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Roscommon’s 11 All Star Footballers

Roscommon Football All Stars- To 2016- 11 have been honoured.

1. Mickey Freyne: A marvellous player, strong as an ox and a great football brain. Was a mighty man to get a goal and one of our greatest forwards.
2. Dermot Earley (2 All Stars): There is probably not a lot more we can say about Dermot. What a player he was. The heart and soul of Roscommon football for almost 20 years.
3. Pat Lindsay: Teak tough and uncompromising Pat was one of the fittest full backs Roscommon ever produced. He trained harder than anyone and always gave 100%. A magnificent team player.
4. Harry Keegan: Roscommon’s most decorated player with 3 All Star awards. The prince of corner backs. I have never seen a better one in any era or on any team. What a marvellous player.
5. Tom Heneghan: His contribution to Roscommon football was enormous. He was a superb player and was a very tough nut. Many corner forwards throughout the country will attest to his ‘stickability’ Way ahead of his time as a team manager.
6. Danny Murray: The winner of two awards and a fantastic player with a massive engine. He was a brilliant attacking half back who was a lovely player to watch in full flow.
7. Gerry Connellan: Won is award in 1980 after a phenomenal season and he remained on the Roscommon team for many years. A tough hardy operator he was a very close marker with loads of football in him. A Kilmore man to the very last.
8. Paul Earley: He had everything you needed in a full-forward. Strength power pace and an eye for goal. I always got the impression that he could have achieved even more than he did. But still a mighty Roscommon player.
9. Tony McManus: In my humble opinion the best Roscommon forward of the past 40 years. Massive football ability and a fierce will to win. The only wonder is that he only got one award. Should have got at least two more.
10. Enon Gavin: An All Star winner at 19 he played for Roscommon for many years and was a superb corner back keeping many of the top attackers in the game at bay throughout his career.
11. Francie Grehan: Another man with a fierce passion for Roscommon football and a will to win like few others. But loads of football ability too and richly deserved his award in 2001.
There were others who were unlucky to lose out. John Newton was a magnificent midfielder for so many years and Frankie Dolan was surely close a few times. John ‘Jigger’ O’Connor was also a man who certainly deserved one and Pat Doorey was also in the frame a number of times. Fergal O’Donnell was also someone who would have deserved an award as well. A great leader for many years.

(Article from The Roscommon People)

Gerry O’Malley Honoured In Brideswell

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)

Tom Petty RIP- One Of The Greats

I suppose in the wake of the senseless slaughter that happened in Las Vegas it is probably not very important to note that about the very same time as the horror was unfolding in Vegas that one of the true greats of Rock music Tom Petty, was passing away at a hospital in LA with heart failure.
Tom Petty was one of my all time favourites and a rock great. I thought that my chance to see him live had passed but only a couple of years ago myself and a friend travelled to see him live at the O2 (as it was at the time) in Dublin and he certainly did not disappoint. It was one of the best live gigs I was ever at.
In a lot of cases these older rockers lose a lot of their charisma and enthusiasm as they get older. Not in this case as Tom and his fantastic band The Heartbreakers belted out hit after hit. It was a truly magical night.
Tom Petty may not have been in the same league as the musical giants like Michael Jackson, Bowie or Prince, but such was his status among his fellow musicians that he, Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison and George Harisson formed The Travelling Wilbury’s in the late 80’s, and if it wasn’t for the death of Roy Orbison they could have been one of the biggest groups in history. They made two brilliant albums before the band broke up.
He was the ultimate cool dude and his music will definitely stand the test of time. “Running Down a Dream, Learning to Fly, Free Fallin, The Last DJ and many great songs with the Travelling Wilbury’s will be his legacy after a 40 year career and an eventful life too.
I am so glad that I got to see him live and he joins the other musical greats who have passed away in recent years. In my book he is up there with the greatest there has been.
May He Rest in Peace.

(Article for The Roscommon People)

The Importance Of The GAA Growing Up

My first memory of the GAA was being brought to underage training and matches by my late father. We trained in St Coman’s Park or sometimes in the CBS field. We changed into our football gear inside the wall or under the ditch. We spent hours and hours every week playing and going to matches. It was a fantastic time.
We had an U-12 street league that captured the imagination of the whole town at the time. There were hundreds of people at those games and the excitement was palpable. Winning one of those games was akin to winning the Sam Maguire Cup. It’s wehre our passion for Gaelic Football was nurtured.
My father, Seamus senior, was also a team mentor so we travelled around the county to various club games and learned about the rivalries with the other clubs. Then on Sunday’s we would be off to see Roscommon playing. Put simply, the GAA was our life growing up in Roscommon town.
As Roscommon Gaels prepare to compete in Sunday’s county senior final, I wonder what my father would have made out of the modern day GAA. He was chairman of the Roscommon Gaels club when he passed away at ridiculously young age of 45. He had so much more to give. All I know for certain is that he would be a very proud man to see the club that he helped to get on the road so vibrant and competing at the top level today.
Indeed it wasn’t all plain sailing over the years, as a former secretary, PRO, team manager etc myself, there were times when we struggled to keep the GAA show on the road in the county town. It was only for the massive work of a few people that kept the club afloat at one stage. But people like Jimmy Menton kept the flag flying against the odds. There were others too, but I have never came across anyone with the passion that Jimmy had for his beloved Gaels club. Now there are plenty of people prepared to help out with the club and it is great to see.
Name checking people who have been integral parts of the Gaels club over the years is always a dangerous thing to do but there are many people with whom I worked alongside when I was involved who kept the club going when there was little or no interest in it and a lot of those people are still around and they will be delighted that The Gaels are back challenging for the Fahey Cup.
Looking back, The Gaels were a fantastic team in the 1970’s, and an All Ireland final appearance in 1976 was the highlight. To lose that match to a St Vincent’s team who were one of the strongest ever seen at club level was certainly no disgrace.
But as the 70’s came to a close Clann na nGael came with a team that were to go on and dominate Roscommon football for 15 years. But at the start of that era Roscommon Gels could always cause a shock.Our rivalry with Clann was intense to say the least. I especially remember great wins in 1978 and 1980 against the odds (both against Clann). I wasn’t much of a footballer myself but both my brothers Frank and Declan featured prominently over the years winning medals at all levels with the club, and indeed Declan helps out with The Gaels senior team today.
It is incredible to report that The Gaels did not appear in a county senior final between 1980 and 1992 (when we were beaten by Strokestown after a replay) and it took until 1994 to win the title again. But after that we had some wonderful players (including today’s senior manager Liam McNeill) who went on to win five titles in a decade. Indeed that Gaels team were unluckly not to win a Connacht club title. But The Gaels fell back again, and this Sunday the club are back in a final after a 13 year wait. It’s a long time, too long really.
But it is a different Gaels club now. There are plenty of people helping out in the back round with underage teams at all levels. New facilities are being developed at Lisnamult and there are great people running the show. It is a far cry from the days when there would be three or four of us at meetings trying to keep things going.
As The Gaels players take the field on Sunday I will be thinking about all the people who have worked so hard for the club over many years and who have slipped into the shadows but who are very proud Gaels men and women. This county final day is just as much for them as for anyone else. Then there are all those who were great Gaels people and who have passed away in recent years, most of whom have been laid to rest in St Coman’s cemetery. Just across the boundary wall at Dr Hyde Park, my father will do his utmost to see the purple and gold over the line on Sunday. If Brigid’s win, then the Gaels will wish them the best of luck. May the best horse jump the ditch.

(Article written for The Roscommon People)

Murder Of Two Young Gardai In 1980 Recalled In Loughglynn

The brutal murder of two young Gardai John Morley and Henry Beirne, at Shannon’s Cross near Loughglynn on the 7th July 1980 was one of the most shocking incidents that has happened in County Roscommon for many decades. A memorial to the two men was unveiled at Shannon’s Cross on Friday 28th July.

A book entitled Our Fallen Heroes was also launched. Here is my contribution to that book.

It may be a long time ago, but I recall the events of the week beginning the 7th July 1980 like they happened yesterday. That Monday meant that there was only six days to go to the Connacht senior football final between Roscommon and Mayo at Dr Hyde Park. Roscommon had a fantastic team at that time and were going for four in a row of provincial titles.
It was a long time before mobile phones, or Twitter or Facebook but yet it did not take long for the news to break that there has been a terrible tragedy at Shannon’s Cross after a bank raid in Ballaghaderreen earlier in the day. Not only that, but a good friend John Morley had lost his life alongside a young Garda from Mayo called Henry Byrne in that deadly shootout.
As the details unfolded, the horror of it all was revealed. Many friends of mine who were Gardai stationed in Roscommon Town attended at the scene that day and were shocked to the core. John Morley had lived close to my home house in Roscommon town when he was stationed there and although he has moved to Castlerea prior to his untimely death, he was a lovely man and a marvellous larger than life character. I didn’t know Henry Byrne personally but he was a young man with a young family and it was a terrible and profoundly shocking tragedy. The county and the country were stunned at what had happened. The fact that I knew so many of the people involved personally made it even more real.
The details of what happened on that awful day are explained in more detail elsewhere but I vividly remember that the country went into shock at the brutal deaths of the two young Gardai. I also remember the funeral cortege led by An Taoiseach Charlie Haughey, proceeding down the town of Roscommon after the removals of the two men with thousands of people lining the route.
The big question in sporting circles that week was, would the Connacht final go ahead the following Sunday? It was decided that it would, and when Roscommon arrived to play Roscommon at Dr Hyde Park there were worries in some Roscommon quarters that the loss of one of Mayo’s greatest ever players, John Morley, would push the Mayo men on to an unexpected victory.
However Roscommon burst from the blocks from the throw in and went on to play some of the best football seen from a Roscommon team in the championship in living memory. The 23,000 people at the match saw the potent Roscommon attack reveal it’s full array of talent and the home side produced an awesome display of attacking football which was probably their greatest display in that particular era.
There was only four minutes on the clock and already Roscommon had four points on the board from Mick Finneran, Eamon McManus, and John ‘Jigger” O’Connor (2). In the 12th minute Tony McManus crashed home a super goal to make it 1-5 to 0-1 and by half-time Roscommon led by 1-10 to 0-5.
The rout continued in the second half as Eamon and Tony McManus, ‘Jigger’ O’Connor and Mick Finneran ran riot in tghe Roscommon attack. Not to be out done, goalkeeper Gay Sheeran did his bit too saving a Jimmy Burke penalty with 12 minutes to go.
In view of the many heavy defeats suffered at the hands of Mayo over the years this was a superb display from Roscommon who were the undisputed kings of Connacht football at that time. To have won four Connacht titles in a row was a marvellous achievement and leading the team from midfield was the irrepressible Dermot Earley who was winning his fifth (and last) Connacht senior medal that day.
Against the backdrop of the terrible tragedy on that fateful Monday Roscommon footballers brought back the smile to the faces of the people of the county on that Sunday 13th July. It was not a great day or week for Mayo having lost two heroes but it is a week that few of us who were around at the time will ever forget. The final score was Roscommon 3-13 Mayo 0-8.
Roscommon: G Sheeran; H Keegan, P Lindsay, G Connellan; G Fitzmaurice, T Donnellan, D Murray; D Earley (0-1), S Hayden; J O’Connor (1-3), J O Gara (0-1), A Dooley; M Finneran (1-5), T McManus (1-1), E McManus (0-2.).

Note: A word of thanks to the organising committee for asking me to contribute to this project, which is an honour, and I wish both families well.

Roscommon Team Are A Credit To Themselves, The Manager And Their Clubs

On Monday evening the 10th July having had 24 hours to digest one of the great Roscommon Connacht final performances there was immense satisfaction among Roscommon GAA fans at what they had seen in Pearse Stadium. I happened to be in the company of a lot of the Roscommon players who were on their way to the races and I got a fair bit of good humoured slagging about predicting a Galway win in the previous weeks’ Roscommon People!
I met many great Roscommon GAA people on Monday who were so proud of what Kevin McStay and his players had achieved. We are all in agreement that this was one of the greatest Connacht final wins we had seen. In the past such a mighty win would have been the cue for an over the top celebration like we had in 2001 but what really struck me was that while this group of players were absolutely thrilled to have won, there was no big chat, no boasting, no roaring and shouting. They just chatted among themselves, happy with what they had achieved. They are a marvellous bunch of young lads who are very grounded and we are very lucky to have them.
So how much can this young team achieve? Much more would be my view but we must ensure that the current team management is left in place. It was be absolute madness to do anything else now and we are masters at making huge cock ups in Roscommon in that regard. I know that the players on the Roscommon panel are very happy with their lot and with everything that has gone on behind the scenes this year. That was very evident with the level of performance we saw on Sunday last. These lads are so modest and easy going. Speaking to them after the match and on Monday they are a credit to their families, their clubs and their county.
Kevin McStay set two goals this year. To get to the Connacht final was one and to reach the last eight was the second and he and his players achieved both on Sunday. The goals will now have to be reset. Let’s see who we get in the quarter-finals (I actually hope that it is Mayo) and take it from there. Last Sunday’s display will give the team enormous confidence and belief in themselves.
Promotion from Division Two is a realistic aim and to retain the Connacht title must be another for 2018. But that’s in the future. For the moment let us celebrate a brilliant win and a great day for Roscommon GAA. As long as Roscommon keep winning it doesn’t really matter whether the local GAA hacks are right or wrong in fact it’s totally irrelevant. I would be happy to be wrong every week if we keep on winning.
Two things more, firstly Donegal legend Martin McHugh sat beside me on Sunday in the press box. He remarked that Cian Connolly’s goal was one of the best he had ever seen in a major championship game and secondly Enda Smith’s performance on Sunday reminded me of Dermot Earley at his very best and I can think of no higher praise than that on both fronts. It was a day that Roscommon GAA fans shall never forget. (Roscommon People Article)

GAA Should Not Have Given Broadcast Rights To Sky Sports

We are in the middle of the championship season and the big matches are now starting to come thick and fast on a weekly basis, but the GAA have made a huge mistake by awarding the exclusive TV rights to Sky TV to cover some of these games. The viewing figures back up just how wrong the GAA have been to deny hundreds of thousands of people the chance to see some of their best players and teams in action.

Last Sunday there were substantially less than 10,000 people watching the Limerick v Clare match in the Munster SFC which was exclusively on Sky. Earlier in the day RTE showed the Down v Armagh Ulster SFC game and there were over 300,000 viewers. This weekend one of the most eagerly anticipated games of the summer, the clash of Wexford and Kilkenny in the Leinster SHC will take place on Saturday night. It is a crying shame that only a few thousand people will get to see the drama unfold.

It’s easy for the GAA top brass to say that people can go to a neighbour or to the nearest pub but there are people who may have no interest in going to the pub or maybe they are elderly or infirm and not able to go to a neighbour or friend. The GAA say that they wanted to spread Gaelic Games to as wide an audience as possible. It’s a very laudable ambition but this is not the way to do it. The figures are showing that there is little or no interest in the UK in hurling and even less interest in football.

RTE do a good job covering GAA but they need realistic competition. Surely the GAA could have gone to TV3 and reached an agreement with them for alternative TV coverage so everyone could share in the games. I watched Sky last Saturday evening trying to fill an hours’ coverage in the run up to the Dublin v Carlow game and it was painful stuff to watch. I have great time for Peter Canavan, James Horan and Jimmy McGuinness who are the football analysts and their hurling experts are also top class. But the facts of the matter are that this an elitist braodcast and available to a very small number of people and the GAA should never have agreed to this contract in the first place.

I am also of the opinion that the facility to broadcast games on national radio should not have been handed to RTE on an exclusive basis. Yes, they do a good job but Newstalk were doing well over the past few years and were a breath of fresh air and a welcome alternative to the national broadcaster.

As someone who loves Gaelic Games it is so wrong that many hundreds of thousands of people are denied a chance to see some of our biggest games of the summer in football and hurling and The GAA have made a serious mistake by awarding the TV rights to these matches to Sky TV. Newstalk also deserve another rattle at the radio coverage. I have met so many GAA people who are very angry about this situation in recent weeks and months and it is time they copped on and included people instead of excluding them.

Obscene Money In Sport At The Top Level Never Debated

I absolutely love sport. It has been a part of my life as long as I can remember. My father was a huge GAA man and that’s where it started. We went to matches every Sunday- and sometimes Saturdays and Sundays. I played loads too but I wasn’t very good. But I loved it. Even though the GAA was number one, there were other sports too. I saw Soccer on TV and watching the likes of George Best, Bobby Charlton and Dennis Law I began my interest in Manchester United. We also watched Horse Racing and Golf when it was on as well.

To this day I love sport- and probably even more now. The unpredictability of it, the excitement and enjoyment that it brings to so many people, the effort and sacrifice that people in all sports make to get to the top is incredible and without it there would be a huge void in my life. But one thing that is annoying me more and more in recent years is the vulgar and totally obscene amounts of money that are involved in most sports at the top level. What’s more frustrating is that there is never any meaningful comment or debate about the morality of it on any TV, or Radio programmes, or in the newspapers or indeed online either.

The sport that has probably stuck closest to it’s core values is the GAA, but don’t get me wrong, there is huge money involved there too, but the fact remains that most of the people involved in the GAA are there in a voluntary capacity. Of course there are a large number of well paid full time GAA people and there are plenty of well paid managers and hangers-on involved with some teams, but it has not been affected as badly as some other sports.

In Tennis, Golf, Soccer, Formula One, and in the American sports like American Football, Baseball, Basketball and Ice Hockey the sums of money swirling around are mind blowing. There is never any debate about it at all. Take Golf for example. Last week Rory McIlroy signed a 100 million dollar deal with Taylor Made to supply him with clubs and balls over the next 10 years. This money will be going to a man who is already reckoned to be worth well over 100 million. In fact it is reckoned that before he is finished his career he will comfortably pass the one billion mark.

I looked at the US PGA list of career money earners on their tour this week. The top earner is Tiger Woods at 110 million. The 100th placed player on that list is Graham McDowell at 15.2 million! Remember too that this is before any of these people pick up more millions for various endorsements.

We heard in recent weeks that Zlatan Ibrahimovic was paid 350,000 sterling per week over the past season. Not alone that, he was paid 147,000 sterling for every goal he scored. Jose Murihno the Manchester United manager is paid 480,000 Sterling per week yet he spent the whole season whinging and complaining- and I am a Manchester United fan. Paul Pogba’s agent was allegedly paid 41 million sterling for his part in the transfer of Pogba to United.

What I’d like to know is why is the obscenity of what these people are paid never properly discussed or debated in the mainstream media? Is it that they are all in it together and they are all getting a piece of the action- however small?

Surely these figures (and I could quote many many more) point to a situation where it morally wrong to hand any one person so much wealth and do it again and again and again. I know it goes on in business and in the commercial world too, but I am writing this as a sports fan and what they might be able to do to stop the madness. I could trot out statistics all day long like 29,000 children under the age if five dying of hunger every single day, but it’s a total waste of time.

I have no problems with high achievers in whatever field they are in getting well paid for what they do. But surely there must be a limit beyond which it is unacceptable. At least let’s debate it. So come on RTE, BBC, Sky Sports, Newstalk and others. Lets’s put it out there for discussion and hear what these people have to say, how they can justify it and how they feel about it. It may not achieve anything- but at least let’s have the debate.

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