Monday 9 December 2019

Legendary All-Ireland-winning Offaly manager Eugene McGee has died

Eugene McGee. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
Eugene McGee. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

The GAA world is in mourning following the sudden death of Eugene McGee, former UCD, Offaly, Cavan and Irish International Rules manager.

McGee, who was in his late seventies, passed away following a family event. He is surived by his wife Marian, his son Conor, daughter Linda and his daughter-in-law.

Best known for masterminding Offaly’s All-Ireland win in 1982, a landmark result that wrecked Kerry’s drive to become the first team to win the title in five successive years, McGee, a former columnist with the Irish Independent, was an innovative figure in a long career in GAA management and journalism.

A native of Longford, he first came to prominence in GAA circles in the early 1970s when he managed UCD to successive All-Ireland club titles. The star-studded college side beat Clan na nGael (Armagh) in the 1974 final and Nemo Rangers (Cork) in 1975.

He was appointed Offaly manager in 1976 at a time when Dublin, under Kevin Heffernan, were a powerful force. They won All-Ireland titles in 1974-76-77 but McGee continued to work patiently with Offaly, eventually winning a Leinster title in 1980.

He steered them to three successive provincial crowns before the crowning glory came in 1982 when a late goal by Seamus Darby steered Offaly to a dramatic All-Ireland final win over Kerry.

He later managed Cavan and the Irish International Rules team. A deep thinker on Gaelic football, he chaired the Football Review Committee, which proposed the introduction of the 'black card' sanction in 2013.

He qualified as a teacher before moving into journalism where, over many years, he worked as a columnist with the Sunday Press, Irish Press, Sunday Tribune, Evening Herald and Irish Independent.

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His insight into the Gaelic football and the GAA in general made him one of the most authoritative voices in the Association, while at a local level he was a major figure in Longford as long-time editor of the Longford Leader.

In an in-depth interview with Paul Kimmage in the Sunday Independent in 2015, McGee reflected on the legacy of that famous 1982 All-Ireland final and how it impacted his life.

"Its funny, I was in the local supermarket about three Saturdays ago and this fella - a hardy-looking buck of about 70 years of age - says, 'Ahh Jaysus, Eugene McGee! I'm glad I met you'. And we shook hands and so on, and he starts talking about the game (the '82 All-Ireland final) and I find it incredible that these things happen," he said.

"It's (nearly) 40 years since that match was played but they still refer to it and (Seamus) Darby's goal. I suppose, very few All-Irelands have had as singular a focal point so it's easy for people to remember. It sticks in the mind and is constantly shown.

"That's always the way I'm introduced [as an All-Ireland-winning manager], and it's an honour to be remembered, because I've always been aware that time moves on."

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