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Legend Mayo’s last All-Ireland winner Paddy Prendergast dies without seeing Sam Maguire's return

The legendary full-back said Mayo winning an All-Ireland senior crown is the “one thing I want to see happening during my lifetime” as “it would make up for all the hardship”.

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Paddy Prendergast in action for Mayo in Croke Park

Paddy Prendergast in action for Mayo in Croke Park

Paddy Prendergast in action for Mayo in Croke Park

He was the last surviving All Ireland-winning Mayo player, but Paddy Prendergast never fulfilled his dream of seeing a younger generation bring Sam Maguire back to the county.

Mr Prendergast was full-back on the Mayo team that lifted Sam back-to-back in 1950 and 1951, and remained a faithful follower of his county in all of the 70 subsequent years of heartbreak.

His death, at the age of 95, means former GAA president Dr Mick Loftus is the last surviving member of that 1951 squad, although he did not play in the final against Meath.

Mayo’s repeated final losses in the decades since have fuelled the legend of the Mayo curse.

The story goes that a hex was placed on Mayo footballers following their All-Ireland triumph.

While several variations of the myth abound, the central premise is that a priest, a widow, or a witch cursed the team after they passed through Foxford celebrating their All-Ireland final win and failed to show due respect to a funeral.

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Paddy Prendergast, who played a starring role in Mayo’s All-Ireland winning team of 1951, proudly displays his All-Ireland medal. Photo: Don MacMonagle

Paddy Prendergast, who played a starring role in Mayo’s All-Ireland winning team of 1951, proudly displays his All-Ireland medal. Photo: Don MacMonagle

Paddy Prendergast, who played a starring role in Mayo’s All-Ireland winning team of 1951, proudly displays his All-Ireland medal. Photo: Don MacMonagle


Mr Prendergast did not believe a word of the fabled curse.

Nonetheless, that Mayo team has been mythologised even more with the county’s steady accumulation of All-Ireland final defeats, 11 in total since 1989 – including seven in the last decade.

The Ballintubber native and former garda spent most of his adult life in Tralee, having been transferred there during the 1960s.

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Mayo’s 1951 All-Ireland winning team, with Paddy Prendergast third from right in the front row.

Mayo’s 1951 All-Ireland winning team, with Paddy Prendergast third from right in the front row.

Mayo’s 1951 All-Ireland winning team, with Paddy Prendergast third from right in the front row.

While Kerry was his adopted home, his devotion to Mayo never diminished.

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In an interview shortly before his death, Mr Prendergast resolved to “say a few prayers."

“Do you think that prayer would make a difference? I’ll say a few prayers for the lads,” he said. “It would be marvellous if they could do it.”

The legendary full-back said Mayo winning an All-Ireland senior crown is the “one thing I want to see happening during my lifetime” as “it would make up for all the hardship”.

He had played at full-back on the team that lost the 1948 final against Cavan and filled the same role, victoriously, against Louth in 1950 and against Meath a year later.

“I think we had a great team. I don’t include myself in that but we had great footballers,” Mr Prendergast remarked in a 2017 interview.

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Paddy Prendergast, fullback on the last Mayo senior football team to win an All-Ireland in 1951 proudly holding his All-Ireland medal

Paddy Prendergast, fullback on the last Mayo senior football team to win an All-Ireland in 1951 proudly holding his All-Ireland medal

Paddy Prendergast, fullback on the last Mayo senior football team to win an All-Ireland in 1951 proudly holding his All-Ireland medal


“We probably should’ve won at least four [All-Irelands] during that period.”

Mr Prendergast’s friend Sean Lyons, also a Mayo man living in Kerry, told Midwest Radio: “When someone like that passes, something really special goes out of everyone’s lives. ‘Gentleman’ is the word most people would think of when it comes to Paddy P, as everybody knew him.

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Mayo legend Paddy Prendergast. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Mayo legend Paddy Prendergast. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Mayo legend Paddy Prendergast. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile


“He was held in such respect by everybody in Mayo, but in Kerry as well. Everywhere he went, Paddy Prendergast brought something special with him. It’s a sad, sad day.”

Mr Lyons said Paddy “loved nothing more than talking about the old days growing up in Ballintubber."

“He never forgot his roots,” he said.

“He loved Mayo, and loved the green and red. He was a passionate man. I’ll miss the get-togethers.

“The last time I met him was two weeks before the All-Ireland. I was out in the house.

“A man up in Mayo had contacted me about getting a few footballs signed by Paddy. I brought them out, sat with him, and Paddy signed the footballs.

“We talked about Castlebar, we talked about Ballintubber.”

MEP Maria Walsh said she was very sorry to learn of Mr Prendergast’s death.

She described him as “an absolute gentleman, community man and memory sharer”.

In an interview published on the AIB GAA blog in August 2017, when Mr Prendergast was honoured by the GAA, he told the story of how he had no plans of playing for his native county while serving as a member of the constabulary in Donegal back in the late 1940s.

But that all changed when he received a letter in the post from Mayo GAA in 1948.

He explained: “I just got a declaration form saying: ‘please declare for Mayo’.”

He duly obliged.

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