s event was being poignantly wrapped up.
“I enjoyed my time here. The people of Castleisland are decent and hardworking and I found it a pleasure to work here. A walk up and down the streets here could take you hours as you’d meet so many people to chat with. I’ll miss that – but life moves on I suppose,” said Sgt. O’Mahony.
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