Patsy Horkan - An appreciation by Sean Rice

December 12, 2021

An enduring story from the football career of Patsy Horkan who died recently:

Castlebar Mitchels were the dominant football force in Mayo in the fifties, and Patsy Horkan, one of the team’s leading players, was asked with three other Mitchels members to pack a team which had reached the final of the Limerick junior football championship.

Patsy, Nace O’Dowd, a Sligo man playing with the Mitchels, Mick Flynn and John Durcan travelled to Ballylanders to play under assumed names.


They were driven to the grounds, dined in Cruise's Hotel and paraded with their strange colleagues behind a piped band in front of several thousand people. Patsy was playing under the name of John Davern.


But Mick Flynn’s cover was nearly blown. While standing around anonymously at half time a voice from the crowd rang out: “How ya Flynn.” The Mitchels’ man could not believe his ears. Here in this rural heartland, more than a hundred miles from Castlebar, someone knew him. He must have been mistaken.


But the call came again . . . from a man from the area who had worked for Stephen Garavan in the town, and knew Mick Flynn. Mortified, Flynn was forced to disown him.


It turned out that the Ballylanders team was eventually found out and suspended. But the Castlebar boys were wined and dined and each paid £5 for their hour’s work. 

It is one of Patsy’s many stories from his playing days when the club ruled senior football in the county and he was the team’s outstanding fullback.

It was when fullbacks took all the kickouts, and goalkeepers were often bundled into the back of the net, by those who on the odd occasion could get by the likes of Mitchels’ sturdy fullback.

Patsy graced the position with steely and unflinching determination. He was a member of the side that won seven county titles in the fifties, five of them in a row.

They added to his rich collection of trophies earned throughout a stellar career, including nine senior Mayo medals. His first, the only one as a sub, was in 1948; his last in 1963, after which he retired. He was 92 when he died.

Patsy played minor for Mayo in the forties and junior in the early fifties. For a short while he played for Boyle in Co Roscommon while working there, even progressing to the county’ senior side.

After retiring from football, he applied his energies to administration and served terms as chairman and president of the Mitchel’s club.

He had a fine singing voice and often contributed to the club’s social occasions. Many will remember him leading the mourners at the graveside of his good friend Mick Flynn with his rendering of “I’ll take you home again Kathleen” which had been Flynn’s party piece.

He is survived by his wife Frances, daughters Catriona, Patrice and Maria, his sons Patrick and Kieran, brothers, sisters, grandchildren and great-grandchildren to whom sympathy is tendered.

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