Hundreds of people gathered in the autumn sunshine in the south Roscommom village on Brideswell last Saturday afternoon to unveil a statue and memorial to one of the areas’ most celebrated personalities, the legendary Gerry O’Malley, whose life as a Roscommon footballer and hurler and as a top class agricultural advisor was recalled at a special event organised by a local committee set up to organise the memorial.
In the many speeches heard on the day, Gerry’s modesty and his reluctance for attention and the spotlight ,despite his achievements, were a constant theme and the respect and esteem in which he was held was obvious from the speeches and the huge attendance on the day.
Also in attendance were Gerry O Malley’s wife Mary, his sons Niall and Conor and Gerry’s grandchildren and local relatives. Local people, friends and neighbours, former team mates and opponents, TD’s Senators, local councillors, community leaders and people from all over the country joined the organising committee, GAA officials from the county, and many members from Gerry’s two local clubs Four Roads and St Brigid’s on the day.
MC for the day was Frankie Donnelly, and the special guest was well known RTE Radio commentator and life-long friend of Gerry O’Malley Brian Carthy.
Welcoming everyone to the event, the Chairman of the organising committee Charlie Finneran said that the idea for the memorial came about on the 1st of September 2016 which is Gerry O Malley’s birthday. He said that he visited Gortaganny, where the local people there had erected a memorial to Dermot Earley and he sought advice from Martin Walshe and the local committee and also from the Earley family.
Charlie also sought advice from Tom O Se who is the brother of the late Paidi O Se who was one of the organisers of his memorial in County Kerry. Then on the 5th October 2016 the first public meeting took place and a committee was set up. “We wanted to honour Gerry O’Malley in a fitting way and something he deserved and here we are today 36 meetings later” he said.
“We engaged in fund raising that was very successful and one thing I would have to say was that we had no problems when it came to raising funds. We had our own draw and we had sponsorships and other donations and grants” He paid tribute to all the people who helped with the fund raising efforts and especially to those who had passed away in the interim and the people outside the committee who also sold tickets and helped out.
He paid tribute to the O’Malley family who he said were 100% behind the idea from the start. He mentioned Gerry O Malley’s three local GAA clubs Four Roads, where he played hurling, St Patrick’s Knockcroghery where he played football in the early years, and then St Brigid’s the club set up in his local area at a later stage.
Charlie also mentioned Garry O’Malley’s work as an agriculture advisor, a job that he loved and was one of the most sought after advisors in the tillage sector in his work mainly in North Co Dublin but also before that in Roscommon, Ferbane and Gorey Co Wexford. He also paid tribute to the local councillors for their work and to Roscommon county council for their input as well. He also praised the work of sculptor Seamus Connolly.
Niall O’Mallley (son) spoke on behalf of the O’Malley family and he told the attendance that the family were “blown away” by what had been done and he thanked the local committee and everyone that had been involved. He said not a lot of people could realise how much planning was involved. He said that the memorial was in keeping with his late father’s personality. “It’s just in the right spot in the village- it’s not too prominent and it’s not hidden either” he said. “He was a very modest man and he never wanted to talk about his own exploits in the field he was far happier talking about current players and current matches” he said.
Michael Conroy, a former work colleague and friend of Gerry O’Malley spoke in detail about his work as an agriculture advisor over many decades and he said it was very important that the job he loved doing was also included in the memorial.
Chief Executive of Roscommon county council Eugene Cummins praised the local community for their work and said he was glad that the council could do their bit to help out and he praised the work of Majella Hunt and Diarmuid Mac Donnacha in that regard.
Secretary of Roscommon County GAA board Brian Carroll told the crowd that he had become a personal friend of the late Gerry O’Malley as a young guard posted to North Co Dublin. “I visited him many times and called to him most weeks. We had great chats about matches over the years and his power of recall was amazing about incidents and matches and dates etc. He had a huge passion for Roscommon, for Four Roads and St Brigid’s and he never lost it even to his dying day. He is certainly one of the greatest Roscommon people I ever met” he said. He also recalled that Gerry gave him a county senior winners’ medal from 1959 won with St Brigid’s. “When you pass on you can give it someone else he told me” he said.
Special guest Brian Carthy spoke of his great friendship with what he called “a special man”. He said Gerry O’Malley was an “icon” of Gaelic Games and a man of huge faith. “He said to me a few days before he died “Brian I am ready to cross the Jordan” he said. “He was a giant on the hurling and football field but he was a modest and unassuming man who never forgot his roots” he said
He said that Gerry would have been so proud that the people from his local village would have come together to honour him. “He did not like attention or the limelight but it is only right that he is honoured here today because he was very proud of where he came from”
Brian Carthy recalled his travels around the country over many years to matches and said that Gerry had a kind word for everyone he met young and old. He said that even though he suffered ill health for the last couple of years of his life he showed remarkable resilience courage and a strong faith though those difficult times. He said that Gerry O’Malley loved his family and was proud of his sons and his grandchildren.
He recalled the day that his beloved St Brigid’s club won the All Ireland title in 2013 in Croke Park. “I don’t think I ever saw Gerry O’Malley as excited as he was that day. The club brought him into the dressing room after the match and the respect that he was shown by the club that day is something that they should be very proud of” he said
Brian Carthy concluded by telling the attendance that it was a huge honour to be asked to preside at the unveiling of the memorial and statue and he praised the work of the local committee who brought the project to fruition.
(Article for Roscommon People)