August 09, 1991
The Minstrel Boy
He is an individual playing with a team', said a Meath colleague.
'To be honest, I never know myself what I am going to do next', said David Beggy.
A breath of fresh air to Scottish rugby, wrote an Edinburgh journalist.
Isn't he just gorgeous: said the mother, supposedly collecting his autograph for her teenage daughter.
For huge numbers of Meath's loyal followers. 'Jinksy' Beggy is the man. The bright smiling face of Meath football. There is a rare ability among footballers and hurlers which surfaces once or twice in a generation. It is difficult to define. Christy Ring, James McCartan, Jimmy Barry-Murphy and Pat "Red" Collier had it. David Beggy has it. They could/can generate what can best be described as a loud anticipating buzz in the stands and on the terraces. With Ring, the crowd anticipated a goal, with McCartan, they knew a score or a free would be conceded, with Barry-Murphy, they could rest assured that the ball would be used to Cork's maximum advantage, with Collier the tackle or charge would be confidently shipped before the attack was set in motion; with Beggy, NOBODY KNOWS. Least of all, himself, or his colleagues. The "buzz" has been growing for five years now and is likely to increase as autumn beckons.
In another existence, Jinksy Beggy could have been a Derby winner or perhaps a medieval entertainer at some Royal court. In the life he lives, he is a superb athlete and a consistent winner. He will be 25 on September 8th, just one week before the All-lreland Final. Laois and Roscommon permitting, he will postpone his party for seven days and celebrate this particular milestone by winning his third All-Ireland medal against Derry or Down. A third All-lreland medal? For Jinksy Beggy? The guitar playing, "craic" loving, cigarette smoking, happy-go-lucky adventurer of the Meath team. The rugby player with an international dream. Where did he come from and how valuable is he to the Royal County's continuing success story?
When the glory days eventually come to an end some scribe will put pen to paper and contend that it all began with Sean Boylan's appointment as manager. Others will say it all began when the Dunboyneman was given (won) the right to choose his own selectors. But Leinster Championship success proved elusive until 1986, when four players made their championship debuts against Carlow in Dr. Cullen Park. The quartet comprised of Terry Ferguson, Liam Harnan, Brian Stafford and David Beggy was the one without an underage pedigree. From a rugby playing background, he decided to "mess around" with Gaelic football in the early Summer of 1985 In the following autumn he was at centre-field for Navan O'Mahoney's, along with Joe Cassells, when they shocked the favourites, Skryne, in the County Final. They have not been eliminated from the championship on the field of play since. On June 1st. 1986, the Walterstown club opened their new dressing rooms and pitch with Monaghan providing the opposition. The programme team did not include Beggy, nor was his name among the eleven substitutes. But there he was, running greenly at the uncompromising Farney defence.
He held his place for the game against Carlow and scored a great goal as Meath stared out on their memorable odyssey. At the end of July they faced the holders, Dublin, in the Leinster Final. The hype commenced. According to the media, Meath's young winner had never been at a game in Croke Park previously, Sure, he'd attended a rock concert there, but a football match never. The assertion wasn't entirely true but it made good reading/listening and it had no effect on its subject. He wriggled here, darted there, feinted one way, then the other and generally caused panic in the opposition defence as the Leinster title returned to Meath after a sixteen year absence. Most of the players became instant heroes. Some, like Joe Cassells, Mick Lyons, Colm O'Rourke and Gerry Mclntee had been heroes for several years. Beggy was "instant". But Kerry, somewhat fortuitously, overcame the Meath challenge and went on to take the Sam Maguire Cup for the last time.
There was to be no mistake in 1987. Beggy intercepted a loose Cork pass, threaded the ball to O'Rourke and Meath were back in the game, which they had showed little sign of winning. Photographs, interviews, celebrations. 'Jinksy' was in the middle of it all.
Teenagers, children and their mothers too, flocked around him for his autograph. He always, always obliged. A second championship medal with Navan O'Mahoney's followed and the carnival continued until Christmas. And then Jinksy Beggy became an All-Star. He was just 21. The following year was to prove even more rewarding. His first National League medal and the retention of the Sam Maguire Cup, both won after replays. It was Beggy's gutsy pursuit of a 'lost cause' ball which earned Meath the replay against Cork, and he won his third championship with O'Mahoney's shortly afterwards.
In 1989 Dublin wrenched the Leinster title back from Lyons-less Meath and David headed for Scotland, to take up employment. There were many who believed that for many of the heroes of '87 and '88, the end of the road had been reached. Having added another county medal to his collection in the Autumn of '88, he commuted from Scotland for the closing stages of the National Football League. The seeds of revival were sown in springtime victories over Mayo, Donegal, Cork and, in the final, Down. David was back to his best, He could and should have scored a bagful of goals against Mayo, rescued Meath. With two late goals against Donegal at Clones and netted the winner against Down.
In Meath's opening Leinster Championship encounter against Longford at Pairc Tailteann he destroyed the Longford defence and had his second All Star before high summer had been reached. However, Meath's insipid performance against Cork in the All-lreland Final ensured that the Sam Maguire Cup stayed in Leeside for a second year. 'Jinksy' returned from Scotland to help his club retain the County Championship but the burden of travelling from Scotland was proving too heavy and he decided to opt out of the National League campaign.
To retain his level of fitness David decided to play some rugby with the Currie club, outside Edinburgh. It wasn't long before he earned a first team place, on a first division team. The rave reviews followed. As did rumours of a place on the "Exiles" team. Noted Scottish internationals heaped praise on the flying full-back. Further rumours of representative selection abounded. In May, he was selected for Leinster squad training which commences shortly. He had impressed all and sundry with his performances for the Wolfhounds in the famed "Melrose Sevens" Tournament. But his priority is to help Meath to win the All-lreland. After that, who knows? The thought of playing for Ireland at Landsdowne Road and Murrayfield is attractive to 'Jinksy'. The thought of winning a third All-Ireland medal with Meath is even more attractive, at the moment. There is little doubt that in the aftermath of Meath's championship efforts, successful or otherwise, he will give the rugby a real "go". It is likely that he will sign up with one of Dublin's top clubs in what would be considered a career move. And next summer, who knows?
Taken from Hogan Stand
9th August 1991
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