Michelle McGing in an interview with Fr Liam Kelleher

The McGing

family were dealt a cruel blow in July when vivacious
bubbly and charming Aisling was taken from them, in
a tragic car accident. It was a terrible blow to this
united family to their friends and relatives to the
sports conscious people and particularly their beloved
Carnacon and Mayo football teams. In their 2002 All-Ireland
triumph the McGings were a proud family with 3 girls
in the Mayo panel. They were so united that when team
photo’s were taken they stood or knelt side by side.

The McGing Sisters

Although physically absent Aisling is very
much part of their living family, she is thought about every
minute of the day. Beautiful pictures are treasured memento’s
are pride of place in the McGing household and will ensure
that Aisling will never be forgotten. The support the family
received during the early day of the tragedy and since t

has been phenomenal. I was unable to make Aisling’s funeral
mass, having the funeral of parents of parishioners, to
attend on the same day as well as a third funeral in the
parish and I had promised that when things had quietened
down I would visit the family.

I had met them at the banquet, after Mayo’s All-Ireland
win and met them again at Donoughmore after the Carnacon
game, so off I headed on Tuesday morning to Mayo. First
of all I called to the Heffernan homestead near Hollymount
there was no mistaking where I was with banners still proclaiming
the “Heffo heroines” and could not but help thinking what
the Mayo success story has meant to Mayo. I was delighted
to meet the parents, Christy and Ann as well as Caroline
and again I was able to get the feeling of what the sport
means to the family. They were delighted at the the pictures
I had taken the day before in Dublin at the Vodafone/GAA
award, when Christine received the footballer of the year
award. The 3rd time in 3 years it has found its way to the
Heffernan home.

Always remembered

enjoying the chat and the hospitality I headed off to
Ballinrobe and then on to Kilawalla. Jimmy and his good
wife Teresa, had just gone to meet their walking group
which again has been a great help to them to cope with
their loss. I met the other members of the family, the
2 girls Michelle and Sharon and their brothers, James
and Thomas, while sister Fiona is in Dublin I was fascinated
with all the memories of beloved Aisling and before
I left that house 3 hours later I was even more fascinated
and uplifted by this extraordinary family.

I was a bit reluctant to ask Michelle would she like
to do an interview and as I gingerly approached the
subject ,I was put at ease right away. I have interviewed
many famous people, in fact 20 years ago I produced
a book entitled “21 star interviews” which included
such illuminaries in the athletic world John Walker,
Steve Ovett, Eamonn Coghlan, John Treacy, Raelene Boyle
Australia, etc, world and Olympic Champions and have
conducted many interviews since. I must say I was never
so overcome as I was when I was spoken to Michelle.
She was articulate, honest, understanding and so much
at peace despite the traumatic Summer, she and her family
had endured.

I had hoped to produce the full interview
on the web site before the AllStar awards on Saturday for
which Michelle and her sister Sharon have been nominated
for, but it was late when I got back from Mayo on Thursday
night. Early in the morning I learned a parishioner had
died during the night in hospital and while look forward
to the AllStar dinner in Dublin on Saturday, I will be back
in time for his funeral mass at 11am on Sunday. I enjoyed
the time I spent in Castlebar on Friday with John Lee (aka
Catweazle) and staff where the ladies gaelic football web
site, 21st century, has its base. I must say they do a thorough
job and of course they were delighted that the site got
850,000 hits during the month of October, with such interest
the magical figure of 1 million hits can not be far away.

I had just conducted the interview with Michelle when her
parents returned from their walking exploits and they welcomed
me with open arms. Jimmy’s brother Fr. Tommy attended the
same college as me at st Pats in Carlow and I did not realise
it until Michelle told me and I saw his picture on the wall.
It certainly is a small world and I will be catching up
with him in January. He is ministering in Mississippi and
I will be going there for the carlow College reunion on
the 6th of January. Again I was fascinated with the parents,
the salt of the earth, so easy to talk to so easy to understand,
even for me their unbelievable healing process and coping
process they have. I can tell you it is a rare gift. They
are so thankful and grateful for the support and comfort
the have received in person and in the written word and
let me mention and compliment Denise Horan, whom I have
highest respect for as a journalist and a player, for wonderful
tribute she paid to Aisling in an article in ARENA a supplement
in the Irish examiner before the All-Ireland final.

That article would bring tears to a stone and if anyone
had a heart of stone for any reason, that article as the
saying goes would melt a heart of stone. I was reluctant
to ask Michelle about Aisling but I did. She quoted me a
saying “Only the good die young” and kind of accepted that
Aisling was too good for this life. Many people would be
bitter, but all evening there was not a hint of it, true
Christianity, remarkably displayed and more remarkably lived.

about the upcoming all-stars Michelle was delighted
to named among the 45 and looked on it as a privilege,
she was happy with that and while she had not given
the matter much thought, I had the feeling that she
would be over the moon if she made the final 15. Anyway
we hope you enjoy the interview It has meant so much
to me and hopefully it will to you dear reader wherever
you are.

A treasure trove of medals

Interview: Part One

Question: Michelle how did you get involved in football?

Answer: When I started I started with the lads, we
did not have a team we had no underage structure in Carnacon
at the time, just Junior.

Question: What year was that?
Answer: It would have been under 10 so it would be
12-13 years ago I started off with Cora. When it came to
under 14 they set up an underage team and it has grown since

Question: When was Carnacon Founded.
Answer: They had a club long before that they had
been a junior team.

Question: How did you do playing with the boys did
ye win much?
Answer: We won most of the Co’s at under 10 and 12,
we were not allowed to play at under 14 because they said
it was too physical, so we played with the ladies.

Question: Ye were probably as good as the boys .
How did they accept that? Were they jealous?
Answer: They were not really, they accepted us as
one of themselves and because there were 2 of us it made
it easier. Even now when we meet them they are proud to
say that “ye started off playing with us”

Question: Looking back was it rough the shouldering
and all that?
Answer: We just dug in like the lads did and nobody
took much notice.

Question: Did it give any bad habits for the ladies
Answer: When I was finished with the lads I had to
get used to the ladies and most of the time I picked the
ball with my toe and probably still do a lot, in one way
it helped make me physically stronger.

Question: What year did you start playing with the
Answer: In 1992 we reached the Connaught final of
the Community games and got beaten that year and in 1993
we got to Mosney and were beaten by a Kerry team in the
final by a point.

Question: When did you start playing with the adult
team and did Carnacon have a senior team then.
Answer: We were Junior and graduated to Senior and
then in 1998 as far as I can remember we won our first Senior
Co, beating Hollymount in the final, we went on to win the
Connaught final and were beaten in the All-Ireland Semi-final,
Hollymount beat us in the Co final in 1999 and we have won
it since.

Question: The year 2002 saw your first All-Ireland
Answer: Yes we defeated Hollymount in Mayo, Pearses
of Roscommon in the Connaught final, Balyboden/ St Enda’s
in the quarter final, Donoughmore in the Semi-final and
Carrickmore in the final, which we won fairly easily in
the end.

Question: When ye were playing Hollymount was there
fierce rivalry especially between the Inter-co players.

Answer: When you go out with your club, County goes
out the window, you are friends off the pitch but when when
you go on it it is a totally different story. There is rivalry
even fights and rows, but once the final whistle blows it
is over, But on the pitch there was definitely rivalry there.

Question: When they defeated ye and vice versa did
ye support one another”
Answer: Definitely.

Question: When did you come in to the Mayo Senior
Answer: I was playing Senior back in 1995 and ’96,
Then I had a serious operation on my knee and had to give
up for a few years.

Question: Did you miss Mayo’s first win in 1999.

Answer: I did not play football that year with my
knee injury.

Question: Was it the cruciate?
Answer: No. it was knee cap and cartilage

Question: Did it take you a long time to get back

Answer: Physically no, mentally yes, because I was
out for so long I found it difficult to get back.

To be continued

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