THERE is always great sadness in a club and further afield when a great club person is called to their eternal reward.
Club personnel are the bedrock of the association, those unsung heroes who are relentless in their pursuit of doing things better for the unit that they are attached to.
The past week has not been a good one on that front with the passing of Denis Owens from St Nicholas and Dick Doocey from Killeagh.
Add in the death of Cloyne’s Paddy Ring last Sunday, a nephew of the great man himself from the same village, and that further increases the sorrow of the GAA family on Leeside and beyond.
Paddy won All-Ireland medals with Cork at minor and U21 level, playing on three consecutive Cork minor teams in 1966, 1967 and 1968, winning his All-Ireland in ’67 in a team that was captained by Pat Moylan.
While still a minor in 1968 he was elevated into the U21 set-up and played a prominent role in the All-Ireland victory of that year and in 1970 too when the title was regained in a team captained by Paddy Hegarty.
To be a minor and U21 player on the county team in the same year spoke volumes for his ability.
In that same year of 1968, he was on a formidable Imokilly team that went all the way to the county final only to be beaten by an equally formidable ’Barrs team.
That was some achievement by the young Cloyne man, to get himself on to that Imokilly team, a team that contained some of the best hurlers in the county at the time.
Cloyne won a great Cork County IHC title with Paddy very prominent in 1970, a team that contained Donal Clifford, one of the greatest under-age players the county has ever produced.
He transferred to the Glen subsequently, following in the footsteps of his legendary uncle and whilst he did not win a senior title with the great Blackpool club, he made his own impact out there.
He came from a family steeped in the great traditions of Cork GAA, his late father Willie John a fine player and coach of distinction himself.
His brother Willie was a long-serving and very successful East Cork Board Divisional Secretary and subsequently, a well-respected officer of the Cork County Board and he is still heavily involved in GAA affairs.
In a message on the Cloyne GAA website last Sunday, it simply stated that Paddy Ring was one of our greatest players and it was a case of getting the ball to Paddy during his tenure in that great club jersey.
Dick Doocey was a great Killeagh club man and his passing was deeply felt in the club and beyond last weekend.
He was one of those people whose worth to a club could never be measured.
In 1967 Killeagh won their first East Cork JHC and Dick was player/coach of that team. It was the first step on the journey that today has the club competing at senior level, well established on and off the field.
They have one of the finest complexes in the county as well and Dick was a key figure in the purchase of the field back in the ’70s.
Of course, prior to all that he won a Waterford SHC with Tourin.
Killeagh has lost a great club man, his passing coming shortly after the death of another club great Sean Murphy. People of that calibre are irreplaceable.
The sorrow in St Nick’s was equally great with the passing last weekend too of Denis Owens, the club president and a club man of the highest calibre.
He served that great club with great distinction in various roles as a player and administrator through the years.
He was a Cork minor football captain in 1946 and was a selector on the fine St Nick’s side of 1965 and ’66 when the Andy Scannell Cup visited Blackpool twice and subsequently when they won the Munster Club title.
He was a Cork selector in 1967 when they lost the All-Ireland to Meath and he served the Blackpool club with distinction as a County Board delegate.
He was a former secretary of the club as well as being in the chair and was one of the most respected people in the Cork GAA family.
St Nick’s secretary, Finbarr McCarthy described him as an absolute gentleman.
“He certainly was, so well respected everywhere. He’s a huge loss to our club but first and foremost to his family. He gave fantastic service to St Nick’s and he will not be forgotten.”
Words that will certainly be echoed by many across the Cork GAA landscape.
All three of the aforementioned people were great clubmen, on and off the field. And that is what makes the association what it is today and it’s in the club where it all begins and ends.
Cork GAA is the poorer for their passing.
May they rest in peace.