Obituary: Eamonn Meagher was a true great

The late Eamonn Meagher.
Ballinamuck and Drumlish people who knew Eamonn Meagher were deeply saddened by the news of his recent passing.

Ballinamuck and Drumlish people who knew Eamonn Meagher were deeply saddened by the news of his recent passing.

Those who didn’t know him listened and learned why the man is widely regarded as one of Longford’s “true greats”. Many from Eamonn’s native parish travelled to his funeral mass in Galway to pay their last respects to a gentleman, family man and sportsman.

There they mingled with the large local attendance and heard many accounts of Eamonn’s popularity in his adopted county. It is, without doubt, as a Gaelic footballer that Eamonn’s name is cherished around North Longford but certainly his family and friends will remember him as a “true great” on a social and personal level.

Eamonn was born in Ballinamuck in 1932; the first of nine children to Arnold and May Meagher. The family moved to Drumlish in 1935.

He attended Gaigue National School and St. Mel’s College and then joined The Munster and Leinster Bank, now AIB. He worked mostly in Dublin with shorter spells in Manorhamilton, Youghal and Abbeyleix before being posted to Galway in 1968 where he rose to the position of Regional Manager. After retiring from the bank he became secretary/manager of Galway Bay Golf and Country Club for a number of years.

Eamonn married Elma Hurley in 1957 and together they had four children. The family suffered a terrible tragedy in 1996 when their beloved Elma lost her life in a car crash. The devastation they all felt was eased only by the arrival of the grandchildren whom he adored.

Eamonn’s talents as a Gaelic footballer first came to prominence while a student at St. Mel’s in the late 1940s .

He was a member of the Mel’s team that won the Leinster title in ’51. This team was captained by his brother Arnold. In that Croke Park encounter his emerging footballing gifts were displayed. A few months later he won a Longford senior championship with his club, then known as Young Irelands.

He also played on the county team that same year and captained it the following year. It was about this time that he started work in Dublin where he played with the Westerns and Clann na Gael.

His performances with these clubs didn’t go unnoticed and soon he was invited to throw in his lot with the Dublin County outfit. Eamonn declined and remained faithful to his home team.

Slight in stature, Eamonn might appear poorly equipped to survive the robust nature of the game at that time.

However, his judgement, anticipation and agility served him well and allowed him to become one of the best half- backs of his day. His left footed accurately- placed clearances were a treat to behold. He kept himself very fit and often would play a club match in Dublin on a Sunday morning and travel to play for his county later that same day. He played also at left half- back for a number of years for Leinster. Eamonn’s last game was the 1966 county final when he played with four of his brothers for Éire óg against Granard. He was greatly honoured to be chosen in his favourite position on the Longford Millennium team.

He received many accolades in the National Press. In a report on a championship match against Louth in Croke Park, Paraic Purcell in the Irish Press on 16/05/1955 wrote, “The Longford team has far and away the best footballer afield in flying Eamonn Meagher whose high catches, long kicks and general efficiency showed up all too plainly the shortcomings of other twenty-nine players. Longford may feel disappointed at the defeat of their footballers by Louth, but who could really feel depressed about the future of a county that can produce such a grand footballer as Eamonn Meagher?”

Another report on the same match by M. V. Cogley in the Independent said “Meagher’s display merits more than a passing reference. It shone with the distinctive brilliance of a pure diamond among paste.

Keen, forceful, scrupulously clean, he was never beaten in a duel for possession, was absolutely master of his area and unleashed left-footed clearances that turned desperate defence into attacks that failed through no fault of his. When Meagher was in action it was championship football of the highest quality”.