Longford Leader Columnist Mattie Fox: Remembering the late, great Jimmy Reilly of Ballymore

Longford Leader


Longford Leader



Mattie Fox

Longford Leader columnist, Mattie Fox

I missed the funeral of the late, great, James Reilly of Ballymore recently.

It was a moment in time that resonated rather sadly, as the passing of one of the most colourful men, and longest serving players on the Ballymore team, was recorded.

There wasn't many who played on him who didn't remember the experience.

Better known as 'The Cooper' his reputation was widespread and consistently fearful when applied to almost any of the many full forwards who marked Jimmy Reilly who owned the No 3 jersey.

His style of play was, to put it mildly “robust”.

But Jimmy Reilly was nonetheless viewed by all of us who were involved in club teams as a man of great generosity, either side of the game.

When the game began, and until it finished, he adopted a towering presence as the Ballymore Number 3, uncompromising, unyielding, and sometimes ferocious in intensity.

All the while, he maintained an unremitting sense of humour, no matter what occurred, good or bad.

Many years ago - well over twenty at this stage - Ballymore were meeting Mullinalaghta. A local derby.

Jimmy had a great knack of making some very loud comment just at the point before the throw in, when all became silent in anticipation.

Joe Rogers of Mullinalaghta was youthful, but talented and learning. He'd been picked to play full forward where the plan was that he'd be far faster than the Cooper.

Joe was small in stature but at the time had great speed.

Just before the throw in, Joe was walking towards the Ballymore full back line when the Cooper looked up and with impeccable timing shouted at midfield…

“let them in high, we have a big full forward!”

And all whilst surveying Joe with his head cocked to one side.

I can remember many such occasions, when Jimmy always managed to say something memorable, at a time when the field was hushed.

Sean Connollys were playing Ballymore on an earlier occasion when the great Seamus Murtagh had been moved to full forward. Seamus, in his twilight years had the best days behind him, and good they were at that. Murtagh could have made any county team at the time, a really exceptional player.

Seamus had a wild and abundant head of hair, and as he walked towards the full-forward position the Cooper shouted, again just before the ball was thrown in “Let them in fast, we have a donkey needs clipping!”

Jimmy Reilly will be missed around Ballymore, and Longford, although he's effectively been absent for nigh on five years.

However, now that he's gone forever, his memory will inform conversations with football people all around Longford for an unusually long length of time.

He'd have liked that.

RIP, Jimmy.

If you enjoy reading Mattie's column, make sure you check the archives for more of his content.