BANTRY GAA Club, the town and its wider hinterland are still in mourning following the deaths of two local GAA stalwarts in recent weeks.
The sad passing of passionate GAA men Dr Denis Cotter and Terry O’Neill has rocked everyone in the locality.
Dr Cotter was stepped in the GAA Club, the Bantry Blues. He served in a number of roles for the club. He was a pivotal figure in their huge success during the 1990s.
He played for his beloved Blues. He acted as their manager, selector, chairman, doctor, historian and storyteller.
Most of all, he acted as a friend to all with the GAA club and the community. There were huge crowds at his funeral, a tribute and testament to his popularity in Bantry.
He was a legendary figure in the town and he was widely known for all his fundraising that he provided to local organisations.
Terry O’Neill, a native of Castletownbere, was a coach to numerous teams in Bantry down through the years. The GAA enthusiast was also a selector with many Cork football teams.
He most notably coached the Bantry Blues senior team to county final glory in 1998. He also served as a selector on the Cork senior football team who won the All-Ireland championship title in 2010.
Bantry Blues club chairman Pat Joe Connolly paid tribute to the huge legacies the two men left in Bantry and far beyond.
“They were great men, great characters and great GAA people. They were committed Bantry Blues club men. They were very popular and they will be sadly missed in the local community.
“The players looked up to them. They were always there for words of wisdom. Their presence alone was huge.
There is a lot of sadness in the area. They will be greatly missed,” said the club administrator.
The esteem in which both men were held in throughout West Cork and the county, was evidenced by the huge turnouts for both funerals.
Both men were afforded a guard of honour from former and present Blues players and club officials who bade their former colleagues a sad farewell.
“They got great sendoffs. People travelled from all over to be present for the two sad funerals.
“It was testament to their popularity and the great esteem in which they were held.
“All the Cork players travelled down for Terry’s funeral which was a lovely touch. He was a huge factor in their 2010 All-Ireland win.”
Dr Cotter was always a popular presence on the Blues sidelines. The proud Bantry man was a gifted medical operator whose expertise was gleefully availed off by his beloved GAA Club. Dr Cotter served the club in a variety of roles.
“He was part and parcel of the club. He played for the club.
He served as chairman and selector on many teams. He was involved with the Intermediate team who won the county in 1993. He was involved in the two senior county wins in 1995 and 1998.
“He was an important part of the great success in those few years. He was also our club doctor for many years. Whatever role he was asked to do, he was happy to help out. He was a great GAA and community man. He was like a father to all the players. He had great words of advice.
“Players could ring him at any time of the day or night and he would do his best to solve the issue. He was a great club man. He was a great servant to the club.”
Former Blues coach and Cork football selector Terry O’Neill passed away following a short illness.
The GAA enthusiast will be sorely missed in Bantry and far beyond said Pat Joe.
“He was an out-and-out GAA man. He played a huge role in our senior success in 1998. He had a great knowledge of the game and loved passing that on to all the players. He had a sharp mind and he could read a game very well.
“Terry gave his all and he always expected all the players to give the same back.
“He lived for football and he would be seen in Wolfe Tone Park at any game. He loved going to watch the Blues.”
The pinnacle of Terry’s career arguably in September 2010 when he along with Cork captain Graham Canty brought the Sam Maguire Cup to Bantry.
Thousands descended on the West Cork town to acclaim their Rebel heroes. It was a proud moment for two of Bantry’s most famous sons.
“It meant more to him than winning the lotto. He was a proud man to bring Sam home.
It was a huge moment. Everyone associated with the Bantry GAA Club were so proud of Terry and Graham’s role with the Cork seniors.
“They represented the town and the GAA with great pride.”
Terry’s two sons Damien and Shane enjoyed great success with Bantry. Damien also represented Cork with great distinction.
Terry’s grandchildren are still playing for their beloved Blues. Pat Joe revealed his great pride in the O’Neill name staying synonymous with the Blues.
“He took great pride in the role Damien and Shane played in the Blues success. His grandchildren will keep the tradition going and the O’Neill name alive.”