Stephen Gollogly talks Monaghan, business and Chloe's memory
LET’S start with the nickname.
Jinxy might have been perfect for Stephen Gollogly’s buzzing style of football, his way of out-manoeuvring defenders for Monaghan and Carrickmacross.
But that had nothing to do with.
Instead, it’s a family nickname running back to his grandfather.
He’d gone into the bar with his father, Stephen’s great-grandfather, as a young boy. When the barman returned with his bottle of stout, he goes: ‘And there’s a bun for the jinx’.
“The name stuck. My grandfather had it, my father, now me and my brother have it.”
Gollogly was all things in a Monaghan jersey across 14 seasons.
He was the pacy man on the inside, the pocket-sized craftsman at 11, the grafter at 12.
What was asked was done, with no big pile of noise, but his own people have always had a deep appreciation for what he brought.
It’s three years past since he brought the curtain down on his inter-county career.
At 36 now, he’s ticking over nicely with the club. This will be his 21st season.
In 2019, Gollogly spent the early summer in Chicago. It had always been offered to him until finally he accepted and went on a seven-week trip stateside.
Living between his cousin’s place and a downtown apartment with ‘the lads’, he’d be up for work before 5am, heading to the sites to go back to his roots in carpentry.
“It wasn’t Hollywood stuff, it was tough work. My boss was a Roscommon man who emigrated in the ‘80s, and I worked with other Roscommon and Galway men who went out around the same time, no work in Ireland. They settled and married, some of them Irish women, some Irish-American.
“At 10 o’clock tea in the working day, it would be all hurling or football talk. They’d have the knowledge of it as well. GAAGO has helped. They’d talk football all day.
“And when you’d be coming home after work, one of the boys would maybe want ye to go into the basement, have a beer, watch a game with him and talk sport.
“They don’t forget their roots. Home to them is still Ireland, and that’s men that’s out there maybe 40 years.”
He teamed up with Dublin’s Colm Basquel and Galway’s Barry McHugh to help Chicago Wolfe Tones to championship success.
Sitting in the airport the following morning with a pounding head and a medal in his pocket, there was a deep sense of satisfaction.
There’s been intermediate success at home in Carrick, and they’re pushing back up the hill at senior level, reaching two league finals and a championship semi-final in recent years.
In his spare time, there’s his small bit of industry designed to help GAA coaches.
His business, gaatacticsboard.com, sells waterproof tactics boards. Drawn to the scale of a standard full-size GAA pitch and sold with magnets in all colours, the idea comes as much from his own education background as any tactical infatuation.
“I’m interested in the education side of things. I’ve coached in the school for 14, 15 years and I help out with juveniles in my own club.
“I made a board for myself out of timber, I put a bracket on it and hung it up, and one of the lads said ‘why don’t you make them?’ That’s when the idea went off.
“There’s a patent bracket in the back that it will hang in any dressing room, on any steel wire or goalnet. Especially with Covid, it means you can do everything outside.
“About 90 per cent of people are visual learners, and only about 10 per cent who can pick something up just by being told. So you take a panel, there’s only about three lads who would take it in if you’re explaining something to them. The other lads just don’t retain it.”
There’s another electronic board in the making too, designed to help with offering last-minute instructions to a substitute.
“In GAA, you’d see the manager pointing out to the field, telling a player what to do, but 90 per cent won’t retain that. It’ll be a wee electronic device, a magnetic job that you can draw on and then wipe with the touch of a button.”
Football has given him a lot, more than he could have imagined when he first joined the Monaghan panel some 17 years ago.
But as he and his family have tragically discovered in the last year, it’s just football.
Ten months ago, Chloe was born.
After Ava (7), Shay (5) and Grace (3), she was Stephen and Caroline’s fourth child.
Sadly, Chloe lived for just an hour. Her parents were able to share that precious hour with their daughter.
“Chloe’s a massive part of our family. The kids talk about her numerous times every day. She’ll never be forgotten.
“We’ve had a very tough year. You wouldn’t wish it on anyone, burying a wee baby. We had a funeral in the middle of lockdown.”
Covid restrictions have meant that Caroline hasn’t even been able to hug her only sister.
For so many like the Golloglys, those comforts in grief have been another victim of the pandemic.
* * * *
THE 2013 Ulster final couldn’t have been going any better. There were just nine minutes gone and Donegal were on their backs staring up at the sky, wondering who and what had hit them.
Monaghan were 9/1 underdogs, having just about scraped past Antrim and Cavan, coming in from a base of Division Three football.
Yet here they were leading the All-Ireland champions by 0-4 to 0-0. That would prove enough to sustain a distance between the sides all day as the Farney county ended a 25-year wait for an Ulster title.
By the time Kieran Hughes blazed the final ball out over Pat McGrane, Hill and all, Jim McGuinness had already been down the line to shake hands with Malachy O’Rourke, knowing it would get lost in the sea moments later.
Plans B through Z wouldn’t have kept Monaghan fans off the pitch that day.
Gollogly’s final had lasted just nine minutes. A kickout broke the way of Mark McHugh, but the ball sat out far enough in front of him to be won. Gollogly went in. He caught McHugh, and his left cheek caught the Kilcar man’s right shoulder.
Both men had to be replaced but in the aftermath, Donegal made noise about it. They claimed McHugh had been targeted, and despite the fact his own day was ended so short too, Gollogly has had to live with that noise.
Writing in his Irish Times column two weeks later, Darragh Ó Sé said of the tackle: “The idea that Stephen Gollogly went out to target Mark McHugh in the Ulster final just doesn’t stand up. It was a full-blooded tackle, it was seriously physical, no doubt. And I don’t think there’s any question but that Gollogly would have known that he was going to crash into McHugh.
“But the ball was there to be challenged for. He didn’t lift an elbow, he didn’t lift a knee or a foot or a fist. He went in bald-headed and came out of it badly himself. To my mind, it was a very brave tackle and it just showed the commitment of that Monaghan team that day.”
Gollogly laughs when he’s asked, because he’s always asked. Eight years later, it hasn’t gone away. But it doesn’t annoy him.
“It never annoyed me. There was a lot of noise coming out from the Donegal camp about a ‘bad tackle’, there was a lot of bad press about it.
“Malachy O’Rourke came to me and asked if we wanted Monaghan to back me on it, and I just said no, there’s no hassle. Donegal were getting red cards left, right and centre. The two of us ended up playing the next game, there was nothing on it.
“Jimmy McGuinness was just trying to galvanise his team, they were after losing their crown, that’s all he was doing in my eyes. I didn’t pay too much heed of it.
“I had to go off too, my eye closed up, though I didn’t get concussion. I was back training the next week, Mark McHugh was back training two weeks later. No-one was seriously injured.”
Gollogly got up the steps of St Tiernach’s Park to collect an Ulster medal he felt was nearly overdue, yet was beginning to think would never come.
Two years later he earned another, coming off the bench in what was a third straight decider against Donegal.
He’d made his debut under Colm Coyle in 2004, having come through the U21 setup and just finished his studies in Limerick, going on to become a woodwork teacher.
* * * *
STEPHEN Gollogly would find different homes throughout the Monaghan attack over the years, to which he brought pace and energy always.
Malachy O’Rourke became the final piece of the jigsaw. For Gollogly and a handful of the other senior stars, leaving with two Ulster medals was “phenomenal”.
“When you win something, it just creates an extra bond with your team-mates, you know you’ll always have that. There’s still some of the lads playing, Drew Wylie, Darren Hughes, Colin Walshe, there’s still a good crop.
“It’s only with the lads who have finished up, Owen Lennon, Vinny Corey, Paul Finley, Dick Clerkin, you’d be chatting to them at club games and brush shoulders, and you just know the bond’s there. It’s a special feeling.
“It was a massive thing. When I started playing with Monaghan, we were ranked 28th in Ireland. That’s Division Four, bottom-of-the-barrel stuff. The lowest teams.
“To develop, being contesting and even looking at winning Sam Maguire was massive.
“We probably should have won three-in-a-row [in Ulster], we were unlucky in the final in ’14. It was a savage experience for the county and to be part of it as a player, I’ll never forget it.”
To rue 2014 the way he rues both 2007 and 2008, and even the 2018 campaign the year after he retired, is not to say that’s he laden with regret.
But he does think there was more out there had Conor McManus been that little bit older.
“I’ve no doubt about it, if Conor McManus was in his prime in ’07, Monaghan would have an All-Ireland. No doubt about it.
“Kerry beat us by a point. We dominated the whole game, they got a late goal, Declan O’Sullivan rolled one into the net on maybe 67 minutes and it was the first time Kerry went ahead in the game.
“They got momentum from it and went on to lift Sam. What Conor McManus has done in the last ten years has been phenomenal, he’s been the best forward around.
“Getting six to eight points a game, if you were even only getting four off him back then, you were bound to have been successful. Just wasn’t to be, I suppose.”
When Gollogly walked away in 2017, he did so happy that he’d given his lot, and having come from where they’d come from, his career brought greater reward than he could have envisaged at the beginning.
“No, you don’t miss it. When you give it your all for 14 years, you just know that you’re done. You’ve family commitments.
“I remember we were building our house at the time, expecting our third child, and it was just too much. You were getting older and stiffer, and county football’s a young man’s game.
“I finished in ’17, Monaghan got to the All-Ireland semi-final the next year, but I knew I was done. Was I thinking I’d something to offer? No, my time was up.
“For Monaghan to get to an All-Ireland final would have been unbelievable, and we probably should have. Whether you’d have won it or not, who knows. Monaghan were the only team really to beat Dublin in those few years, and in a one-off game you never know.
“We could have won another one in ’07 or ’08.
“We could have had more All-Irelands than Armagh!”