Cormac O’Leary

County Board chairman delivers graveside oration
By John Barry (Kerryman Newspaper)

KERRY GAA Board chairman, Sean Walsh, delivered the graveside oration at the funeral of one of Kerry’s best-known sporting personalities, Cormac O’Leary, of Moyvane, on in the New Cemetery, Galebridge, on Monday afternoon.

In a moving tribute, Mr Walsh, who is from Moyvane, described Mr O’Leary as an extraordinary man and he focussed on the many and varied aspects of his life, especially his association with sport.

The full text of his oration is as follows:-

“We are committing to the soil of Moyvane the mortal remains of an extraordinary man. We in the GAA, both at local level in the Moyvane club and at county level, have lost one of our most illustrious lights and the staunchest and most loyal of supporters.

“The very kernel of his personal contribution to GAA affairs and activities from the very outset of his involvement in the GAA was a fierce loyalty to Moyvane club couched by an even greater and more all-consuming love for Kerry and the overall welfare and success of Kerry football.

“Cormac was not bred, born or reared in Moyvane, yet nobody represented the essence of Moyvane with more spirit and enthusiasm than he did for over half a century.

“Cormac was born in Gneeveguilla almost 77 years ago and arrived in Moyvane in 1941 in pursuit of his career as a primary teacher in the parish. Little did the people of Moyvane realise what the future held in store.

“Some strange chemistry produced a fusion of minds and spirits that caused him to cast his anchor permanently here. His voyage was over, for he had found his `Promised Land.’

“His life here was a fruitful relationship for Cormac and Moyvane. The son of Gneeveguilla flowered and flourished in what proved to be fertile soil for his eagerness, enthusiasm and leadership.

“He played our football, sang our songs, composed songs for us, absorbed our culture, became immersed in our folklore, agonised in our sorrows, rejoiced in our celebrations, taught our children and worked tirelessly in all our causes. He was the model of a dedicated parishioner.

“Having been persuaded to throw in his lot with the local team and faced, as he was, with the enormous difficulties relative to travel in maintaining his links with his native Gneeveguilla, he proceeded to establish himself over a very extended period as one of the pillars of the then Moyvane team.

“In the middle fifties, he took up his duties as Principal in Knockanure, transferring from Moyvane, and around this time also he became chairman of Moyvane club. During his chairmanship, Moyvane football flourished as never before.

“Many of the older players of that era here present today will attest to the fact that it was the inspirational leadership qualities of Cormac O’Leary that led to the “Golden Era” in the 60’s for the Moyvane team.

“By 1969, Cormac’s attention were being focused on another aspect of the GAA in Moyvane, the development of the Moyvane GAA pitch. It was to this end that he became chairman of the first Moyvane Carnival Committee.

“It is a measure of the success of Cormac and his committee that, after three years, sufficient funds were realised to complete the work proposed. It was a proud boost of Cormac’s that Moyvane GAA pitch was the first in the county outside of Fitzgerald Stadium and Austin Stack Park to have a covered stand for patrons in 1972.

“Of course, another aspect of Cormac’s many-sided contribution to Moyvane GAA has to be mentioned here-his peerless skill as a ballad maker. It is probably true to say that Moyvane have as good a collection of ballads, celebrating on-the-field success, as any club in Ireland.

“Cormac was the main architect of this and, moreover, his ballads were always introduced with exceptional renderings by himself in his very fine melodious voice, heard from Donegal to Dunquin.

“As he became less active locally with his retirement as Principal of Moyvane School in 1982, and with the gradual decline in All-Ireland returns by Kerry, towards the end of the 80’s he became a leading light in the Kerry Supporters Club and drafted for them their constitution, which is a model for the rest of the country to this day.

“Last year’s All-Ireland senior win, in the light of his involvement and loyalty, was sweet indeed to Cormac and was his 51st All-Ireland senior football final attending.

“In outlining his involvement in Gaelic activities, let us not forget the Cormac’s other sporting activities and pursuits. He was a greyhound owner and breeder who had considerable and continuing success in that field. He put through his hands an English Derby winner, a Welsh Derby winner and an Irish Oaks winner, with probably The Grand Canal and Lady Devine the best known. He also got tremendous joy out of his own brood bitch, `Glenmoy Lily.’

“Cormac was also proud of the fact that he was asked by the government to be a member of Bord na gCon, where he argued tirelessly on behalf of owners and breeders.

“He was also chairman of the Kerry Greyhound Owners and Breeders Association. The huge attendance at his removal of friends and acquaintances from coursing and track from as far away as Belfast said it all.

“In his younger days, Cormac was also a boxer of note and won the Golden Glove Final in Dublin. You were always in danger of receiving the same right hook in many of Cormac’s graphic descriptions of how that final was won.

“He was also proud of the fact that he got a trial for the Irish boxing team, which ended, as he recounted many times, with his waking up on the canvass after being knocked out to find the ceiling of the National Stadium rising and falling above him.

“His enlivening presence among us will be missed and sorely missed, most of all by Ena, Marie and Noeleen, his sons-in-law and grandchildren, sisters and brother.

“Our heartfelt sympathies go out to them on the great loss of a dedicated husband, father and family man.

“Football and hurling venues throughout the country, as well as track meetings and various well-known hostelries, will see him no more. The respected figure among sportsmen and educationalists may be departed from us, but the memories will linger on.

“Legends have a life of their own. The legend of Cormac is his fitting legacy for the people of Moyvane.

“I will leave the last words to Sigerson Clifford from his poem, `Kerry’s footballers’
“Plough and Spade and Seineboat shaped for them the deeds they were to do, Street and school and mountain heard their victory cry, Now their memories arch like rainbows o’er the meadows of the mind, The Alive who live for ever, and the Dead who will never die.”
“Cormac, may the soil rest lightly on your kind and gentle heart. Go raibh maith agaibh go léir.”