Seamus Darby is one of the most decorated footballing stars of Offaly football, with three All-Ireland medals under his belt. Most GAA fans may have seen, or at least heard, how he broke the hearts of both the men and women of Kerry when his last minute goal stop Kerry from winning an incredible 5-in-a-row back in 1982. Today Seamus runs his own bar in the scenic town of Toomevara, Co. Tipperary. GAASTARS caught up with the Offaly legend to talk about his past and present views of the game.
You scored the winning goal for Offaly in the 1982 All-Ireland Final, robbing Kerry of an unprecedented fifth title in a row. How do you think this changed your life?
It changed my life full stop. Scoring that goal was an incredible experience for me personally, as our lads knew what was at stake in trying to stop a brilliant Kerry team from doing 5-in-a-row. There was a lot of pressure on us and, thankfully, all the team pulled together as a unit and dug in deep to grind out the right result for us. Winning opened many doors for me and I’ve had my ups and downs like most people, but it was a great experience that I will never forget.
You have won three All-Ireland medals – in 1971,1972 and 1982. Which one of those medals means the most to you, and why?
I suppose it has to be the 1982 medal, given the occasion of stopping Kerry from doing the five-timer.
In the past you managed Edenderry – would you ever consider managing the county team?
I did contemplate it when I was younger but certainly not now, as I’m just enjoying being a spectator of the great game.
Who would you rate as the top three footballers of all time, and why?
1) Mick O’Connell (Kerry): I played against him in the 1972 All-Ireland Final and, to me, he was just a complete all-round player
2) Maurice Fitzgerald (Kerry): He was great at finding his man to pass to on the pitch
3) Matt O’Connor (Offaly): He was a great forward player and teammate who I played alongside in the 1982 All-Ireland final against Kerry.
If you could play with any three players, past or present from other counties, who would they be, and why?
1) Brian Mullins (Dublin): A great passer of the ball on the pitch
2) Jack O’Shea (Kerry): He had a great ability to pick out teammates on the pitch and get the ball to them
3) Sean Foran (Offaly): Sean sadly passed away in 2015, but what a player! He was a great distributor of the ball and he could put it in your pocket.
Who was the toughest player you have ever played against, and why?
I was lucky enough to play with and against many great footballers in my time, but the ones that would stand out would have to be either Mick O’Rourke (Offaly), Gay O’Driscoll (Dublin) or Tom Heneghan (Roscommon). These lads wouldn’t let you get away with anything and would tear strips off you on the pitch.
In your spare time you enjoy a game of golf. What’s your handicap and what’s your favourite golf course in Ireland and abroad?
Yes, I love golf, as it’s great craic and a good way to relax. I have a handicap of 27 and my favourite golf course in Ireland would have to be Druid’s Glen – as it’s a great course and the scenery is fantastic. Outside of Ireland my favourite course would have to be Torrey Pines in California. It too has incredible scenery and it’s a great course to test any golfer.
Being an ex-Offaly player, how do you think the future looks for the team under their new manager, Paul Rouse?
To be honest, over the past few years I had nearly given up on the Offaly team on doing anything – almost on the verge of stopping going to see them play. However, since the introduction of Paul Rouse I’ve been very impressed and encouraged by the attitude of team. Their last few games have been brilliant, especially against Clare, and was very proud of them. If the team can develop under Paul then the future for Offaly football is looking a lot better.
How far away are they from winning the Leinster title?
Given Dublin’s dominance in the game I think all teams in Leinster are quite a bit away from winning the Leinster title. However, we definitely look to be heading in the right direction.
You have your own pub in Toomevara, Co. Tipperary – how’s that going for you?
Like most rural pubs around the country, it’s tough at the moment. I feel more needs to be done to help out and address the problems that rural pubs are facing. Pubs in rural locations are at the heart of most rural communities and people depend on them for social meeting places. I’m lucky, as I have regular support from the community and the people of Toomevara – which is a great place.
What could the GAA do better to look after players once they have retired from the game?
Things for past players have definitely improved since the introduction of the GPA, who are very good at assisting and helping past players. I think there should be more emphasis on engaging with players at regional level. We live in a proud society and some past players who are experiencing problems and need help are too proud to ask for help. We need to convince the people who have given so much to the game that help is at hand to improve the quality of life for them.
Is there any changes to the current game you would like to see changed, and why?
I personally would love to see the hand pass reduced to three passes along with the kick-out increased to a minimum of 40 yards. I feel it would improve the game overall.
Who do you fancy for this year’s All-Ireland final, and why?
The obvious team, you would have to say, is Dublin. However, I think Donegal are strong and play direct football with good scoring forwards. Their physical presence on the pitch is a threat to any team.
You are wearing one of our GAASTARS Polo Shirts – what do you think of them?
I love my GAASTARS Offaly shirt. Its design is great and very discreet. It feels great on and I’m getting great wear out of them, especially when playing golf!