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Tommy O'Hare

Below is an article written by Tommy McGeown on Tommy O'Hare that featured in the match programme for the Senior County Final 2011.



 A term that is currently very much in vogue is ‘’volunteerism.’’ With the withdrawal of the institutions of state in the provision of aid and facilities the burden has fell on local organisations. This concept was always present within the GAA community. Ballymacnab like all other clubs have had many good and hard working volunteers over the years who have given of their varied and individual talents to ensure the success of the club in its many facets. For a long number of years an ever present and inspirational leader was a man who was considered Mr. Football in Ballymacnab, Tommy O’Hare.  Player, secretary, county board representative, manager, fundraiser, negotiator, groundsman – no task was too great or too menial for Tommy. If it had to be done he was willing to do it. Nothing was too good for Ballymacnab. He encouraged others to give of their all especially by his positive attitude. Hurdles were not barriers. They were something which had to be overcome

Tommy’s interest in football began at an early age. His uncle John was at the forefront of the Ballymacnab club in the twenties and his nephew was anxious to carry on the tradition. As a youngster he was a keen follower of Ballymacnab both in the Parish League an in the various Mid Division competitions. With little or no organised underage football there were opportunities for youth to develop and display their skills other than by assembling at the field in the evening for a kick about. His skills were recognised however and he was selected to play on a Keady minor team in 1946 that also included a namesake who later became famous – Tommy Makem. Around this time Ballymacnab had a fairly settled side and it was difficult for a young lad to break into the team. Being anxious for football and having family connections in the area he played for a year with Clady. His talents were soon recognised nearer home  and he returned join his brother Joe at Ballymacnab where he was a constant figure, whilst a team was fielded, for nearly thirty years, playing at corner forward and later as goalkeeper. Little silverware was won in the fifties but Tommy was enjoying his football combined with his role as secretary which he took up in 1953.

In the early sixties due to emigration and inter generational gaps playing numbers became greatly reduced. Tommy did his best to keep the ship afloat but to no avail. He was sad to see Round Towers become dormant, but his love of the game ensured that he was not destined to stand long on the sideline. Again he was to make a temporary move to another club within the parish. This time to Granemore. Thus as far as I can ascertain Tommy became the only player to have played with all three parish clubs. Again there was a family connection as only a few years previously he had married his devoted wife, Bridget Lappin from The Breague

On a December Sunday in 1966 Tommy did what he had done many times previously as secretary. He put up a notice at the chapel gate. This time it was not to announce an impending match but to invite all who had an interest in football to assemble that day with a view to entering a team in the All County League. The response was excellent in terms of numbers but the quality varied.  From then until he was overcome by a serious illness thirty years later football in general and Ballymacnab in particular became an all consuming passion for Tommy. He played in goal for many years and in his last game his son Colum was an outfield player. Tommy rejoiced in Round Towers success in the all county leagues, rising to the second division. He had an ambition for championship success, which sadly was not achieved until after his death. Another great ambition which Tommy had was to see the club develop its own grounds and facilities. He was immensely proud of Parc na Gael, a project in which he had considerable input.  When plays were staged for fundraising Tommy took leading roles. Eventually drama became another of his passions and he encouraged participation in various drama festivals.

An avid county supporter Tommy followed the rise of the men in orange all over Ireland. He was one of those who did the sponsored cycle ride from Camlough to the Athletic Grounds on the day Armagh beat Cavan in 1977 a day on which Armagh football is generally regarded as having come of age. Another of great ambitions was to see the Sam Maguire come down the road.  Sadly this was not to be achieved until after his demise. 

He was a lifelong member of the Pioneer Total Absence Association. Whilst having nothing against alcohol he didn’t see excessive consumption compatible with the aims of the GAA. Tommy didn’t need to take a drink to enjoy himself. He could sing a ballad on request and was fond of dancing. He and Bridget travelled many miles to dances. Not for them any of this modern stuff, it was strictly Irish and old time.

If he were here today he would be rightly proud of Ballymacnab reaching its first senior final. He would see it as the maturing of the seeds which had help to nurture all those years ago. He would be especially proud of the fact that his grandson Barry was lining out on the team.

Tommy departed this life on 28th February 1999.

Go ndeanfa Dia trocaire ar a anam