It has long been customary for sporting heroes to be shouldered from the scenes of their great triumphs.
On Thursday, just afternoon, the remains of the late Georgie O’Callaghan were taken shoulder high through his native town to his final resting place.
Family members and former juvenile players shared the shouldering from the Church of Saints Stephen and John up Church Street and Main Street and as far as Hartnett’s Corner.
Past and Current Players
The last leg of his final journey was taken in Tangney’s Funeral Home hearse from there to Kilbanivane, his twin brother, Jamesie as passenger with undertaker Bernard Tangney.
Past and current juvenile players did his memory proud as did the people of the town and so many from all corners of the county and beyond.
Salute to a Sound Man
Sgt. John O’Mahony removed his cap in salute as the funeral cortegé moved onto Main Street. Because I hadn’t seen this done before, I asked him about its significance. “You’d do it for a sound man,” was his emotional reply.
“He was the first man to put out his hand in welcome when I arrived here first. He asked me if I was interested in sport.
“I told him I was a big GAA fan and he promised he’d change me if I was here long enough. He took me with the tour to my first cross channel soccer match and to Old Trafford for the first time.
“He had it arranged that the two dozen or more of us all had seats together. We’ll never see the likes of him again,” said Sgt. O’Mahony.
Chief celebrant at his funeral mass on that morning was his friend Fr. David Lupton – his long established UK contact for his annual tours.
Fr. Lupton was joined by Castleisland PP, Monsignor Dan O’Riordan, Fr. Seán Horgan, Fr. Noel Spring and Fr. Pat Crean-Lynch.
Georgie’s Greatest Triumph
FAI Chief Executive, John Delaney and Kerry District League Secretary, John O’Regan attended the mass as did many others associated with the game throughout the county.
Georgie’s greatest triumph lay in the years of unwavering commitment to the club he was hugely influential in setting up in 1973. And in the countless number of local youngsters he guided to manhood through involvement in sport over their formative years. It lays embedded in the data of his own community and will for generations yet to come.
It was also 1973 that he began to take tours to the Manchester area and the boys in his care saw their heroes up close as trips to Old Trafford training grounds were part and parcel of the tours.
His gift of meticulous planning saw to it that his little tourists had saved up for their annual August trips from January of each year.
Tributes were paid to Georgie from the altar during the mass and they were tinged almost equally with sadness and humour.
Fr. Lupton drew a ripple of laughter when he told of Georgie’s legendary guarding of his age.
“Even the date of birth written on the chart at the end of his bed in the hospital made him far younger that he was. It made me wonder at the real ages of the under 14s he was bringing to play our lads every year,” said Fr. Lupton.
Georgie’s Prints on New Pitch
Castleisland AFC Chairman Patrick O’Rourke put Georgie’s prints on the yet to be developed Astro Turf pitch when he said, as part of his tribute: “I am glad that Georgie was part of the team which negotiated the deal to make the development of the new pitch a reality.”
In the same breath, Mr. O’Rourke thanked John Delaney – who was seated just a handful of metres away – for the inspiring and valuable support he and the association has provided to the project.
A Tribute from Christy Leahy, Kerry District League Vice President
Christy Leahy Park in Tralee was named in honour of a Tralee man with strong Castleisland connections.
Christy Leahy knew Georgie O’Callaghan since they were children and he sent the following tribute from his near lifelong friend.
“Many people have spoken highly of Georgie O’Callaghan. All richly deserved plaudits.
I have known Georgie for many years as I first met him when I spent some of my holidays, with my aunt Maggie Deane who lived in Knockeen, Castleisland.
This was back in the days before soccer was heard of in Kerry.
I have met George many times since then and he was always proud of his players.
In recent years when the Kerry District League needed ball boys for their SSE U-17 Airtricity games Georgie volunteered his underage players for the task.
He would arrive with six players to do the job at all the home games.
Castleisland Soccer Club, and the Kerry District League have lost one of the most dedicated men involved in the sport in Kerry.
It was pleasure to know him for so long. The words legend, and, Georgie O’Callaghan are the perfect partnership. May he rest in peace.” – Christy Leahy.
John W.H. O’Connor’s Interview with Georgie O’Callaghan in the early 1980s.
John W.H. O’Connor interviewed Georgie O’Callaghan in 1983 and you can see the results with a click on the link here: https://www.facebook.com/CastleislandAFCSoccer/videos/2011348849126927
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