by ehistoryadmin on October 10, 2014




Ireland has lost one of its finest exponents of Gaelic football and the Army one of its most popular and efficient officers by the demise at the very early age of 34 years after a very brief illness, of Commandant John Joe O’Reilly. His death took place in the Military Hospital, Curragh Camp, where he was stationed in the General Training Depot.

 A native of Killeshandra, Comdt. O’Reilly led Cavan to victory in the great New York football final against Kerry in 1947 and he was Captain the following year when his county defeated Mayo. He played in All-Ireland finals in 1937, ’43, ’45, ’47, ’48 and for Ulster in the Railway Cup finals for over ten years, while he was the driving power behind the Curragh Command teams in the Army and Co. Kildare championships. He was noted for his brilliance and the sportsmanlike manner in which played in the Inter-Command matches.

Bereaved are his widow – formerly Miss Olive Rooney of Dublin – and four young children, and his death is all the more poignant by the fact that Comdt. O’Reilly had just erected a new residence in Naas and hoped to go into occupation with his family before Christmas. One of his brothers, Mr. Frank O’Reilly, conducts a successful business as chemist at South Main St. Naas.

There was a large attendance on Saturday evening at the removal of the remains from the Hospital to the Garrison Church at Curragh Camp. No.3 Army Band played the funeral music and the Parade Marshal was Comdt. James Daly. At the church the remains were received by Rev. P. J. Boylan, Senior Chaplin, Curragh, and Rev. J. McGurk.

The funeral took place on Sunday morning, with full military honours, from the Church to Killeshandra. The coffin was draped in the Tricolour and with the dead officer’s cap and sword on top, was taken the 100-mile journey on an Army gun carriage.

Crowds lined the sidewalks of towns and villages as the funeral passed. Outside Dublin the cortege was over a mile long, and as it passed through Meath into Cavan it doubled its dimensions. At Breffni Park, Cavan, where the Comdt. starred in many games, the funeral halted and one minute’s silence was observed.

On arrival at Killeshandra Church the remains were received by Rev. P. J. Boylan , C.F.; Very Rev. P. Canon Smith, P.P., Killeshandra Very Rev. P. Connolly, P.P. Kilmore, and Rev. J. Donohoe, C.O., Killeshandra. After the service the coffin was carried into the adjoining graveyard by members of Cavan’s All-Ireland football team. Rev. J. O’Regan. Head Chaplain of the Defence Forces, and Father Boylan recited the prayers at the graveside.

 Gaels from all over Ireland and many of Comdt. O’Reilly’s brother officers were among the mourners at the graveside. After the coffin was lowered the firing party under Lieut. Clarke of the General Training Depot. Curragh, fired three volleys and the Last Post and Reveille were sounded.

The chief mourners were: Mrs Olive O’Reilly (widow); Breffini and Brian (sons) ; Sarah Ann and Alva (daughters); Mr. John O’Reilly and Mrs. O’Reilly (parents); Rev. Brian O’Reilly, Jersey City; Michael, Thomas, Vincent, Frank and Seamus (brothers); Mrs. M. Fox. Mrs. M. McLoughlin, Mrs. J. Brady, Mrs. E. O’Dowd, Mrs. K. Matthews and Miss Annie O’Reilly (sisters).

The Government was represented at the funeral by Mr. P. Smith. Minister for Local Government and Mr. J. Lynch, Parliamentary Secretary to the Government. Kildare County Council at their meeting at Naas on Monday passed a vote of sympathy with the relatives of the late Comdt. John Joe O’Reilly and paid tributes to the famous Gaelic footballer.



Our contributor of the Gaelic Games Column writes: –

Kildare Gaels present at the Cup final at Newbridge on Sunday paid a fitting tribute to the memory of a great Gael who has passed away, by a two minutes’ silence before the match started. Never have spectators shown such discipline and respect, for despite the large crowd present, one could proverbially hear a pin drop so deep was the silence.

It is only worthy that such a tribute be paid to the memory of Commandant J. J. O’Reilly who was always a keen admirer of Kildare; a hard worker for its interests and a Gael of the Gaels. When he led his men in the Polo Gronnd, New York, to victory he showed all the qualities that are inherent in a sportsman, gentleman and Irishman, and when he led his team in the Kildare County Senior Final immediately after his return from America he received an ovation from the greatest crowd ever present at a Kildare County Final – an ovation that would scarcely be accorded to even the best of our own “All Whites.”

If his passing is a great blow to us what must it be to his native County of Cavan and also to Gaeldom in Ireland generally. Cavan has suffered a great loss, but we, here in Kildare suffer just as grievously for it was he who guided and instructed and marshalled the men of the Curragh in their efforts to put the name of the Army foremost on our records. His memory will be honoured and remembered in this country as long as the Army remains a potent force in Gaeldom and long after. Go nDeana Dia Trocaire ar a Anam.

Re-typed by Lydia Potts

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