Mary O’Shea was born in Castle Hackett, Belclare, Tuam, Co Galway. She was reared on the family farm and was blessed with having a happy childhood. She was the eldest of a family of 9 children, four sisters and four brothers: Bridget, Kay, Nora, Margaret, Pat, Michael, Johnnie and James. Kay pre-deceased Mary less than two years ago.
Mary came to work in Dublin in 1963. She brought with her the very best of what she had learned in her rural upbringing, to blend with the urban scene. She worked in Guinness and it was there that she first met Paddy O’Shea. They went out together in 1965 and were married in 1968, and moved into their new home in Balally. Their marriage was blessed with five children, two girls and three boys: Norah, Joan, James, John and Martin. Mary was a wonderful homemaker. Her dedication to her family was immense. She was a loving and caring wife to Paddy and an outstanding mother to her five children. The needs of her family and - in more recent times - her extended family, including her grandchildren, Sean, Lilly and Joley, were always her first priority and she loved them all very dearly. They will certainly miss her.
It is not Mary’s family alone that is deeply saddened by her passing. The esteem and respect in which Mary was rightly held in the community where she lived was exceptional. This was reflected in the concern shown for her by so many during her long illness, in the number of people who visited her home where she was reposing, the removal from her home, her reception into the church in Galway, and her Funeral Mass. It was also reflected in the impressive turn out of Naomh Olaf GAA Club members who formed a guard of honour for Mary, as her remains were taken from her home, and accompanied the cortege on foot for some distance.
I know Mary, Paddy and their family as good neighbours for many years but it was when I was managing an Under 10 football team, 24 years ago, on which their son John was playing, that I got to know the family well. When I made phone calls about matches or training at that time, it was usually the woman of the house that would answer the phone. I hadn’t rung Mary too often when she volunteered to wash the geansaithe and then to give transport.
As a young mother, Mary was a member of the Ladies’ Club. She was always supportive of all worthwhile causes. It was when Naomh Olaf GAA Clubhouse was opened, in 1993, that Mary became immersed in the life of the club, firstly as Chairperson of the Social Committee, where she excelled. Together with my wife Patsy, they kept the clubhouse spotless for many years. They were involved in providing refreshments on all occasions. When our senior football team was playing, they provided toasted sandwiches for the team and for the opposition. Our senior team would have light training before travelling to championship games and Mary and Patsy would provide tea and toast before the team left and continued with their work to have more substantial refreshments ready on their return. They knew what every player on the panel liked. Some wanted no butter; others wanted no cheese while others still wanted no ham.
In my opinion, Mary and Patsy were as vital to the development and success of Naomh Olaf GAA club in the ’90s, as Seán Purcell and Frankie Stockwell were to the success of the Galway football team in the ’50s. Mary was a constant presence in the clubhouse. She knew everybody, in what was, in those years, a packed clubhouse. And everybody knew and loved Mary. Her warm and friendly smile greeted everyone and ensured that they enjoyed socializing in the lounge, and she often provided a free taxi service to drop people home at the end of the night. For many years, Mary also helped out with the Club Lotto.
Mary was soon a member of the Executive Committee. For years, she was responsible for the door roster. Mary would select suitable people for the job and very few would refuse Mary. Every one got a six-week roster. If someone could not attend, they would ring Mary who would soon have a replacement. If they rang too often or if they failed to ring in such circumstances, they could subsequently find themselves on the subs’ bench.
Mary had a special affinity with her native county. When her family was young, they spent most of their summer holidays there. She visited Galway regularly. In fact she was the only member of her family not to have settled in Galway. She followed, with interest, the fortunes of the Galway hurlers and footballers. It is only fitting that her final place of rest should be in her beloved County Galway.