Wonder of the GAA world reminds us how to win and enjoy every minute of it
What's the difference between David Beggy and Mick Lyons?
How long have you got?
The helpful Summerhill secretary tells you there's no point in texting Mick. Mick doesn't do texts. You text Beggy, who wonders if it will be WhatsApp or Facetime.
When David Beggy was first called onto the Meath panel aged 19, he'd never been to a Meath game before. When he walked into the Meath dressing room first, for a challenge against Monaghan, he wasn't overawed by Lyons or any of these 'Royal legends' around him, simply because he didn't know who they were.
"I'd dreamt of playing rugby for Ireland as a teenager."
Colm O'Rourke was the exception, having taught 'Jinksy' at school. But when Beggy, the rugby loving, guitar playing free spirit strolled into that Meath dressing room hot off his Yamaha 125, helmet over shoulders, his old teacher wasn't about to play happy classrooms.
'What the f*ck are you doing here?'
Rugby was a different game back then and as a flying winger, Beggy bore its brunt. A "ten man game," he says, prop forwards would play hot potato before taking the heads off one another, and then going again. So if and when, on the rare occasion that the golden ball might somehow make its way out wide, Beggy would be ready at the mere whiff of it, he promised himself that.
"So it was full on attack when I got it. No matter where I got the ball, I just took off and that was it."
Familiar with a defender's nightmare?
Navan O'Mahonys got wind of the tornado and with rugby going through its aforementioned style crisis, Beggy didn't ask why, but why not? By the following autumn, he was the midfield dynamo, running at defenders like they'd never been ran at before, who'd inspired his club to county championship glory.
Soon, Sean Boylan was on the phone. Soon, there'd be no questions asked.
How's that Mr. O'Rourke?
Championship days were only around the corner and before long Beggy was living for the white heat. Another blinding adventure had taken him to Croke Park and this time the evasive maverick, the smiling face that half his teammates weren't even sure they knew, was darting this way and going that way, a Leinster champion in his first year up.
"It was an adventure, it really was. Sure I had no expectations, no aims or goals except to do my best every time I went on the pitch."
"I had to learn how to solo at that pace and not lose control. And some kicks could go left, right and centre and it was a bit all over the place.
"It took a few years to settle it down, and some lads said I never settled it down! I wouldn't be surprised if my teammates resented it at the time..."
All good thing takes time though, and despite the happy-go-lucky personality in a serious world, Sean Boylan soon learned and the Meath players soon learned that Beggy was a supreme athlete and a born winner.
"You get a little bit nervous and would have butterflies in the stomach, but I would look forward to the game rather than fear it," he says.
"There was a trend that you had to be dour and straight to play a game, but I was reared, I always loved sport, I was in my most comfortable place when I was on a pitch and the bigger the crowd, the bigger the place, the more comfortable I was out there..."
The crowd? Jinksy was their favourite. The stands hummed with anticipation whenever the ball came near him, the teenagers flocked around him for autographs and the winning scores, they often came off his boot or started with his engine.
Have we mentioned that David Beggy smoked like a chimney since a teenager? Lived on them. Sean Boylan once tried to steer him away from the fags but soon learned that Jinksy 'did what he does,' and was soon arranging it, so that a cigarette would be lit and ready in the dressing room for him at half-time.
"The lads would go in for the chat, I'd go into the toilet for the smoke..."
"It wasn't to settle the nerves or anything no, I just wanted a smoke..."
"Every game at half-time the cigarette would be ready for me in the dressing room."
The motorbike-driving, fag-smoking maverick that inspired Meath to their greatest glory.
This is David ‘Jinksy’ Beggy. pic.twitter.com/sH6C3cAm4r
— GAA JOE (@GAA__JOE) May 7, 2020
Beggy continued to move at a fast, sometimes uncontrollable pace and soon, he was the smiling face of Meath football, the smoking gun who'd ripped opponents to shreds.
Two All-Stars and two All-Irelands arrived. Five county championships with the O'Mahonys. He kicked crucial scores in All-Ireland finals, winning points in Leinster thrillers.
'He's one of the wonders of the GAA world. some player and some craic. Adored his company," said teammate Bernard Flynn.
At one stage, he went back to the rugby and travelled the world with the Irish wolfhounds before making some strides with Leinster. Looked an international star in the making, until the cruciate went at 28.
Nothing has replaced the buzz since, though he's enjoying being a part of Navan O'Mahony's management team, "I think you’d have to bungee jump and pretend that you’ve no rope on you, or take a chance at Russian Roulette," he says wistfully.
It was one hell of a ride, and Beggy and the men of Meath have nothing but fond memories.
"We’re still tight, but of course when you get old you get a bit melancholic. So lads are a bit nicer now, they’re not as abrasive as they used to be you know!"
And O'Rourke, Beggy loved the craic with Colm.
"He was the elder lemon and I was the child but all the team were in a pub one night and it was his round. And he kind of gave the boy…he says, Davy, go and get the drinks in and handed me a £50 note. I probably hadn’t seen one in my life anyway, and I kind of said to myself, well I’m not his little waiter you know so I bought a drink for the whole bar, everybody in the pub, I said drinks for everybody"
"Handed him the 50 quid, I got a few pounds change, not much and gave the money back to Colm and he got a pretty big shock because Colm wouldn’t have spent 50 quid in his whole life never mind on a round of drinks, but ah, he became very popular in the area because I told everybody that’s from Colm O’Rourke!"
"Myself and Colm are great friends now!"
He's off the fags now too. The kids don't smoke and he hopes it stays that way. Takes another inhale and puts the vape back in his pocket.
"Some day," he says, looking around the garden.