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Paddy O'Rourke

Mr. Inniskeen, Mr. Monaghan, Mr. GAA

Paddy had only stepped down as secretary of Inniskeen after 56 years in the job in January in order to retain his position as Treasurer of the Monaghan County Board.

Paddy O’Rourke passed away in July 2003 after a lifetime spent working on behalf of his beloved county and club, Inniskeen Grattans.

In May of 2003 Paddy was interviewed for the Monaghan GAA Yearbook and here is the interview in full:

Still Mr. Inniskeen, Paddy O’Rourke retired as Secretary of Inniskeen Grattans last January. However his interest and passion for Gaelic games is undiminished. Think of someone who eats, drinks and sleeps GAA matters and Inniskeen’s Paddy O’Rourke is one person who immediately springs to mind.

Arguably as well-known around Farney territory as the works of former fellow parishioner Patrick Kavanagh, the model GAA eager-beaver has conceded that he is slowly but surely winding down on his activities at club and county levels.

More’s the pity. But everyone needs a break as songster Christy Moore put it. And after 56 years as secretary of his beloved Inniskeen Grattans, the bold Paddy is certainly deserving of some time out.
Thus his announcement last January that he was stepping down from the post of club secretary was greeted with more resignation than surprise by the Grattans.

Of course, the man himself is loath to take his foot off the pedal but, approaching 80 years of age, he acknowledges that the ’oul enemy is eating away at his energy levels.
“Unfortunately I haven’t the same energy I used to have. I’ve been in and out of hospital this year and, to be honest, the same enthusiasm isn’t there any longer either - maybe that’s a sure sign that time is catching up on me”, he ponders.

Time waits for no man and Paddy says that he’s feeling his age right now. His body and his mind are both telling him to ease himself out of sport’s fast lane.

Paddy’s decision to pass on the secretary’s baton at club level marks the end of a notable era in Monaghan GAA club circles. Kavanagh may have put Inniskeen in the mindset of the Dublin literati 56-odd years ago.
But in a practical sense, Paddy O’Rourke’s influence on the community there has arguably been more profound.
How many young boys and girls have been influenced by the daddy of Inniskeen Grattans GAA? How many aspiring countymen and women has Paddy ’put through his hands’ over the last five decades and more?

The mind boggles. “I like to see the youngsters getting a grasp of the game hoping that they will go on to play at senior level. I’ve worked with a lot of the senior players that fielded for Inniskeen over the years right from the time they were very young and I took got great enjoyment in following their progress up through the ranks.” Some who know Paddy for decades say that the man himself was energised an invigorated by his interaction with the youngsters of the area.

Paddy himself says that being able to put into practice what he learned in the course of attaining his Minor Coaching Certificate gave him tremendous satisfaction and enjoyment.
Coach, chief supporter and a great PR man for the Grattans, Paddy was principally recognised though for his work in the secretary’s hot-seat.

For a record 56 years, gentleman Paddy did more than just read the minutes on Inniskeen’s behalf.
For most of that extraordinary long period, he was the unofficial, uncrowned Mr. GAA in Inniskeen, known for the passion, commitment and diligence he brought to his work on behalf of his beloved club and, of course, the county.

Paddy has always exuded a deep gra for all things relating to Irish culture and pastimes. Being involved in the Gaelic Athletic Association for him was like a lord to the manor born. One wonders who benefited the most from their coming together.

Paddy will tell you of the immense enjoyment and satisfaction he gleaned from his time at the coalface of affairs at club and county level, but can one imagine how much poorer the GAA in Inniskeen and Monaghan would have been over the last half-century had Paddy O’Rourke not devoted a lifestime service towards its development and betterment. In the mid-eighties, the late Tom Quinn, a cousin of Paddy’s, broached the subject of compiling a local history, chronicling the exploits of the Inniskeen Grattans.

The Inniskeen Story’ took Paddy, Larry Meegan and Seamus Cassidy two years to compile. One suspects the next time updating that work will see the name of Paddy O’Rourke featuring prominently.
Such a story will recall how Paddy stuck the course, through the good and the bad times at Inniskeen. You don’t hold an officership of a club for 56 years, after all, and not see a whole host of clouds as well as blue skies.

But, true to his nature, Paddy prefers to remember and recall the high spots on the graph depicting Inniskeen’s fortunes since the mid-forties.
“The mid-forties and onwards into the fifties were great times for the club. We won the senior championship in 1947 - that was one of the big highlights but there were others too, including my times with Monaghan.”
Those times with the county saw Paddy win a Dr. Lagan Cup medal in 1950 and Dr. McKenna Cup medals in 1948 and ’52.

Paddy played in the ’Home All-Ireland’ of 1947 when Monaghan faced Cork.
For over a decade Paddy, along with, for the most part of those years, his brother Oliver, wore the Monaghan colours with pride and played in them with passion.

Quite incredibly as a countyman of some stature during that time, Paddy took on the role of Inniskeen club secretary in 1946. Few of his peers anywhere in the country, never mind county, would have taken on such an onerous task while playing football at their peak and at such a high level.

But leave it to the bold O’Rourke. With the same sort of aggression, pride and spirit he demonstrated as a player, Paddy tackled the many strings of administration work with equal gusto.
And for good measure, he later became a permenant fixture at county board level, first serving as Assistant Secretary and after that as Treasurer.

Incredibly as 2003 rolls along with all the speed of an under 10 match, Paddy retains the positions of Treasurer of both Monaghan County Board and Inniskeen Grattans. Giving up the job of secretary of the club has made a big difference though.

“It’s a big change of lifestyle for me. It’s something that took a bit of getting used to but the other work I do has kept me busy enough at the same time”, says Paddy, understating his workload quite modestly as usual.
And, in fairness, to those who have benefited from Paddy’s selfless work in the GAA and to those who have worked alongside him down the years, they have rightly and fairly acknowledged the man’s peerless labour on behalf of club and county.

Over the years, Paddy has been on the receiving end of countless awards from his GAA colleagues. As far back as 1974, Paddy was awarded ’Club Secretary of the Year’. Then four years later, he received the ’Juvenile Official of the Year’ while in 1980 he was declared the ’Minor Official of the Year.’
The awards continued to flow. Ulster Clubman of the Year and an award ’For outstanding contribution to Inniskeen GFC’ have landed on his sidetable as well.

More recently he was elected to the Monaghan Hall of Fame in 1993. In 1997, the by now almost legendary Inniskeen gael was honoured by the Ulster GAA Writers Association with their Services to the GAA Award and enducted into the Inniskeen Grattans Hall of Fame.
Paddy has been noted for his all-encompassing interest in all things Irish though and he demonstrated a deep interest in promoting hurling.

Indeed the success garnered by the Grattans at underage level in hurling circles is testimony to the work and commitment put in by Paddy and his assistants in fostering young hurling talent in his native parish.
“I enjoyed every moment of my time as Secretary of Inniskeen but it was time to hand over to someone with more energy and I’m sure my replacement Mary Tavey will do a fine job”, Paddy maintains. But what a hard act to follow!

An Appreciation
From Inniskeen Grattans

Paddy was the second born child into a large family home in the heart of Inniskeen village on the 25th July 1923. The house being the one time manse of the local Protestant Minster. His first educational establishment was Inniskeen National School around the corner.

Probably his first introduction to kicking a ball was a sponge one, kicked on the road during the mid-day break when invariably the ball landed (uninvited) in Barney Duffy’s field or Quinn’s meadow or even the river. It was almost customary that the youngest was bullied to retrieve it and it was at this juncture that Paddy showed his metal and refused to be pushed around, strong willed determination that was to be his hallmark throughout his life.

To further promote his education he was established as a boarder in St. Macartan’s Seminary in Monaghan. Here he kicked a real ball with real players so his natural skill was tuned to a fine art. After a stint in Monaghan he transferred to the Christian Brothers School in Dundalk which promoted the Gaelic language and Gaelic football in particular.

Now that he was residing back in Inniskeen he was available to tog out in Parish Leagues and minor games. He ability came under notice and he was knocking on the door of Senior Football. At that point he was serving his time as a fitter in the Railway works in Dundalk, necessitating the long cycle to and from work which built up stamina. He was not alone for there were quite a few others similarly employed. It is not deemed appropriate to dwell on his record on the field of play wearing the Red and Green, suffice to say that he wore it with pride and distinction for twenty one years. In 1946 he was selected to play for the county, a place he held for eight years and if honours eluded him here, the blame could not be placed on the shoulders of the doughty man from Inniskeen.

Paddy and his peers at the time pioneered the transition from the boot’er up the middle tradition of the past to the more constructive team work of the present. He was also the precursor of the O’Rourke dynasty that power infused the football of that era. To his eternal credit it must be said that he never became big-headed or a prima donna but rather a modest man, proud to wear the Red and Green of his club. In January 1946 he was appointed secretary of the Inniskeen Grattans club, a position he held until shortly before his death, a staggering fifty six years, surely a record un-paralleled in any business or organisation.

When his father Packy relinquished his post of treasurer to the local club in 1958, Paddy was duly appointed. Later on he was given the post of Public Relations Officer. He was now the holder of a triple portfolio. When he took over the top posts, the club had literally nothing, no playing pitch and scarcely a decent set of jerseys. Indeed it was known that players fielded with odd boots.

With dances and carnivals and other fund-raising venturers, an amount of wherewithal was mustered to enable the acquisition of some land and eventually to develop a playing field to match any in the county. It is not claimed to be a one man job, but it goes without saying that Paddy was the main architect and a prime mover in the entire project. It now stands as a lasting monument to his honour.

At his last Club meeting on the 27th March 2003 Paddy expressed his view that the club should not move from its present home. Monaghan County Board recognised his administrative talent and appointed him Assistant Treasurer in 1961 and later in 1970 full treasurer position a role he held until a few weeks before his death. The County Board being cognisant of his efficiency awarded him numerous honours including the prestigious Co. Board Hall of Fame award. On many occasions he was made the subject of interviews from the media. The prestigous glossy magazine, Hogan Stand, did an elaborate feature on him.

Paddy took to the whistle around two years before he ceased playing football and he refereed an Ulster Semi Final between Tyrone and Down in 1960 and many National League games including a famous National League game in Dundalk between Galway, the All Ireland Champions and Louth plus a County Senior Final in 1960 between Scotstown and Castleblayney. Being an officer of the County Board he had to relinquish his post as a club official, so he returned to football or rather the root and branch activities of the club and concentrated on the youth of the parish.

Over the following years he promoted Gaelic Games at all levels from ten to minor. How does one attempt to do justice to any individual who undertakes to take charge of screaming youngsters, piling them into cars, mini buses or whatever, togging them out, controlling them, taking total responsibility and making certain sure they were left home safely.

That man was the redoubtable Paddy O'Rourke. At committee level it was mooted that hurling be introduced to the club at juvenile level. Initially Paddy did not embrace the idea, but later adopted it whole-heartedly and threw his weight behind it with the typical energy of a human dynamo.
He attended his beloved Grattan Park with the critical eye of dedicated green-keeper, cut the grass, fixed the mower when it occasionally broke down, marked the pitch before a match and then donned his P.R. hat and welcomed the visiting team.

Being the out and out GAA man by virtue of the number of hats he wore with the Association, he attended regular meetings, seminars, committee business and other functions. Yet throughout his life he remained a staunch teetotaller. This was proof, if proof was needed, of his resolute determination. This strength of character was particularly manifest during the onset of his illness when he stuck to his guns until he eventually had to succumb to a greater force.

His death sent shock waves reverberating through-out the County. The funeral, speeches and Guards of Honour bore testimony to the respect and admiration the man was held in. The excellent and well chosen words of Fr. McGuiness at the Funeral Mass lauding the Christian and God-fearing path that Paddy trod during his entire life-time, the oration of the graveside by Garry Carville gave a resume of the life of an outstanding man and his dedication to all things that came under the auspices of the GAA.

We of the Inniskeen Grattans Club humbly acknowledge our indebtedness to a colossus and deeply mourn his passing. That there will never be his likes again may sound like a cliché but in this case it is an absolute declaration of fact. May the stony grey soil of his native heath rest lightly on the mortal remains of its noblest son. May you rest in peace dear friend and colleague and may you reap the eternal reward that is your bounden right.

The Inniskeen club would like to thank the Monaghan County Board officials for helping us organise the funeral arrangements, the speeches and the Guard of Honour etc. and to Sean Kelly, President of the GAA for his attendance and to anyone who helped in any way. Ar dheis dé go raibh a anim dilis.


Article taken from the Monaghan GAA Yearbook 2003