Tuesday 20 August 2019

GAA world mourns as 'giant of football' McGee dies aged 77

Eugene McGee fell ill after his son’s wedding at the weekend. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Eugene McGee fell ill after his son’s wedding at the weekend. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Brian Lowry and Sorcha O'Connor

The "giant of Gaelic football" Eugene McGee has died suddenly after falling ill after his son's wedding.

Mr McGee famously steered Offaly to an unforgettable All-Ireland win over Kerry in 1982, thereby stopping the Kingdom from achieving the first five-in-a-row.

Tributes flooded in for Mr McGee, a former editor and managing director of the 'Longford Leader' newspaper.

GAA president John Horan described Mr McGee as a "giant of Gaelic football" who was "ahead of his time".

"Like Mick O'Dwyer and Kevin Heffernan, with whom he shared so many sideline battles of wits, Eugene was considered a man ahead of his time and responsible for creating a new era of popularity for the game in the 70s and 80s," he said.

"A straight-talking man of great integrity, Eugene was a hugely respected journalist and author and his passion for the game always shone through.

"The GAA benefited greatly from this passion through his work on the field, and also through his commitment off it, where Eugene was instrumental in helping to aid the evolution of Gaelic football and was a former chairman of a Football Review Committee.

"He was passionate about rural Ireland and of the important role that GAA clubs have to play in supporting these communities," he added.

GAA Newsletter

Expert GAA analysis straight to your inbox.

Offaly's 1982 All-Ireland winning captain, Richie Connor, yesterday said that if it had not been for Mr McGee the team would not have won the Sam Maguire. He was speaking at Offaly GAA's training base, the Faithful Fields, where an event was planned to commemorate the county's historic 1982 win and launch a replica jersey.

However, the event took a sombre turn as news spread of the sudden passing of the Longford native.

"Very sad news. A total surprise. He was at his son's wedding yesterday - Conor got married yesterday and [Eugene] took bad after the wedding and died," said Mr Connor.

"He would have been here today. Even since he left Offaly, he has always kept an interest and was always prepared to do what he could do to help the county."

The former captain described him as more than a manager and a man who did what it took to make sure Offaly had the best chance of winning.

"He took an interest in people's lives, really. When you consider that a player's career spans from when he goes from college to getting a full-time job, to having their first serious relationship, to getting married and buying their first house, there were all those kind of things in the background and Eugene was very conscious of all those things and to be able to keep the team together." He added that a knack for having the "best team on the field for the big day was probably one of his biggest attributes".

"It wasn't that he put his arm around anyone or anything like that but he would have done a lot of quiet work getting lads jobs, pointing them towards a bank for a mortgage and things like that.

"He was a great man to work and see what was needed and was a great support to the players.

"There is a fair chance that if it wasn't for Eugene, we wouldn't have won an All-Ireland medal.

"He was a great manager and there is more to managing a county team than just putting a team on the field on the day of a match," he added.

RTÉ sports broadcaster Des Cahill also paid tribute to Mr McGee, saying: "He was not just part of one of the greatest stories in the GAA, but he was a central figure.

"This was Kerry, the greatest team of all time - this year might change that - but Kerry had won four in a row and were seeking to be the first ever to win five in a row. And Offaly beat them," he told 'The Marian Finucane Show' yesterday.

"And it wasn't just that they beat them, it was the dramatic circumstances, almost the last kick of the game - a high ball into square.

"He was GAA to his core, to his fibre, and a great man to fight for the importance of rural life," he added.

"He has gone suddenly and way too early because what a vibrant man he was. The respect around Ireland for him will be massive."

Irish Independent

The Throw-In: Tipp throw off the shackles while Kilkenny’s soul-searching begins

In association with Bord Gáis Energy

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport