Friday 24 May 2019

Editorial: 'Giant of the game McGee leaves a proud legacy in sport'

Eugene McGee. Photo: Sportsfile
Eugene McGee. Photo: Sportsfile


On walls in many places across the faithful county of Offaly, an old 45rpm record entitled 'Five-In-A-Row' is proudly displayed. It is a little memento which recalls an epic day in September 1982, when Mick O'Dwyer's all-conquering Kerry footballers were stopped in their tracks, depriving them of a historic fifth consecutive All Ireland win.

The record was made well in advance of the final by an ambitious Cork-based ballad group who confidently anticipated huge sales in the Kingdom and to Kerry exiles worldwide. But, ironically, it was far more sought after in Offaly as things worked out.

The heroism is still often talked about and all of that Offaly footballing side were and remain true heroes. But the heroes' hero on that day was a man called Eugene McGee, who was their manager.

He was rightly credited with generating such heart and fight in an Offaly side who had battled through a very uphill contest they were not expected to win. He was also the man who made a genius late substitution, which resulted in a last-minute winning goal.

Séamus Darby came into the full forward line amid driving rain. He stretched himself to take a pass, and then blasted the ball into the top right-hand corner of the Kerry net. It was too late for the Kingdom side to regain the initiative and the day belonged to Offaly.

Another page in Ireland's sporting history was written in which Eugene McGee's name stood out. In all he managed Offaly for eight years, guiding them to three Leinster titles and that storied 1982 All Ireland victory.

The plain-speaking Longford man also managed successful UCD sides guiding them to six Sigerson Cups, Dublin county and All Ireland club titles. He also managed Cavan and Ireland's compromise rules sides.

He had strong views on sport, and Gaelic football in particular, serving with advisory groups seeking to improve the game. He wrote a number of books about the GAA and its history.

His first book, 'Classic Football Matches', was published back in 1993 and he wrote 'St Mel's of Longford: A History 1865-1990' in 1996.

In 2014, his book 'The GAA In My Time' was launched. While he made history with Offaly, he was always a proud Longford man.

Eugene McGee was also an accomplished journalist, writing for and eventually editing and managing the 'Longford Leader' newspaper. He was also a long-time popular contributor to the sports pages of this newspaper and known for his strong views which were expressed in a very forthright but entertaining fashion.

While always loyal to the GAA and the game of football, he never shrank from criticism where he felt it was necessary. This made him a formidable force in sports journalism.

Eugene McGee's sudden passing has left the GAA and sporting world in mourning. To his wife Marian, son Conor, daughter Linda we offer our heartfelt sympathy. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam cróga dílis.

Irish Independent

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