Sunday, January 31, 2016

Update 31st January

‘Beginning of the end for Club football?’

Above was the dramatic headline of a letter published this week in the Roscommon Herald, sport’s section page 16. It is a long and thoughtful letter, written by Padraic Mitchell a former GAA player and ongoing enthusiast. It should be of interest to a lot of people in the GAA community especially players. The sentiments have been around for quite a while now but the problem is that while the problems are well known and many people in the hierarchy of the GAA have waffled on about them NOTHING changes and the issues continue. Not alone do they continue but they are getting worse.
 Padraic structures his letter on two main points. The first deals with the length of the playing season resulting in the lack of a reasonable closed season for recovery with one season almost morphing into the next. Padraic suggests that this results in the welfare of the individual players being seriously compromised as a consequence.
His second point has not been spoken of much though it is emerging as players begin to take personal responsibility for their lifestyle and the demands that playing GAA games have for them and their families.
“The average age of club players is dropping yearly as a consequence". Players can only stay with the demands for so long. “Club players are no longer willing to dedicate themselves to their club for ten months of the year. They have grown disillusioned with the club fixture calendar. Work and family commitments are now being prioritised. …..Players are finding it increasingly difficult to justify playing for their clubs’ ” taking into account the games erratic timetable, demanding training schedules et al.  
I imagine that this extends to playing for county teams also. This was evidenced in Longford where quite a number of players, according to reports, declined to become part of the county panels at the beginning of the year, whenever that was! The status and glamour of playing for the county is being diminished by the demands involved.
The reality is that at inter- county level the efforts put in by Donegal to win their All-Ireland in 2012 were incredible for an amateur group. That could only be sustained for a short term, perhaps not more than the one year. The efforts being put in by Dublin seem extraordinary and this is being replicated perhaps by say Mayo and Kerry. The thing with those counties is that there is a possibility of winning an All-Ireland, so it seems justified. The preparations of many counties, whose chance of winning an All-Ireland are slim, are also demanding without any real prospect of the ultimate reward. It is hard to credit how players in such counties give so much commitment in those situations. I’ve strayed from Padraic’s theme there.
The problems of ‘burn-out’, overlapping competitions, demands on a particular cohort of top young players, the role of competing managers, the confusion that develops with the fixture dates even if a club fixture’ master plan’ is put in place and other issues make the sacrifices enormous. Such players have almost to forfeit their entire social lives and are tied to the tyranny of training and ‘preparation’. It is remarkable how many still answer the call and find it irresistible. 
 A huge issue that does not get the consideration it deserves is the treatment of ‘ordinary’ club players who are caught in the sandwich of demands for the ‘top’ players which disrupts schedules which become erratic at best and often wander into the late winter. I don’t know a lot about the GPA but I believe the GPA only represents County Players if it represents anyone. It does not seem to me to have made inroads into the core issues involving players playing the game. 
Anyway Padraic Mitchell feels that players will have the ultimate say and difficult as it is they will choose as a number are in fact doing. I haven’t been able to use the word enjoy/enjoyment in this somewhat unwieldly essay. If you can try and catch up with Padraic Mitchell’s letter.  

Kris Kristofferson

On Wednesday night I attended a concert in the Olympia Theatre, Dublin, featuring Kris Kristofferson. It is difficult to credit that Kris is 79 years of age. He has had a long and crowded career with many achievements. While some people have reservations about his singing voice there is universal acceptance that he is responsible for many great songs. He has written and recorded such classics as “Me and Bobby McGee,"  "For the Good Times,"  "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down" and "Help Me Make It through the Night." 
On Wednesday night he came on stage at 8 and without introductions he must have sang/sung over thirty songs until he concluded at about 9.30. This was an ’added’ third night concert after the first two night sold out. The proceeds from this night were being donated to ‘ChildLine’. 
While he began a little creaky he came through after a few songs and while I was not familiar with many of the songs the set was interspersed with very familiar classic numbers. Obviously much of the crowd were more familiar with the non- classics than I was as could be gleaned from the receptions for them. It was a very rewarding experience and I have now been to concerts of a most of those I regard in that genre, Bob Dylan, Tom Paxton, Gordon Lightfoot, Ralph McTell and in a different category Leonard Cohen and Niall Young. A singer I missed when she was in Dublin about eighteen months ago was Joan Baez.   

  "Sunday Morning Coming Down"

Well I woke up Sunday mornin', with no way to hold my head that didn't hurt
 And the beer I had for breakfast wasn't bad, so I had one more, for dessert
 Then I fumbled through my closet, for my clothes and found my cleanest dirty shirt
 And I shaved my face and combed my hair and, stumbled down the stairs to meet the day

 I'd smoked my brain the night before, on cigarettes and songs that I'd been pickin'
 But I lit my first and watched a small kid cussin' at a can, that he was kickin'
 Then I crossed the empty street and caught the Sunday smell of someone fryin' chicken
 And it took me back to somethin', that I'd lost somehow somewhere along the way

 On the Sunday morning sidewalks, wishin' Lord, that I was stoned
 'Cause there's something in a Sunday, makes a body feel alone
 And there's nothin' short of dyin', half as lonesome as the sound
 On the sleepin' city side walks, Sunday mornin' comin' down

 In the park I saw a daddy, with a laughing little girl who he was swingin'
 And I stopped beside a Sunday school and listened to the song that they were singin'
 Then I headed back for home and somewhere far away a lonely bell was ringin'
 And it echoed through the canyons like the disappearing dreams of yesterday

 On the Sunday morning sidewalks, wishin' Lord, that I was stoned
 'Cause there's something in a Sunday, makes a body feel alone
 And there's nothin' short of dyin', half as lonesome as the sound
 On the sleepin' city side walks, Sunday mornin' comin' down 

I imagine that for a number of people who have experienced the good Saturday night and faced the consequences on the Sunday morning many of the sentiments in this Kristofferson song will be recognisable especially when one has to face the reality of being alone in the unforgiving near empty streets of the Sunday city.    

Best wishes to Marc

We wish Marc Egan all the best on The Voice of Ireland Blind Auditions this Sunday evening, RTE One TV. The show extends from 6.30 to 8. 
Meeting Former Players
I am always pleased to meet former footballers who are back in Boyle for family events, regrettably most notably at funerals. Recently I met Seamie Downes who was a member of the Boyle junior team which won the county championship in 1964. He was home from England for the funeral of his brother Eamon. Also there was Paraic Downes, nephew of Eamon, who was part of a very good under-age team in the mid- nineties and I remember him scoring a cracking goal in a county under 16 semi-final versus Padraig Pearse's in Oran. Alas, despite his goal, we lost that one narrowly. In the last week at the funeral of Paddy Joe O’Gara I met, for the first time, T.P. Mullaney who played for Boyle in the early fifties and for Roscommon circa 1956. 
Social Issues
I see a Sudanese ‘doctor’ being sanctioned by the medical supervisory authorities after a pretty long hearing.  He had served in a number of hospitals where his deficiencies were noted but continued to get employed at further hospitals. Why there was no hospital to hospital consultation on his questionable abilities is hard to comprehend.
I remember a person I was with in London once in a situation where he was looking for some entitlement and getting really questioned asking his interrogator; 
“Why don’t you ask me my blood group?”
Interrogator; “Why would I do that?” 
To which my colleague responded; “Well you’ve asked me everything else”. 

Foster Care Issue

I see an emerging case of the abuse of vulnerable woman who was placed in a foster home from 1989 until 2009 when issues with the particular home had been red flagged in the mid ‘90s’. It is suggested that there has been a HSE cover up on the case. So it is a question of watch this space.
One of the consistent sentiments expressed after the exposure of terrible situations is that “we must learn from this case and make sure that it doesn’t happen again”. But the reality is that they DO happen again and again and…

The Banking Enquiry

A headline in today’s Sat. Independent suggests that the Crash in this country a few years ago was “More Calamity and Chaos than Conspiracy”.  Perhaps. But could we ever again field a team as inept as Neary, the Financial regulator; Hurley, Central Bank Governor plus the CEOs and Boards of the Banks, the financial commentator wizards (many of whom are still pontificating) and the singing politicians aided by the ‘soft landing’ advocates and our ‘friends’ in Europe who nailed us to the cross.
All the ducks certainly came in a row then and there. 
Now we must ensure that we learn from it all to ensure that it never happens again. 
Can you believe that?

‘Spotlight’ Film to See

The film reviews that I have tripped across, suggests that a film not to miss is the current release ‘Spotlight’ which deals with paedophilia clergy in Boston. The investigative content of the film has been compared with one of my favourite films and one of the great films of that genre ‘All the President’s Men’. ‘Spotlight’ is on at least until Thursday, Feb. the 4th at 6 and 9. 
Another fine film being shown this week is ‘Room’ which has so much of an Irish connection.
Brooklyn is showing on Sunday at 4 while Star Wars is on Sunday also at 12.
It is good to support Carrick Cineplex especially after their travails with the flooding in the run-up to Christmas.



Friday, January 22, 2016

Update 22nd January

The Athlone Boundary Review
Huge opposition has mobilised regarding the proposal to take a swathe of South Roscommon and adjoin it to Athlone and County Westmeath. The Roscommon Herald and all local media has given comprehensive coverage to this issue so it would be unnecessary for me to try and emulate that or repeat what I said last week. The Roscommon Herald has also dedicated this week’s Editorial to the cause and also an impressive submission (page 45) which a person has just to sign and forward to the address on top of the submission.
One of the most passionate members of anti- movement is Canon Liam Devine who is from my own place of Fuerty. So if by any chance you missed his views try and catch up with them. It is interesting that the Bishop of Elphin, Bishop Kevin Doran has also come out very publicly in support of the ‘Save Roscommon’ campaign. He provided one of the sound bites of the night at the major meeting in Monksland last Monday week when saying ‘Can you imagine Canon Devine doing a P.R. column for Westmeath football? ‘The alignment of clergy, local press and a well organised public is like a throwback to old historic campaigns of the late 1800s’ when local newspaper editors/proprietors were hugely influential on national and local issues. When the clergy added their considerable influence they became a formidable alliance. Allied to this today are a well organised GAA movement and an articulate public whose view will not easily be brushed aside.
One group I would like to see engaged also are those Roscommon natives who are overseas. I imagine many of you would be as upset as the rest of us by the current proposal but now with modern communications you can have a voice as actor Chris O’Dowd has done. Submissions, which can take whatever form I imagine, can be emailed to; or posted to Aras An Chontae, Mount St., Mullingar, Co. Westmeath to arrive by Wednesday January 27th before 5pm. 
For further information on the issue you could log on to Athlone Boundary Review.

On a walk on Wednesday towards the Forest Park, between the two arches and just inside the first one I came across a dumped litter bag which had been scavenged by birds or animals thus spreading the litter and making it very visible. I do not know if there is a particular season that is more prone to littering than others but roadside litter is more obvious at this time of year. The adjoining roadside grass cover is sparse and not yet in growth to camouflage the said litter.

I really cannot understand how people can just dump a bag or bags of litter from their cars onto public roadsides. Boyle Tidy Towns Committee organises a roadside verges clean-up but that is usually much later in the spring for safety purposes. By coincidence I got a copy of the Tuam Herald in this morning’s post and the front page was dedicated to the same theme with a picture of litter and the piece by Tom Gilmore beginning; “THE SCOURGE of illegal dumping continues in rural areas…”
 It is a pretty unsavoury and vexing experience to have to organise oneself to clear up someone else’s mess. But as the saying goes ‘it is better to light a candle than curse the dark’.

National Newspaper Coverage ... Lack Of
I was surprised and very disappointed by the lack of coverage of the death and funeral of Roscommon sporting legend Gerry O’Malley. The local papers did the honours as they might be expected to do, also Jim Carney did him justice in the Tuam Herald and there was coverage on Shannonside and some references on national radio. But I certainly did not see any references to Gerry especially on the weekend's Saturday and Sunday Independent which I fine combed. Despite the fine-combing perhaps I missed some coverage or maybe it is just delayed. I know it wouldn’t bother Gerry much in any event but it was wrong in my eyes.

‘Uno duce, una voce’.
Then came the death of P. J. Mara last week and the newspapers were falling over themselves with effusive coverage. P.J. had become famous, in a way, as a ‘spin doctor’ particularly associated with the Taoiseach of the day Charlie Haughey. On the Sunday Independent, apart from the weather, P.J.’s death and funeral was the only subject covered on page four, with one headline relaying that “Fianna Fail’s old guard bid farewell to PJ Mara”. And what a motley crew they were with Ray Burke and some other good fellows pictured. On page 18 of the same paper, regarded columnist Liam Collins gushed ‘PJ Mara was a renaissance man with a sharp line in flippant retorts’. I don’t know if linking ‘Renaissance man’ with ‘flippant retorts’ is apt but having been in the epicentre of ‘The Renaissance’,  Florence and the province of Tuscany, last September, the ‘renaissance man’ was a big compliment. Perhaps Collins had in mind P.J. Mara as a character in the Florentine Machiavelli’s classic political handbook ‘The Prince’ a book I imagine he read, possibly borrowing it from the Prince himself, Charles Haughey.

On the home page of realboyle on Wednesday there were a number of references to poverty, national and international. It is an amazing conundrum that in the wealthiest of countries severe poverty continues to exist. Sean has certainly juxta positioned poverty with the banal desires of the haves while the picture of the children scavenging is a regular one and it seems it will be forever so. Instead of directing the great wealth and resources of the developed world towards alleviating poverty and disease so much is siphoned off to prop up huge military war machines for questionable wars which create long-term turmoil with few if any positive outcomes.
There is a testing television series on TG4 called Fiorsceal which regularly deals with these social inequality situations. Years ago in Washington the proud capital of a hugely wealthy country it was recommended to me not to stray too far from the core, which we constantly see on television, or I would be going into dangerous deprived areas.
Even in this wealthy country it seems that we cannot house the homeless, give dignified hospital care to many who are ill, the two basic issues in a menu of other concerns. 

Dodd’s Bar and the introduction of colour television
The death of Eileen Dodd brought to my mind the decade of the seventies when I first came to Boyle and having encountered a number of formidable ladies who managed bars then. I stayed for a time over Devine Conlon’s in St. Patrick’s Street now The Patrick’s Well.  Aggie Devine Conlon was the proprietor and a pleasant lady she was, very much old school. She busied herself with the bar singing or humming as she went. On one side was the bar with a grocery on the opposite side and mass cards in between. It was warmed by a pot-bellied stove where the chief stoker was Paddy McGarry. Aggie was a fine singer and a mainstay of Boyle Church choir for years. She had been to the United States in her youth and met John McCormack there. She was connected to Thomas J. Devine (maybe even his daughter) who contested the famous 1917 Bye-Election won by Count Plunkett.
On the Crescent were Grehan’s and The Ceili House Bar. Kathleen Dwyer Morris ran The Ceili House Bar and it was a mecca for traditional music and a hub during the many Fleadhs, National, provincial and County that came to the town from the late fifties until the late seventies. The traditional musicians who passed through that bar were a ‘who's who’ of that generation.
Music was well provided for in Boyle in those years with Grehan’s, now Bruno’s Restaurant, being a magnet for what might be broadly called the folk music genre. Bridie Grehan was the boss here and the Grehan sisters became very well known as a musical group. Christy Moore was a regular in Grehan’s and got a number of great songs there from John Reilly who is commemorated with a plaque on the wall outside.

The bar I frequented mostly after arriving in Boyle first was Dodd’s. Many bars develop a club-like atmosphere and clientele and often have very dedicated customer base. It was a very popular bar and the introduction of a colour television around 1968 added to its customer base. That might seem unusual today but it was one of the first colour televisions in the west of Ireland. It was installed by Tom Murray who told me a chap called Gallagher from Ballaghaderreen had been instrumental with himself in erecting the necessary aerial. It towered over the Crescent almost of Dublin Spire proportions. The arrival of the colour television, as Tom remembered it, coincided with the Wimbledon tennis tournament and was a real draw. Ironically BBC used transmit a snooker tournament called Pot Black through a non-colour channel.  Gerry O’Dowd remembers the television for the 1970 World Soccer Cup in which the great Brazilian team were to the fore.

Among the early customers I remember was a Flanagan man from Limerick who worked in Callan’s and was connected to John Flanagan who won Olympic medals for the U.S in 1900, 1904 and 1908. Another man was Vet  Halliday, I think, who was a very clever man and was regularly engrossed in his Times crossword. He was buried in Boyle. There were a number of people working in the forestry development around Boyle who popped in also such as Mick Donnelly, Joe Lynch-two Kerry men-Pat Roche and Pat Kearney. Mick Murphy a teacher in the local vocational school would regale us with stories of cricket and Christy Ring in his fine Cork accent. Then there was our regular group of Billy Feely, Joey Mahon, Dan Kennedy, John Keenehan and for a time a bank official from Meath named Peter McCarthy. Gerry O’Dowd was the barman for a time and a fine barman he was.

It was a politically affiliated house and I remember an enthusiastic incursion one night when a group of dedicated Fine Gaelers arrived after the nomination of Gerry Dodd to run for…. I forget was it a local election or a Dail shot?
Eileen ran a good shop and we had good times there in good company. The numbers declined but the bar has remained basically the same and the introduction of singing and music nights has added to its appeal as a quintessential ‘traditional’ Irish pub.                 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Update 14th January

Blog Jan. 13th 2016.


A formal Public Notice was published 1st December 2015, inviting submissions with regard to the review. Submissions are to be received by 5pm Wednesday 27th of January 2016 and can be made:
•By hard copy to:  Áras An Chontae, Mount Street, Mullingar, Co. Westmeath N91 FH4N
•By e-mail to:

**It is curious that submissions are to be submitted to Westmeath County Council which one would have thought as being a ‘vested interest’ in the process. 

The huge issue of the moment in County Roscommon is the review of the boundary in South Roscommon between Athlone, County Westmeath and County Roscommon. There is a proposal and fear that a large swathe of an area adjacent to Athlone but historically part of Roscommon County will be shorn from Roscommon and added to Athlone and County Westmeath. This will involve a population shift of around 7,000 people (10% of the county’s population), 30 square kilometres and huge financial issues for Roscommon County Council because of the rates and incomes from the urban and developed area of Monksland and surrounding zones. This area provides more than one third of all the commercial rates in this county. In natural geographic and historic circumstances it might have been felt that the natural border would be the bridge of Athlone but this has not been the case since the late 1800s’. Now it is proposed to extend the boundary of Athlone and Westmeath in a major way at the expense of Roscommon County and its people.

This is not just a huge issue for the people of those areas it a huge issue for all of us who see ourselves as steadfastly Roscommon people. So while we in North Roscommon may feel it is a kind of semi-distant debate it will affect us and the generations who follow us. It is also a case that we must show our solidarity with our friends and fellow county people in South Roscommon. Not alone is it being imposed on them against their wishes it is being imposed on all of us Roscommon people home and abroad. It will do irreparable damage to the dynamic of the county on many levels. One of those areas is in GAA where the catchment area of the two great clubs Clann na Gael and St. Brigid’s will be sliced in two with potential erosion of players  to Westmeath over time.

One of the organisers of the ‘SAVE ROSCOMMON’ campaign is Ger Ahern of St. Brigid’s Club. He said on Monday night that “Minister Kelly is trying to force through this separation of the county without any regard for the wishes of the people”. Saying that; “There would be no such thing as a referendum of the wishes of the people as the Government  Minister was vesting the total decision- making powers in himself which is not in accordance to the principles of natural justice” . Indeed the proposal will do the chances of present Government candidates major damage if there is not a credible u turn. This would not be the first time this has happened.
 I wonder who are the vested interests and what motivates this proposed carve up?        

The whole issue is covered in great detail in this week’s Roscommon Herald with its editorial on page 46 and on pages 49 to 51 inclusive. And I imagine the Roscommon People will follow in the same vein this evening.  It behoves all of us to familiarise ourselves with what is happening, with great haste I might add. There was a major meeting outlining opposition to the proposal on Monday night last in Athlone which I had hoped to attend but was flu bound. I was in the area on Friday last at the burial of a Roscommon hero  Gerry O’Malley and I can imagine how he would have felt if he was aware of how his beloved county was being treated.

Indeed in this historic year of 2016 in which the nation remembers those who struck to enable our country to be ruled and administered fairly by their own people, for their own people, how cruelly ironic it is that the wishes of the people of that area, and might I insist the people of all Roscommon county as a whole, are being so contemptuously disregarded. The proposal “Beggars belief that it is being imposed” declared the Roscommon CEO Eugene Cummins at the meeting on Monday night.
Will Roscommon County as whole rise to the challenge with which it is being presented invoking the spirit of a previous age and save the integrity of our county?

Let your opinion be heard by submission-as above- and wherever you feel it can be an influence.  
And remember this is not an issue to put on the long finger as submissions must be in by Wednesday Jan 27th.   

My Personal Memories of Gerry O’Malley

I was boy of around ten years old as I accompanied my father amongst the crowd out of St. Coman’s Park, up the town hill, after a Connacht championship game in the fifties. Just a few yards from us were two Roscommon players still in their playing gear as they made their way up to McCrann’s in The Square to ‘tog in’. I heard their whispered names circulating in the crowd. They were Eamon Donoghue and Gerry O’Malley. To think that I had seen them and Roscommon play was good enough but to be so close to two of my heroes made it a special day irrespective of the result which I cannot remember. Later I was to learn that O’Malley and the elegant, laconic O’Donoghue were marvellous friends.

At school the next day I had a present of a story to tell my classmates. I had been within touching distance of Gerry O’Malley. How little I could have known that I would have the honour later of being one of his friends.

Young people today have a universal landscape in which to identify and associate with their ‘heroes’. In the fifties it was a narrower spectrum. Gaelic football was the seam from which we mined our heroes and at the pinnacle was O’Malley. Through the fifties of growing from a boy to a teenager in the sixties Gerry was the heartbeat of our football lives. We followed Roscommon and Gerry in down times and then in some good times which were heightened by the contrast with the poorer times. Galway broke our hearts but we always had O’Malley. And each March we would set aside our Galway despair and as a united Connacht travel to Croke Park for the Railway Cup and applaud Purcell, Stockwell and ‘Pook’ Dillon as if they were our own. Of course we would have our Leitrim allies Packie McGarty and Cathal Flynn with Naas O’Dowd from Sligo and Mayo's Willie Casey, John Nallen and Padraig Carney. But at the heart of it all was our hero O’Malley. We walked taller because of his presence and were validated by it. Then came a very good Roscommon team in ’61 and a prized Connacht victory over Galway which was surpassed by a thrilling comeback in ’62 when O’Malley played a hero’s role. Being there was an emotional joy. It led to an All-Ireland defeat however and the ecstasy of the ‘Broken Crossbar’ victory turned to grave disappointment as the county and most of the country wished O’Malley that prized medal. But it was not to be. “It was the greatest disappointment of my sporting career” he said later. At a re-union of that ‘61/’62 team in Croke Park only  a few years ago, he said in an understated way; “ We mightn’t have been a great team but we were a GOOD team”. 

He was to get an All-Ireland Junior hurling medal in October ’65 when Roscommon defeated Warwickshire in St. Coman’s Park and we were happy to be there to witness it.

He told me recently that his last game for Roscommon was a hurling game, in ’68 if I remember correctly. He just loved hurling and that shone through when he reflected on his teenage years and his introduction to the game by Johnny Mee and Four Roads.

My adult relationship with Gerry emerged in the lead up to the county finals of Centenary Year 1984 which involved Four Roads v Padraig Pearse's in hurling and St. Brigid’s v Clan na Gael in football. The two major clubs in his life were to the fore. I was involved in the programme for those finals and had Gerry pen a piece for it. It was wonderful article reflecting on his happy memories in hurling with Four Roads and his pride in the development of his home club St. Brigid’s. We communicated pretty regularly afterwards and he attended some GAA functions in Boyle down the years. When he said once that he had not explored North Roscommon at all and had only ‘passed through Boyle going to matches with the Dublin load’, I invited him to come down and promised him the ‘grand tour’. This he and his wife Mary did in 2003 and we did the tour and visited some football colleagues from the area who were delighted to see him in their homes, Dr. Hugh Gibbons, Micheal Shivnan, Ned Moriarty and of course John Joe Nerney or just Nerney as he regularly referred to him; ‘How’s Nerney?’ He always asked smiling at some remembered devilment from the same man. He reminisced on that visit many times. He was to take me on a tour of his own area afterwards but we never got around to that just a meeting in July 2013 at the Brideswell Pattern for the dedication of O’Malley’s field beside his home. Someone else will have to show me ‘his long style field’ but it will not be the same.

He came with Mary to Boyle again in May 2010 for the opening of our new dressing rooms. He was an inspirational speaker as the old passion and optimism had never waned. As his health declined I visited Gerry in hospital and had a memorable visit with Liam Gilmartin to his home in Swords in March of ’14. Then it was to the care home in North County Dublin with Frances Kinlough daughter of his great friend Frank Kinlough of Shannonbridge and he waxed lyrical of happy times spent in Frank’s company in an area and among people who brightened his life. My last visit was on the Tuesday of Christmas week past. Though he had declined physically, his mind and memory were as keen as ever and I promised to visit him again on St. Bridget’s Day when the daffodils would be in bloom and the days lengthening. He smiled.

Gerry O’Malley had all the noble qualities a man could have, apart from his sporting prowess. He was a caring husband, father and grandfather. He was the most conscientious of workers. He was a humble man, a man of honour, a man of faith. He was a friend who had many good friends and he enriched their lives. Like all fine people his is a generous legacy especially for us in his beloved Roscommon. I cannot doubt but that, having run the race, he has now got his final due reward and is resting in peace.

Gerry O'Malley, Photographs I took at his funeral ...

photo © Tony Conboy

photo © Tony Conboy

Tomás Beades and current county player Senan Kilbride with their St. Brigid’s Club colleagues carry the remains of Gerry O’Malley to his final resting place in Cam cemetery, Bridewell on Friday January 8th. Alongside are members of the Four Roads Hurling Club for which Gerry played his hurling who were also pall bearers earlier.
photo © Tony Conboy

Tomás Beades and current county player Senan Kilbride
photo © Tony Conboy

photo © Tony Conboy

photo © Tony Conboy

Former playing colleague and life-time friend Frank Kenny, reads his final tribute to Gerry at his graveside. In the background are Noel Murray, P.J.Martin and Sean Kilbride
photo © Tony Conboy

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Gerry O'Malley R.I.P.

Roscommon’s Lion-Hearted Gerry O’Malley.

For a period of eighteen years, from 1947 to 1965, the heartbeat of Roscommon football was Gerry O’Malley. It was he who gave it hope in the latter years of the fifties and the early years of the sixties. While Roscommon had many fine players in that time the one name that echoed across the length and breathe of the Gaelic football world was that of O’Malley.

Not only did he represent his native County with distinction in both football and hurling but he was a central figure in a great Connacht team when the Railway Cup competition was a highlight of the GAA calendar. In the fifties, the five Connacht counties probably had their greatest ever individual Gaelic footballers.  Galway had Sean Purcell, Leitrim had Packie McGarty, in Sligo it was Naas O’Dowd, Mayo was spoiled for choice with Paraic Carney and Tom Langan and in Roscommon it was Gerry O’Malley. O ‘Malley played for thirteen years with Connacht winning three medals ‘51, ‘57 and ‘58 in the Golden Age of The Railway Cup.

The hope always was that O’Malley would achieve his just reward and win an All-Ireland Senior Football medal. Though he came close, being in the Final of 1962 and the Semi-finals of ’52 and ’53 and ’61 he did not achieve the ultimate accolade. He was later feted in 1984 in The Sunday Independent/Irish Nationwide Centenary team representing ‘the greatest players never to have won an All-Ireland Senior medal’. Naturally he was also selected on both the Roscommon and Connacht teams of the Century. He did win an All-Ireland medal, of which he is very proud, in 1965 when Roscommon Junior hurlers defeated Warwickshire in the Junior hurling final in St. Coman’s Park.


Gerry came from Brideswell near Athlone in South Roscommon and went to school in The Marist College, Athlone. He later progressed to UCG and UCD for his Agricultural Science studies. In University he participated in The Sigerson Cup which he regards as ‘the toughest competition I was ever involved in’. His native area is now represented by one of the county’s top GAA Clubs St. Brigid's whose emergence in the early fifties is in part due to the prowess and inspiration of O’Malley. He just missed out on the great period of Roscommon football in the forties coming on the scene in late forty seven. That ‘Polo Grounds’ year Roscommon had been beaten by Cavan in the All-Ireland Semi-Final. Perhaps the inclusion of a young O’Malley might have tipped the scales otherwise. O’Malley quickly rose to stardom and was selected on The Ireland Team of 1949 who played The Combined Universities in a popular representative game of that period. These were The All-Stars of the time. In 1961 he won the Gaelic sports writers award of Footballer of the Year.

O’Malley’s Greatest Hours:

When one defines greatness in a player it is not just the occasional great performance but a consistency over a long period laced with those exceptional performances. A large number of these performances had the sports writers reaching for the superlatives such as the Connacht Finals of ’53, ’61 and ’62. Perhaps the one most etched in the folk memory is the Connacht Final of 1962. This is aided by its linkage to a particular incident which resulted in this final becoming known as ‘The Broken Crossbar final’.

The Mayo dominance of the late forties and early fifties was broken by an O’Malley inspired Roscommon in the Connacht Final of 1952. There was a newspaper strike at the time and legend has it that such was the scepticism with the result submitted that the Radio Eireann Sports Department held back until it could be confirmed. The score read; Roscommon 3.5, Mayo 0.6.In a very good team performance the hero of the hour was O’Malley. He gave one of the greatest displays seen in a Connacht Final similar to Purcell in ’54. ‘The Western People’ of Mayo was generous in its praise of O’Malley as its report went, ‘He gave a display so outstanding that no praise of mine would give him due merit”. Four great Mayo players, Carney, Mongey, Langan and Irwin all tried their luck on him but to no avail. Roscommon were unlucky to be beaten by Meath in the All-Ireland Semi-Final. Gerry regards this as the best Roscommon team he played in with a mix of fine new players such as O’Donogue, Kelly and Batt Lynch and some great players from Roscommon’s Golden era such as Boland, Nerney and Jackson. There was similar disappointment against Armagh in ’53. The accounts of Roscommon Championship games through the remainder of the disappointing fifties are dominated by the performances of O’Malley and he is regularly referred to as ‘the great hearted’ and ‘the lion hearted’ warrior of the primrose and blue.

The Broken Crossbar Final:

The decade of the fifties is dominated by Galway. It is not until 1961 that Roscommon turned the tables on Galway in “A Gripping Affair” as The Irish Independent reported. Disappointment followed with defeat by the great Offaly team of the time. If the ’61 Connacht Final was regarded as a high point for Roscommon at the time few could have predicted that it would be surpassed by the even more dramatic ‘Broken Crossbar Final of ’62.
The Roscommon goalie, Aidan Brady swung on the bar and it broke. Galway were leading comfortably. After the necessary repairs O’Malley, from midfield, took the game by the scruff of the neck and inspired all around him. Roscommon drew level and it looked as if a remarkable draw had been salvaged but in a last surge O’Malley powered his way up-field through the heart of the Galway defence past bewildered rivals and team-mates alike, the crowd in a frenzy. An amazed Roscommon support willed him on and a shocked Galway support feared the worst. This was a painter’s picture of a sporting battlefield in slow motion. Finally the release as he passes to Don Feely who calmly makes an angle and drops the ball neatly between the uprights. The kick out and the game is over. Roscommon have come back from the death. A pandemonium of Roscommon euphoria mirrored by stunned disbelief from the Galway supporters. There is no rush to the exits as people try to absorb it all. The sports doyens did their best but realised that even their superlatives fell short. Donal Carroll (Irish Independent), “The unsurpassable Gerry O’Malley has done it again. His was a masterly exhibition” Jack Mahon in the Gaelic Weekly introduces the term “the lion-hearted O’Malley” while in The Roscommon Herald it was “the incomparable O’Malley”.

All-Ireland Final of 1962

Having overcome Cavan in the Semi-final this All-Ireland was to have been ‘O’Malley’s Final’ with the hopes of so many wishing he would finally get his just reward. Overall there was too much pressure resting on one person’s shoulders. Alas an early injury, necessitating hospitalisation, meant he was not the necessary influence and was eventually forced to retire as another great, Mick O’Connell, dominated for the victorious Kerry side. Gerry looked back on this as, “the greatest disappointment of my life”  
O’Malley was to continue until 1965 but the great new Galway side emerged as Roscommon declined.

Club Loyalty;

Gerry O’Malley served many units of the GAA with love, loyalty and commitment. His first major Club was the famed St. Patrick’s Club of Knockcroghery with Jimmy Murray and many members of the great Roscommon team of the forties. They lost the ’47 County Final to their great rivals of the time, Tarmon from outside Castlerea run by GAA President of the time, Dan O’Rourke. This was followed by victories in ’48 and ’49 over another power-house of the time, Elphin. While these victories were sweet they were submerged when his own parish of Brideswell and Kiltoom as St. Brigid’s, emerged to defeat Elphin in ’53. After losing to the same opposition in ’57 St. Brigid’s put two titles back-to-back in ’58 and ’59. A feature of these wins was that the same line-out obtained for the team in both years. His last County Final victory was in ’63. He continued to follow the fortunes of St. Brigid’s and regularly attended their games and functions. There was no one prouder than he when St. Brigid’s finally achieved the Holy Grail when winning the All-Ireland Club Championship in 2013. He was a great believer of the position of the Club as the bedrock of the GAA and was a very willing and visible inspiration to Clubs who called on him. He has lived for a long number of years in Swords in Dublin and was a regular at games in Croke Park. His retained until the end a clear memory of the detail of his long career.  


A love of Hurling:

O’Malley was an excellent hurler having been introduced to the game by his National School teacher Master O’Sullivan. He played with the Four Roads Club where his mentor was Johnny Mee. He helped them win their first title in many years at Easter 1946 for 1945. He was only a youngster then. He was a member of five further County Championship winning teams with Four Roads. He was the major figure in a good County hurling side in this period and if he was denied his All-Ireland football medal it was hurling which provided that final accolade when Roscommon defeated Warwickshire in the All-Ireland Junior Final of 1965. He was one of a few Roscommon hurlers to play Railway Cup with the Galway dominated Connacht side. In conversation his love of hurling shone through. 

It is somewhat unsatisfactory just recording the mere statistics of Gerry O’Malley’s long and illustrious career as many of his displays are intertwined with an emotive response nurtured by such games as the two Connacht Finals of ’52 and ’62 when his unquenchable spirit shone through and will never be forgotten by those privileged to have seen the lion-hearted Gerry O’Malley in full flight.