Micheál Reynolds - Hall of Fame 2019
Micheál Reynolds Citation
A number of years ago, Shamrock Gaels adopted the motto; ‘Our Community, Our Family, Our Club’ and tonight, we honour Micheál Reynolds, a proud Patron of Shamrock Gaels and a man who has typified and lived these values for all of his life and certainly long before anybody thought to put them into words.
As we will hear, without seeking any personal accolade or reward, Micheál has without hesitation been to the forefront of so many aspects of life in our community and not alone within Shamrock Gaels. It is only right and fitting therefore that we now acknowledge the significant contributions Micheál has made by attributing this award to him tonight.
A native of Roughan, Sooey, Micheál first made his mark in the GAA world on the playing fields of the late 1960’s, when he lined out for Sooey. This followed encouragement from then Secretary of Sooey, the late Leo Kearns and indeed Micheál and Leo would go on to become lifelong friends. At this time, Championship football was organised on a Divisional basis and Sooey, following the heroics of the Senior Championship winning teams of the 1940’s and 1950’s, were contesting in the Junior ranks. One of the most prestigious titles in the county was the Foley Cup, which was awarded to the winners of the East Divisional Junior Championship. Micheál was corner-back on the 1968 Sooey team beaten by their great rivals, Knockalassa in the Foley Cup final played in Ballymote. By this time Micheál was renowned as a tenacious corner-back and his performance in this game earned him an honourable mention in the newspaper report on the game. Micheál again featured in the Sooey team that reached the 1970 Foley Cup final when they unfortunately lost out once more, this time to Keash. A notable teammate of Micheál’s on both of these Foley Cup final teams was Seamus Cawley, our ex-Chairman.
And so to 1971, the last year that the famous green and gold of Sooey would grace the playing fields of county Sligo, before the amalgamation of Sooey and Knockalassa the following year to form Shamrock Gaels. It was perhaps fitting therefore that these two great clubs would contest the 1971 Foley Cup final before a huge crowd in Ballymote. Sooey emerged victorious on a scoreline of 1-9 to 1-4 and Micheál, by now a permanent fixture at corner-back, was again to the fore in what was a fiercely contested match between these two great rivals. Sooey went on to contest the county semi-final but were beaten by St. Farnan’s. The new club, Shamrock Gaels, contested at Senior and Junior levels in the 1972 Championships and Micheál again featured at corner-back on the first Shamrock Gaels team to win the Foley Cup, when they defeated Keash by one point and thus gained revenge for 1970. This team again fell at the county semi-final hurdle. Thereafter, Micheál continued playing with the Gaels at Junior level throughout the 1970’s but unfortunately without much further success.
In October 1971, Michael married Sheila McGowan, a native of Kinlough and in 1973, Micheál and Sheila built a new family home at Gadden, Ballygawley, where they have lived ever since. This was just a year after the formation of Shamrock Gaels and so began an enduring relationship between the Reynolds family and Shamrock Gaels. Sheila herself was to become a constant presence at Micheál’s side at countless matches over the years and was also involved in assisting at many Club functions. It was no doubt immensely gratifying and a source of great pride for Sheila and Micheál in later years that their children, Colin and Josephine, became prominently involved with Shamrock Gaels, both on the playing fields and in administration. In recent years, the involvement of Sheila and Micheál’s grandchildren, Paul & Sheona, continued the long and proud association of the Reynolds family with Shamrock Gaels through into the next generation.
Not many people will realise that after Sligo, Micheál is also a great supporter of the Kerry county team. This dates back to the 1983 Dinner Dance, when the legendary Kerry mid-fielder, Jack O’Shea was Guest of Honour and - ever the loyal Club people - Sheila and Micheál accommodated Jacko and his wife, Mary and their children at their house in Gadden. To this day, that experience remains a much treasured memory for the Reynolds family.
Micheál’s last game in the Gaels’ colours was an exhibition match played in Riverstown Park on 28th June 1984, as part of the Club’s Centenary celebrations. Refereed by Fr. Cyril Haran, who was then Sligo Senior manager, this game was played between a team consisting of past players of Shamrock Gaels, Sooey and Knockalassa and the 1984 Shamrock Gaels team. Some of the players to feature alongside Micheál on the ‘past’ team were Donie Quinn, Frank Henry, Seamus Cawley, Gerry Keaney, Paddy Joe Quigley, Gary Mc Dermott and Paddy Gannon. The game ended in an honourable draw, following which Micheál decided to hang up his boots for good.
By this time however, Micheál was already deeply involved in many aspects of the Club’s off-field activities and for 13 years was the Shamrock Gaels representative to Sligo County Board. This was a time of some considerable challenge for the Club and required strong representation at County Board level, a duty Micheál was eminently capable of discharging.
Micheál was also a familiar sight either umpring or ‘doing the line’ at countless Shamrock Gaels matches over the years. This was an oftentimes thankless job, which required a strong nerve in tight matches, where any contentious decision could lead to consternation and indeed sometimes lively confrontation – of course Micheál could never be accused of being anything but totally impartial in any of these decisions!
Another demonstration of Micheál’s unwavering loyalty to the GAA was his constant presence manning entrance gates on behalf of Sligo County Board and Connacht Council at venues all over the county and province. This was and continues to be an oftentimes thankless task but a hugely important one, which Micheál always performed without hesitation and with diligence, whatever the inconvenience.
However, perhaps more so than anything else, for many Club members it is Michael’s fundraising efforts on behalf of Shamrock Gaels, particularly in the 1990’s, that he will be best recognised for. Having purchased their new grounds at Coola in 1989, the Club decided to run a major fundraising draw in 1992 to raise funds to develop the pitch. The first prize in this draw was a car and the exploits of Micheál and his fundraising partner, Leo Kearns, became the stuff of legend. From Bunduff Bridge in the north, to Cloonacool in the south and from Castleconner in the west to Ballinafad in the east of the county, there was hardly a house or business with GAA connections that this pair or other members of the hard-working committee at the time didn’t call upon. This venture raised £36,000, which was a huge amount of money at the time and sufficient to develop the pitch and provide some other basic facilities. Another fundraising draw was embarked upon just 4 years later, in 1996, to raise funds to construct the dressing-room complex and spectator stand. Again, Micheál was not to be found wanting when the call again came and despite the fact that the committee members were largely calling upon the support of the same people, a magnificent sum of £57,000 was raised, thus enabling the building of the facility we have today, which at the time and perhaps even today, was far superior to those of other, much bigger clubs, even outside of Sligo.
No doubt it was with a tremendous sense of pride and justifiable satisfaction that Micheál and his fellow committee members watched the ceremonies unfold at the official opening of our new facilities on Sunday May 3rd 1998, when Sligo played Kerry in an exhibition match and to be there to witness the realisation of a long cherished dream. The facilities we have now in Coola only came about through the vision, superb organisation and most of all, the hard work and dedication of people like Micheál Reynolds and his generation. It’s perhaps easy nowadays for people of a younger vintage to take these facilities for granted but hopefully occasions such as tonight will serve as a reminder and provide a deeper appreciation of what Micheál and his contemporaries achieved all those years ago.
We must also make mention of Micheál’s prowess as an ‘auctioneer’ at many Club and parish fundraising auctions over the years and many will fondly remember Micheál’s entertaining exhortations from the stage as he tried to wrangle the last pound note or 50p from the pocket of a reluctant bidder for a bag of coal, a table lamp or some other such item. For many, the fun provided by Micheál at these events was the principal attraction and no doubt contributed greatly towards maximising the profits made.
It would be remiss not to also mention Micheál’s other services to our community, whether that was as a Fás supervisor during the various village enhancement works carried out in Sooey throughtout the 1990’s, being a trusted and always helpful neighbour, his unobtrusive and dignified support to the bereaved in his role as a funeral undertaker, his Eucharistic ministry in Sooey church or the countless other community activities where Micheál has been unhesitating in the giving of his time and effort.
To this day and outside of his family, Micheál’s abiding passion is his love for this Club we proudly call Shamrock Gaels and one of the most enduring and touching images from last year’s Intermediate Championship success was the sight of Micheál proudly waving the Shamrock Gaels flag at his front gate at the passing victory cavalcade through the parish and even younger members of this victorious panel will have realised the significance of the moment for Micheál.
At the recent funeral Mass for our beloved Club President, Tommy Mc Dermott, his son, Niall read a Communion reflection entitled ‘So what will matter?’ This reflection included the following lines;
‘What will matter is not what you brought, but what you built,
Not what you got, but what you gave,
What will matter is not your success, but your significance’
These words come readily to mind when we think back over the various contributions of Micheál Reynolds to our community.
And so, tonight as we honour and pay tribute to you, Micheál, we also sincerely thank you for your many years of loyal devotion to this Club and to our wider community, we thank you for your humour through good times and bad, for your friendship and neighbourliness and for the legacy you have given us. We salute you as a proud Sligo man, a truly great servant of your community, a loyal neighbour, a friend and most of all, a proud Shamrock Gaels man.
Ladies and gentlemen, please be upstanding as we honour our fifth inductee into the Shamrock Gaels Hall of Fame, Micheál Reynolds.
2nd February 2019