May 31, 1991
Gaelic Family Ferguson
The Gaelic Family Ferguson
by Colm Keys
If Des Ferguson got the proverbial pound for every time he was asked who he'd be supporting in a Meath-Dublin duel, he could buy out the Headfort Golf Course which surrounds his residence twice over.
For while the adjacent golf course is appealing and some of the Fergusons like to get out and swing a club now and again, football and hurling are the most likely sports to dominate their lives.
So why shouldn't a former Dublin star who gave so much service to the blue jersey not support his native county?
It just so happens that Des is the link in one of the great father-son relationships which exists in the GAA as Meath's All Star corner back is of course, his son Terry. And therein lies one of the great ironies which have shrouded recent meetings between those two great superpowers of Leinster football.
Because as Meath were gaining a star when Des Ferguson landed in Oldcastle in 1959, they were losing another when Noel Curran, their full forward in the 1967 All-Ireland victory over Cork, packed up and moved from Dunshaughlin to the capital.
Noel's son is the Dub's versatile Paul Curran, a player Sean Boylan could certainly do with in his present injury crisis.
Of course, Meath people won't complain about the elder Ferguson's move to the Royal County. Terry, one of gaelic football's real gentlemen, is the most consistent defender Meath have at the moment and the selectors rarely pick a team without him.
There were glasses raised in a few more places other than his native Kells when he was chosen as the 1990 All Star corner back, a richly deserved award.
Terry wasn't always a regular on Meath teams and perhaps made his name more as a hurler in his early playing days when he was an integral part of the county team.
Having played all his underage football and hurling with the local Gaeil Colmcille club, he featured in the unusual position of goalkeeper as a minor - for the club in the county final which they lost in 1977.
There was nothing spectacular about the young Ferguson then but around 1985 he began to make a real impression on the club scene and favourable newspaper reports of matches played in caught the attention of the general public.
The Meath selectors also noticed his surge in form and he was immediately catapulted onto the senior panel where he has remained since.
The following year - 1986 was a particularly memorable one for Terry Ferguson. Meath captured their first Leinster title in 16 years and he featured at left half back.
Terry was one of the Meath stars as they lost in the All-Ireland semi final to Kerry and it was a performance which merited the Meath player of the year award. With three other Ferguson brothers involved up and coming Gaeil Colmcille captured the IFC titles to cap a great season for Terry.
Of course he was on the Meath team which won Sam the following year but struggled for a while in 1988 to tie down a permanent position.
Dropped after the league final draw with Dublin he made a few brief re-appearances before establishing himself again as the recognised left full for the All-Ireland final replay against Cork.
Ferguson is quick to acknowledge that there were some exceptional players in those Meath teams of 1986-88 but didn't expect to make an impact so soon.
"I came into the Meath team around the same time as David Beggy, Brian Stafford, PJ Gillic and Liam Harnan. Gillic and Stafford had played underage with Meath but myself, Liam and David were what you'd call 'finds'."
Out of the blue, up against the blue - the sight of the Dublin jersey has never bothered Terry Ferguson and is unlikely to either on Sunday.
Des Ferguson "finds it hard to shout against the Dubs even when Meath are playing," but Meath, and particularly Kells people, will hardly begrudge him that little pleasure after all he has done for football and hurling in the area.
Many will recall the late Ronan Ferguson, a brilliant talent who died at such a young age, and Dessie, another son, who was also very skilful and played with the local club before moving to St. Vincents in Dublin.
At home, Conor and Barry Ferguson are regulars with the Kells seniors while Conor and another brother Pierce have featured on many Meath hurling teams.
Barry was captain of the Meath U21 side which won only the county's second ever provincial title and he is also the holder of a senior All-Ireland medal from 1987 when he played in a couple of games.
Des himself will be best remembered as a half forward of lightening speed and strength which were a huge asset to the Dubs in 1958.
He later moved to full forward and it was there that he played in the '63 final when he had a great battle with Noel Tierney as Dublin emerged victorious.
The former St. Vincents star - he won countless hurling and football honours with the great Marino club - continued to play with Dublin even after he moved to Meath but in '64 when he transferred to Kells, he joined Gaeil Colmcille who went on to win senior titles in 1966 and '68.
Ferguson once coached the Meath senior football team in what is now regarded as the gloomy days of the late 70s and early 80s.
"Compared to what it is now, organisation and commitment then was non-existent," he recalled. Since then he has switched his attention to the hurlers of the county and enjoyed some small success as coach of the senior team.
As Chairman of the Meath Development Committee for hurling, a body which consumes an incredible amount of work, he has expanded the base in the county to an unprecedented level.
"I always preferred hurling to football as a player, " he said. "A much more skillful game. I played both games for Dublin and while I won more with football I'd have to say I knocked more enjoyment out of hurling," he added.
It's unusual to see two of the top two counties clashing at such an early stage of the season but Des thinks thats great (maybe it's because he can't really lose either way!).
"Look at the interest now being generated in other counties because they know they have a chance of reaching a Leinster Final," he says passionately.
Looking forward to Sunday's encounter he doesn't expect a classic as 'Meath-Dublin games never are. It will be tough football, plenty of knocks taken and given but that can be attractive too from a spectators point of view," he reasons.
As football dynasties go, the Fergusons take a lot of beating but sitting on the fence won't do for Des. "It's the obvious thing to do in my situation but my heart still lies with the Dubs," he concludes.
Taken from Hogan Stand magazine
31 May 1991
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