Hero Earley honoured by local village
Published 28/08/2011 | 05:00
The people of Dermot Earley's home village paid lasting tribute to him yesterday, appropriately on the eve of a sell-out All-Ireland semi-final at Croke Park.
The former Defence Forces chief of staff and one of the greatest footballers never to win an All-Ireland medal would almost certainly have been at today's game between Dublin and Donegal, remembering his own performance with Roscommon when they defeated Armagh at the same stage in 1980.
Instead, cancer claimed his life 14 months ago at the age of 62, 10 days after he retired from the Defence Forces because of his illness.
But yesterday his life was celebrated by the people of his native Gorthaganny, a tiny village in west Co Roscommon, with Army and GAA VIPs, including Micheal O Muircheartaigh.
A life-size bronze statue of him was erected on a plinth beside the village national school and just 50 metres from the home of his mother, Kitty, who is 87. President Mary McAleese unveiled the monument sculpted by Seamus Connolly from Co Clare.
Almost 2,000 people attended the biggest day in the history of a parish of 300. Their favourite son was honoured by Mrs McAleese, who said that while the Earley family were to share Dermot with the Defence Forces and the nation, there was never a more loved chief of staff.
She noted that in Gorthaganny and the county of Roscommon he was "a hero, a statesman, a man of remarkable character, skill and sheer goodness. For the people of Roscommon, he was a Cuchulainn-type figure, an exceptional sportsman who had a rare talent to inspire and motivate," she said.
Earley won two All Stars and played for Roscommon for 20 years and later managed the county team and also Kildare, where he settled when in the Defence Forces.
His sons, Dermot junior and David, also played for Kildare. His childhood and lifelong friend Martin Walshe, who farms in Gorthaganny, said at Earley's funeral that his home village would never forget him.
Mr Martin said that Gorthaganny community became involved in a series of fundraisers for the €50,000 statue project.
The Army No 1 band played throughout the ceremony and a lone piper played The West's Awake before three wreaths were laid by the monument -- one by Earley's widow Mary, another on behalf of the local community by Mr Walshe, and the third by Roscommon GAA County Board chairperson Michael Fahey.