Joe McDonagh RIP

Joe McDonagh RIP

It is with immense regret and deep sadness that the club mark the passing of Joe McDonagh, Former Barna Player, All-Star, All Ireland winner and GAA President.

A common feature that accompanies success on the GAA field is the homecoming to village or county on what is traditionally the Monday evening following a major triumph. On one such Monday evening in late spring of 1996, Barna had reason to be the centre of such a celebration and a significant celebration it was; Joe McDonagh, a member and former player of our club had been elected Uachtarán CLG at the Annual Congress in London. In the 112 year history of the association to that point, only one other Galway man had ever held the title previously, Peter Kelly had served as President in the late 19th century. Joe’s election was truly a historic moment for himself, his family, the county and our club. The celebration itself which was in the old 12 Pins has been recalled by many over the past few days. Bernie Conneely was Club Chairperson at the time, Johnny Flaherty secretary and Paddy Friel treasurer.

Not that it came as a surprise to anyone that Joe came to hold the position; he had contested the position in 1993 and surprised many of the pundits by coming a close second to Jack Boothman. How remarkable that fate would see both men go to their eternal reward in short space of one another.

It’s not often that a top class player having won the highest of accolades makes the transition to top class administrator yet there was almost an inevitability about Joe’s election such was his obvious oratory and leadership skills combined with his passion for the association and his great personality.

Joe played football for Barna during a crucial time for the club in the late 1980’s, the highlight of which was being part of the team that won a junior title that saw the club promoted to the Intermediate Ranks. While he was better known for his hurling ability he had previously played underage football for Galway and Sigerson cup football with UCG.

Joe’s term as GAA President coincided with a golden era for the club, ten years after being promoted to Intermediate level, the club won promotion to the Senior ranks in a team which included Joe’s son Eoin who in 1997 had been part of the club team that had won the Minor B County Championship.

Indeed Joe had always been there on the many occasions when juvenile club teams including Eoin were playing and enjoying success, always there to help out, provide advice and encouragement along the way. It was inspiring for all the young players at the time, knowing that an All Ireland winner and a man held in such high esteem by so many at a national level was there watching and supporting you.

Despite his busy schedule as President, Joe was a constant at club games and events during this period. The fact that the club had among our membership, the President of the Association was often cited by team mentors and coaching as a point of motivation prior to taking the field in big games.

Joe also taught many young Barna players during his time as a teacher in St Enda’s college; here he also encouraged many a reluctant and a few enthusiastic hurlers to take up the game for the college. Many of these went on to become the pioneers for the then newly formed Barna-Furbo Hurling club. He was heard to say that while the initial days of that club would be challenging, perseverance would see that club being successful. How right he was.

In hearing Joe speak locally on occasions about his association with Barna, he often recalled the dedication of the club men he got to know when he first came to Barna, he spoke of senior officers, senior in position and senior in age taking the field when a club team were short of some players. He recognised in this the essence of club; that good club people, when called on, would do whatever it took for the sake of the club.

Joe gave his life to the betterment of all aspects of the GAA, he was committed, whole hearted and passionate about the association, believing strongly in the role of the association as a force for good in communities and the country. He served Club, County and Country proudly and selflessly. Ní bheidh a leitheid ann arís.

Do a bhean Peig, a mhac Eoin agus a chlann ar fad, tugaimid comhbhrόn an chumann. Suaimhneas síoraí duit a Joe

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