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Obituary: Mayo and Warwickshire mourn loss of GAA legend Dr John McAndrew

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“ONE of the greatest Gaels we’ve ever had in Britain” is how former Warwickshire County Board chairman Joe O’Rourke has described Dr John McAndrew, who passed away on January 3 at the age of 85.

Dr McAndrew was a key member of the Mayo side that tasted All-Ireland Football Championship glory in 1950 and ’51 – the last team from the county to do so.

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In fact, Dr McAndrew was the most recent All-Ireland winner to represent Mayo, having not played his last game for the Connacht side until the championship campaign of 1960.

It was then that he made the journey across the Irish Sea to begin life as a doctor in Birmingham. That would remain his beat for the next 45 years.

Dr McAndrew’s heyday as a footballer may have been behind him, but he still had much to offer and went on to win several Warwickshire SFC titles with John Mitchels.

Having been ill for quite some time, Dr McAndrew’s death – on Thursday, January 4 – was confirmed by his only son, Sean. Dr McAndrew’s wife Bridie, who hailed from Tyrone, passed away in 2006.

“Dr McAndrew played for John Mitchels for many years and was a terrific footballer, absolutely outstanding. He played for Warwickshire too and won a few provincial titles. He was also chairman of the County Board for a year and made an enormous contribution to the game in Warwickshire in so many respects. A great servant, no doubt about it,” Joe O’Rourke told The Irish Post.

“Even though he was getting on in years as a player by the time he came over here, he still stood out amongst the best of them. He had huge talent. He was named on the Warwickshire team of the century, to no great surprise.

“After that he got into training greyhounds, so he was always keeping himself busy with his passion for sport even after he finished playing football.

“He was very, very quiet and a proper gentleman. You never heard of him in any sort of trouble or arguing with anybody.

“He’d always look after fellas too. If you had something wrong you could go see him at his surgery at half past six in the morning before his other patients came in. He’d put fellas back together after games as well if needs be.

“He had massive commitments as a doctor but it never seemed to have a negative impact on his devotion to football and John Mitchels. He was extremely dedicated.”

A native of Bangor Erris in west Mayo, Dr McAndrew elected to make the 40-mile round trip to play his club football for Crossmolina in an attempt to grab the attention of the Mayo management.

After helping Crossmolina to win their first ever Mayo SFC title in 1949, he did just that. Dr McAndrew emulated his brother Pat by being called up to the county panel for the 1950 championship.

Playing at left-half back, Dr McAndrew won his first Celtic Cross in his debut season at the age of 23, as Mayo were 2-5 to 1-6 winners over Louth. He added a second in 1951 thanks to a five-point win against Meath.

Dr McAndrew wouldn’t win another senior All-Ireland after that – and neither would Mayo – but he did pick up a Junior title in 1957, which came three years after he helped Mayo to clinch a National League title.

After hanging up his boots following much a decorated spell with John Mitchels, Dr McAndrew had plenty of success as a greyhound trainer, winning the Birmingham Cup and Welsh and Bolton St Legers.

Joe O’Rourke added: “Dr McAndrew had unfortunately been ill for a while so it didn’t come as a huge shock to hear of his passing. But the role he played in GAA in Warwickshire will never be forgotten. He was one of the greatest Gaels we’ve ever had in Britain.”

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