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02nd Feb 2024

Tony Scullion’s story about a pair of Derry socks will make the hairs on your neck stand up

Lee Costello

“You may as well have give me a million pound.”

Oakleaf legend Tony Scullion was the latest star on TG4’s Laochra Gael series, and amidst the stories of All-Irelands, and The Troubles, there was a powerful tale about a pair of Derry socks.

We often hear about the pride of playing for your county, wearing that jersey, representing your community and crossing that white line on the big days in front of thousands of people.

However, we also hear about the huge commitment, the falling outs, the torturous training, demanding lifestyle, the public scrutiny, and you sometimes wonder – why would you even bother?

If you are a teacher, labourer, accountant, plumber or whatever, surely the last thing you need on top of a full time job, is the papers slandering you, and fans shurling abuse from the stands when you are sacrificing your free time for the entertainment for others.

Then you meet someone like Scullion – one of the most enthusiastic, authentic and genuine people you will ever be fortunate enough to meet, and after five minutes of talking to him, you would be ready to put your body on the line for your county.

This Laochra Gael episode was packed with powerful stories about the struggles of growing up with little money, living through The Troubles in the north, winning an All-Ireland and facing adversity in the process, but one story about a pair of Derry socks stands out.

The fierce corner back was preparing to make his debut for the county minor Derry team in the ’80s and even now when he tells the story, the Ballinscreen clubman is just bursting with pride.

“It was the first round of the championship – I’ll mind it until the day I die. It was vs Armagh in Bellaghy,” Scullion recalled.

“We went into the changing rooms, there was a bag of socks, there was a bag of togs, and then there was jerseys numbered one to maybe 25. I went in eventually for the last pair of socks, and the last pair of togs.

“I noticed when I proceeded to put them on that there was holes in the heels of the socks, but I said ‘what the hell, I didn’t give a dam’ – I had a pair of Derry socks on me, I had a pair of Derry togs on me, and then waiting on the team to be called out I was as proud as punch. I was happy.

“The next thing the team is called out, and Tony Scullion is called out at number four. Well you may as well have give me a million pound. It was unbelievable.

“Everyone was on their way out, and I was going out last and next thing Jim McGuigan shouts ‘Ya boy ya’ – he didn’t know my name, I said ‘What’s wrong?’ He said ‘you can’t go out in them socks.’

I said ‘Naw I’m alright’ because I was worried the game would be started by the time I went out. He said ‘No, no, come back, come back’ and and the next thing he went into another bag and got me a spanking new pair of Derry socks.

“I had to get the boots off, the new socks on, as quick as I could, and out I went. I played corner back, and I played a right old game.”

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