Written by Oakleaf County

A Man Who Enriches Us All

A Man Who Enriches Us All by Oakleaf County

There was a loud knock on the door.

And when Martin McGuinness got up from behind his desk in Stormont he was met with a huge grin from ear to ear.

“Do you want to buy a lotto for the Rossa’s?”

To the seller, although miles from home in Belfast, there only is one Rossa.

Not the outfit in Belfast or the Lough shore club from Tyrone but the south Derry club, O’Donovan Rossa, Magherafelt.

Chris the seller, is not your average salesman.

He knows his customers and they know him.

He knows the days and time they go to work, what nights they are at home and what nights they are out.

Chris shares a joke with the late Martin McGuinness

Distance is not an issue. Chris can meet you any time or any place and will have a book of tickets, pen and money bag ready.

It’s his attention to detail and years of experience that means Chris consistently outsells other club members with ease. Chris is beyond targets, he is the target.

He even makes sure to double up on sales the week before he goes on holiday to ensure the club doesn’t take a financial hit.

Chris doesn’t do it for praise or profile. He does it for the cause.

Chris is a skilled operator. He can walk into the snooker club on a Sunday night in Magherafelt and sell lotto tickets to a room full of challenging customers like Hugh Mulholland from Castledawson. He leaves smiling with his pockets rattling with pound coins.

People buy from people. People buy from Chris.

He wasn’t around to see the championship success of 78 and was too young to remember the final of 83. Regardless of the result today he will never forget the championship run of 2019. That’s not to say he doesn’t want to win.

At 37 years of age it’s been a long time coming for him and for Magherafelt. It’s as if Christmas has come early with the senior and reserve teams both in the finals.

Today is a landmark day for the club and the community and it’s only right that Chris is in the middle of it.

It’s the fruition of many years of hard work and sacrifices by players, and volunteers within the club.

It provides an opportunity to think of family and friends who have crossed the Castledwason Road from Rossa Park to Milltown.

It’s impossible to reference everyone for fear of leaving people out. This day belongs to everyone.

Chris has provided unstinting service to the club in good times and bad.

You might not see his name on the scoresheet but that doesn’t mean he isn’t needed and valued.

In his parents Mickey and Mary McSwiggan he has the ultimate backroom team.

Holidays arranged around Derry and Magherafelt matches, family events cut short because Chris was on water carrying duty for the seniors.

The tankers of diesel Mickey has used driving around the town to enable Chris to sell club lotto tickets.

If Chris isn’t fit to do the weekly collection Mickey is dispatched. No excuses accepted.

This isn’t anything new though. Chris has been doing this for over 20 years.

He has seen players and managers come and go. He has given each and every one the same service, commitment and respect.

Mickey McSwiggan and his son, Chris

He is a valued and vital part of what the club is trying to achieve.

This mutual respect extends beyond his team mates. Before the game against Coleraine in the early stages of the championship he walked over and shook hands with Sean McGoldrick the opposing team manager and wished him luck.

He didn’t just say it, he meant it. Chris gets it. The GAA isn’t the premier league. Tomorrow we still have to live beside each other.

The latest GAA marketing campaign is about belonging. The cynics and critics will see this as some sort of commercial ploy to suck people in. It’s too warm and too fuzzy for them.

Maybe, just maybe, though it does make us all stop and think about the people who make our own club unique. What they provide. How our clubs are enriched by them.

At the final whistle of the semi-final against Banagher the widest smile of all was Chris.

Standing on the pitch, two arms aloft.

Soaking up the moment and the atmosphere.

As much as everyone else on that pitch he has earned it. He deserved it.

He is an intrinsic and valued part of life at O’Donovan Rossa, Magherafelt and, in turn, the club gives him great joy.

So this afternoon in Celtic Park you will see him along the sideline with his green bib on and “Chris” on the back.

It is where Chris belongs.

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