Kicking Out: Seamy was an increasingly rare and precious diamond
DRIVING out through the crowd in Belfast after Derry had dethroned All-Ireland champions Down in Casement Park in 1992, Seamy Brolly and his travelling troupe had their heads out the window.
These were the days when Derry supporters bathed in sunshine and basked in glory.
For years, Seamy didn’t drive. (He was Seamus, but he only ever got Seamy). But once he got his licence, he couldn’t have been stopped. He knew every back road in Ireland.
With his cousin Donal (aka Duck), and with James Kerlin and Peter Cassidy sitting in the back, they paraded proudly down the Andersonstown Road in the old Lada he’d sourced off Raymond McIntyre.
Out of nowhere, a Down fan pulls out towards him him on the road, driving a big fancy BMW.
Clearly riled by their inferiority on the day, the Down man bellows: “I wouldn’t be seen dead in that thing!”
Seamy could have had a temper if the notion really took him, but it was seldom seen. Certainly not this time. There was no need.
Derry had won and were bound for an Ulster final. Without flinching, he just tapped his hand proudly off the door of the car and threw back: “This thing’s for Clones, yours is for the scrapheap!”
Seamy sadly passed away in the early hours of Friday morning, having fought with everything he had to stave off cancer.
He wasn’t a big man in stature, but he was one of the strongest pillars in our community of Gortnaghey and Drum.
Drum’s club lotto started up about 20 years ago, by another stalwart we lost earlier this year, Mickey Mullan.
Between the pair of them, they lifted easily £250,000 for the club.
So when Seamy’s numbers matched and he lifted the jackpot two years ago, there was universal delight that it had fallen his way.
Right up until two weeks ago, Seamy was selling tickets to over 100 people every week. It brought in an income that the GAA club simply could not have survived without.
He never wanted praise, never wanted money, never wanted anything in return.
Such was his reticence that in searching years worth of archive photos from the club, I couldn't lay my hands on a single one of him.
Like so many of his generation, it was partly about doing whatever you could to help, and partly about getting out visiting around the houses.
On Christmas Day, he’d have had the dinner and him and the Duck would have started on their tour of middle-Gortnaghey. They knew their neighbours, and everyone knew them.
Seamy owned a mobile phone but I’m not sure he ever upgraded from the old Nokia. He certainly didn’t spend his days stuck on Facebook.
To some people, he might have appeared lonely. He never married, but lived with his sister Patricia, across the road from another sister Cecilia. None of the Brollys ever flew too far from the nest.
But Seamy was never off the batter. He lived 500 yards away from us, and his house sits on the edge of the lane, with May Colgan in behind. I lost count of the number of times I nearly killed him as he reversed the arse of his car out on to the road.
He never played much football, but few loved the game as much. A former honorary president of the club, in the dark of winter as you’d climb the steps up to the clubhouse doors for pre-season training, you’d meet him standing in the doorway. He’d have been up to put on the heating for showers or to sweep the changing rooms out, and it was maybe his second trip of the day.
Nobody ever had to ask him to go and do it. He just did it.
Nights he’d have stood and watched the training.
And he never missed a game. They just loved going to football and the craic, and that crew he ran about with would have followed Derry and any of its club teams that got on a run.
Drum don’t have many supporters but you could always be sure if you looked over to the trees along the side of the field, Seamy would be standing just down from my parents’ car with the Burkes and Alex Moore and Duck and Patsy Ferry, and the puff of smoke would be going up to keep the midges away.
It had been a long fight with the illness but he had a good spell in the middle. Over the last few months he’d gone downhill but when Drum played in the junior championship final earlier this year, he summoned everything he had to be there.
Duck took him in in the car, where John Keenan had organised a pass for the two boys to sit in the press box, because it would have been too sore on him to sit outside.
At half-time, he'd had enough of the indoors. In the soundproof box, he couldn't get any feel for the game. Duck pulled the car up around to the back of the terrace and they sat in there with the heater on and the window down, for scowling purposes.
For as long as it’s existed, he was also on the committee of Gortnaghey’s Community Association, and had a huge hand in rebuilding the brilliant facility that now sits in place of the old McCartney Hall, to the point of being stuck into the first phase of manual work that had to be done before a grant would be passed.
And each night you’d go up to play 5-a-side on the floodlit 3G that is a testament to such a small place, he’d be milling about patiently, waiting for us to go home. He never once called us off, even when we stayed until the lights were costing more than we were paying.
There is no amount of money can quantify what men like Seamy Brolly and Mickey Mullan are to a community. While their fundraising was priceless, it’s as much about the way they pull everything together.
They never asked for respect, but they commanded it from young and old by their deeds and their nature.
Seamy was an increasingly rare and precious diamond. Drum will miss him an awful lot.