Lives Remembered

Sean McMahon: Amateur snooker champion who rubbed shoulders with greats of the game

Sean McMahon (centre) pictured at Queen's University's Whitla Hall in 1975 with snooker stars Dennis Taylor, Alex Higgins, Graham Miles and Patsy Fagan

SEAN McMahon was an amateur snooker champion who rubbed shoulders with some of the greats of the game during a long and successful career as a player and referee.

The Belfast man first discovered his talent for the game at the National Club in Berry Street at a young age.

His wife Deirdre would later joke that if he wasn't going to a snooker match, he was usually coming from one.

But no-one was prouder when Sean won the Northern Ireland Amateur Championship in 1962 and was runner-up in 1975.

Many a Christmas dinner was also supplied by his snooker skills when he brought home the turkey after winning a local competition.

Among his other achievements on the green baize was beating then world amateur champion Gary Owen in an exhibition match in 1966, and a decade later being selected as one of the top 16 UK amateurs to play in the Embassy Invitation Tournament in Manchester.

Sean was pitted against John Virgo – the number one amateur player at the time. Despite being beaten he was absolutely thrilled with the experience.

In later years he qualified as a referee and one wonderful photograph from his snooker scrap book captures him with Alex Higgins, Dennis Taylor, Graham Miles and Patsy Fagan as he tosses a coin to start a charity match at Queen's University.

Deirdre also enjoyed telling people how she got his white gloves for refereeing at Brown's of Sandy Row which sold regalia to Orange Order members - she was asked on one occasion what lodge her husband belonged to and quick as a wink replied “West Belfast”.

Sean McMahon was born in North Queen Street in north Belfast in 1927 but moved to live with his granny Mary Carbery in Plevna Street in the lower Falls when his mother Mary began working at a mill. The family later bought a house on Beechmount Crescent.

He was an only child for almost 17 years until his sister, also Mary, was born.

Sean was educated at St Joseph’s PS, Slate Street and was delighted when four of his 11 great-grandchildren also attended the school.

He met Deirdre McLaughlin at The Orchid dance hall and they married in 1953.

They had seven children - Maria, Deirdre, Eamonn, Sean, Mannix, Seamus and Kevin – and Sean never tired of telling them how much he loved them and how proud he was.

Sean worked hard all his life, initially in his father Edward's rag store on Millfield and from the early 1960s for the Imperial Tobacco Company based at WD & HO Wills on the Castlereagh Road.

His family were most touched that a number of former colleagues attended his funeral Mass.

John Francis (Sean) McMahon died on November 20 2017, just weeks before his 90th birthday.

He would have loved knowing that three of his great-grandchildren provided the offertory gifts dressed in their Slate Street uniforms.

Sean will be sorely missed by his family but he left a wonderful legacy. On his soul, sweet Jesus have mercy.

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Lives Remembered