Paraic McGuirk swapped Liverpool for Monaghan and is fast making his name on the Monaghan senior football panel
By Martin Mannering
There have been a few notable connections between Liverpool and Monaghan down the years. John McKenna from Glaslough was appointed the first manager of Liverpool FC when they were formed after breaking away from Everton in the late 1800s, while Paul McCartney’s mother came from Clontibret and he was proud enough of his roots to hold his wedding to Heather Mills in the Farney County.
And GAA fans in the northwest city will have extra reason to keep an eye on the fortunes of Monaghan this season as one of their adopted sons aims to make his mark for his home county.
When Paraic McGuirk first took to the field for Hope University in 2009 those watching knew they were witnessing a special talent.
McGuirk had left his native county to take his teacher training in Liverpool after combining his Leaving Cert studies with two years on the Monaghan Minor team.
A tower of strength at centre back, he became known for his powerful surging runs often taking the full length of the field.
In 2011 he captained the Hope side to an All Britain title and to the final of the Trench Cup, where they went under to Trinity College. He followed that up by leading the university to two more All Britain titles as coach.
Liverpool’s John Mitchel’s courted his talents in those early years, but ‘The Pride of the Parish’ was too strong a pull, as McGuirk opted to return to his native Threemilehouse each summer to play for his childhood club, Sean McDermotts.
It was only after graduating and taking up a permanent teaching post in the northwest that the he decided to throw his lot in with the Liverpool side.
Whisper it quietly but watching Mitchel’s lose narrowly to one of his fierce rival parishes, Emyvale in 2014, might have had a little influence on his thinking.
When he did commit, he was always one of the first to put his hand up when Lancashire county management came calling.
In his three years wearing the ‘Blue and Gold’ of Mitchel’s, the club won as many Lancashire titles, plus two All Britain titles, and reached the All Ireland final of 2015.
In the team’s poorest performance of that particular season against Brosna Kerry, FM radio pundits described him as the one outstanding player on the Mitchel’s side.
Though Mitchel’s were anything but a one-man team during those success laden years, the influence he had on the field, particularly in pressure situations in pressure games was immeasurable.
Those aforementioned surges from defence became his trademark and you could regularly sense the expectation and hear the volume increase among Mitchel’s supporters when he set off on a sortie. His power and athleticism was second to none as he inspired colleagues to raise their game.
Like all clubs in Britain, Mitchel’s experience a high degree of player turn over and though they lost a few high profile players last season most would agree that the colossus that is Paraic McGuirk was the biggest individual loss to the club.
Last summer McGuirk made the decision to return to his native home where he has taken up a teaching post in St Macartan’s College, where it all began for him.
He helped his club to the County Junior Championship final and quickly caught the attention of county manager Malachy O Rourke.
He made his debut in the Dr McKenna Cup against Fermanagh and impressed neutral observers as he went head-to-head with Aiden O Shea in the narrow defeat to Mayo in the opening round of the National League.
The quietly spoken gentle giant left an indelible mark on Liverpool and Lancashire GAA during his few years here. He left behind many friends, and former teammates, Mitchel’s supporters and opponents alike will be taking an added interest in Monaghan’s fortunes and wishing him well.
Liverpool and Lancashire’s loss is most definitely Monaghan’s gain.