17 July 2020 No Comments by The Northern Standard

Jack Charlton’s status as ‘Honorary Irishman’ was cited frequently during the outpouring of tearful tribute engendered by news of his passing last weekend. But the former Republic of Ireland soccer manager and World Cup winner as a player for England in 1966, the man who masterminded the maiden odysseys of the Boys in Green and their legion of supporters to the European Championships and the World Cup, the conjuror-in-chief of sainted memories for a generation of the nation, could also lay claim to the title of ‘Honorary Monaghanman’ – thanks in large part to his association with the former Town of Monaghan Co-op, for whose Champion Milk product he was an indefatigable marketing ambassador. In the following tribute, former CEO of Town of Monaghan VINCENT GILHAWLEY recalls how this memorable bond was forged and shares his personal memories of the times Big Jack spent in Monaghan…

It was the Summer of 1966 when, as a 15-year-old boy growing up in rural Sligo, I first “encountered” the legend-tobe, Jack Charlton. Little did I know then that, some 25 years later, I would get to actually meet him and work with him. I can still vividly recall that Summer as the first time international football entered my world. While I kept an eye on the travails of Sligo Rovers, Gaelic football was the major sporting show in rural Ireland and, in our parish of Skreen & Dromard, we had one of the alltime greats of GAA, Mickey Kearins.

His exploits for both St Pat’s (our local club) and the Sligo county team dominated most sporting discussions. Televisions were very rare at that time in rural Ireland, with the “wireless” still the main news communicator. However, our close neighbour had recently returned from working in “the States” and had purchased a black and white TV. His timing was perfect, with his purchase coinciding with the World Cup tournament in England. Myself and my brother spent a large part of that Summer in Farrell’s kitchen watching the tournament unfold, culminating with England’s historic victory over West Germany in the final at Wembley. How well all those games are still embedded in my memory is best illustrated by my ability to today being able to name that winning England team. Jack Charlton, to me, was….

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