"The Great Tom Langan"  (1921 - 1974)   Gaelic footballer
The Ballad of Tom Langan

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                                  Biography of Thomas Langan (1921-1974)

Tom Langan was named on the Irish Independent/An Post Football Team of the Millennium as the greatest full-forward in the history of Gaelic football.  He was also named at full-forward in the '84 Team of the Century.  He was one of the best-known personalities in Gaelic football.  A brilliant scorer of goals, he took on the best defences and usually came out on top.  He won two All Ireland Senior medals, two Railway Cup medals, National League awards and all the other honours the game had to offer.

Born in Ballymachugh, Ballycastle, Tom attended Kilbride National School.  From his earliest years he was very interested in football and spent all of his spare time playing with his brother Johnny and local children.  He joined his local club and played his first game of the Championship in 1939 when Ballycastle beat Ballina in the final.  The following year, 1940, he played minor for Mayo and in 1943 he made his debut for Mayo Senior team playing at centre forward.  It was not until the Semi-Final of 1950 against Armagh that he first played full-forward for the county.

                         Tom Langan's All-Ireland medal for 1950  (by kind permission of his sister, Tess)

He played in his first All-Ireland SFC final in 1948 when Mayo lost to Cavan by a solitary point in an eight-goal thriller.  In the 1950 Semi-Final, Tom displayed his skill by scoring two goals against Armagh and Mayo went on to win the All Ireland final in which they beat Louth by two points.  In the 1951 Semi-Final against Kerry, Mayo were four points down entering injury time.  Langan, who was playing at left-half forward, was switched to full forward on Paddy Bawn Brosnan.  The ball was passed to him and while still in mid-air he punched the ball into the net. Mayo went on to force a draw and won the replay.  Mayo retained their title with a five-point final victory over Meath.

                   Tom Langan Park in Ballycastle was opened in his honour in 1984

In the wake of the 1950 Final, in which Mayo defeated Louth, a report of the game in the 'Western People' read "Peter Solan, Tom Langan and Mulderrig fought to the bitter end.  They were opportunists and fighters and had to be all that to get the scores they did.  Again, Langan was the hero of the hour and, though not on the scoring list, he worked for many of the scores.  To a man who also worked with Flanagan to keep the name of Mayo in Connacht football, Langan is indeed worthy of any honour that can be bestowed on him".   He represented his province with distinction and helped Connacht defeat Munster in the 1951 Railway Cup Final.  He retired from county football in 1956, his last game for Mayo was against Galway in the Championship of 1956.

Tom Langan joined the Garda Siochana in 1944.  He served at Fitzgibbon Street Station and at the time of his death, on the eve of his 53rd birthday, was a detective garda attached to the Bridewell Station in Dublin.  Today his memory lives on.  On September 16th 1984, the Tom Langan Park, Ballycastle, was officially opened by the then President-elect of the G.A.A. Dr. M. Loftus.
                                                                                                                                          by Maeve (née Golden) Dunne
The Irish stamp that honours Tom Langan as a member of the "Team of the Millenium"
Tom Langan's Ancestry
County Mayo's team that won the All Ireland SFC final in 1950 and 1951 at Croke Park.
Tom Langan, acclaimed as "hero of the hour", is third from the right in the back row.
Mayo 1946, Tom Langan is sixth from right in back row
Mayo 1951, Tom Langan is seventh from left in back row
Mayo 1954, Tom Langan is second from right in back row
Connacht 1953, Tom Langan is second white shirt from right in front row
Connacht 1954, Tom Langan is second from right in back row

  A summary of Tom Langan's Garda career record

  An Garda Siochana:     Reg No. 9400E
  Date of Birth:         23.09.1921
  Date of Appointment:   07.06.1944
  Height:                5 feet 11¾  inches
  Home Address:          Ballymacue, Ballycastle, Co. Mayo
  Religion:              Roman Catholic
  Former Occupation:     Farmer
  Recommended by:
  Military Service:      L.D.F. (13.07.1941 - 02.06.1944)
  Date of Marriage:
  STATION                DIVISION              DATE
    Fitzgibbon Street    Dublin Metropolitan   13.11.1944
    Mountjoy                                   01.12.1959
    Bridewell                                  21.12.1959
  Monetary Awards:       1946 - 1970           Good Police Duty
  Date of Discharge:     22.09.1974            Death in Service
  Total Service:         30 years 108 days     Exemplary Service
  Date of Death:         22.09.1974

                            courtesy of the Garda Museum, Dublin

Family perspectives on Tom Langan
As a young girl, Tess vividly remembers her teenage brother Tom Langan demonstrating the trick of swinging a pail of water over his head without spilling any.  When Tom insisted that Tess tried it herself, she managed to get drenched, which she later learned was the purpose of the trick!  Tess also recalls Tom spending most of his spare time as a youth kicking stones and footballs around, rather than going to help his father with the farm work.

Tom was working in Dublin as a Garda dectective from 1944 and so wasn't able to visit Ballycastle as often.  However, the distance did not diminish his kindness and generosity towards his youngest sister Tess and her family.  He would send them presents, which included a Hohner accordion for the family, and black lace-up shoes for Colette and Christina.

Cousin Owen Heffernan recalls that when Tom Langan saw his son in a pram with a doll, he immediately removed the doll and gave the child a football to play with, and then proceeded to lecture Owen on appropriate toys for a baby boy.

Luke Kelly (1940-1984) was a founding member of the Dubliners folk group, and a friend of Tom Langan.  On occasions after Luke had been out drinking, the bartender would ring Tom to come and collect his friend Luke, to make sure he got home safely.

Tess will never forget the many homeless people who lined streets as an impromptu 'Guard of Honour' at her brother's funeral in 1974.  They did this out of respect for Garda Langan, because in his professional capacity as a Garda, Tom Langan had always treated them with respect and consideration.

                                                                              by Christina Golden (Tom's niece), March 2012

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Mayo v Louth 1950 All-Ireland SFC Final, Highlights (youtube video)

Mayo v Meath 1951 All-Ireland SFC Final, Highlights (youtube video)

Look Back at the 1951 All Ireland Football Final (youtube video)