A memorable weekend for Leitrim GAA that culminated in the county’s senior team claiming their first piece of silverware in 19 years began on Friday night last in The Bush Hotel where the past 12 months were reflected upon and awards were handed out to those who excelled at all levels.
From handball to hurling, from the men to the ladies footballers, a total of 22 awards were handed out over the course of an enjoyable evening.
While each of the award winners were warmly congratulated their was one man for whom their was a special ovation. Most in the county would be familiar with Eamon McGowan through his involvement with Allen Gaels and both the Leitrim and men and ladies teams.
However Eamon’s list of accomplishments, which were read out by Leitrim Supporters Club Dublin branch Chairman Mike Feeney prior to presenting the Drumshanbo man with the Jim Lynch Hall of Fame award were truly astonishing.
Eamon began his playing career with St Francis in 1956 but it was with St Mary’s that he won his first club medal with Mike quickly clarifying the reason was that there was no minor team in Drumshanbo that year.
After the formation of Allen Gaels in 1969, Eamon was part of the team that won three senior league titles from 1973-’75.
As well as a lengthy football career Eamon was also a distinguished hurler and has to his name six senior club championships, which were amazingly won with four different clubs!
While many would be satisfied with a distinguished playing career, that only concluded in 2007 when he played his last game for Allen Gaels at the age of 65 in a Junior game against Aughawillan and he finished his career on a high as he scored three points, Eamon also holds the unique distinction of managing both the county mens and ladies teams at every level.
Among his many successes at managerial level were leading the Leitrim ladies senior team to Connacht glory in 1984 while still playing inter-county hurling and lining out for Allen Gaels and in 1988 he was at the helm for the ladies memorable year when they claimed the All-Ireland Junior title with a victory over London in the final.
At club level Eamon led Allen Gaels to back to back senior titles in 1996/’97 with the ‘97 campaign resulting in Allen Gaels reaching the Connacht Final only to be narrowly defeated by Galway champions Corofin.
With a career that most could only dream of to his name, Eamon could be forgiven if he was thinking of taking a back seat but Mike told the large crowd in The Bush Hotel that Eamon is still heavily involved with his Allen Gaels club and still manages various underage teams.
After a richly deserved standing ovation from the assembled Gaels of Leitrim, Eamon modestly said “I didn’t know I did all that much.”
Accepting his award, Eamon congratulated all the other award winners before joking “I’m normally more at home in a dressing room,” adding, “I’m absolutely honoured. When you look at the other people who have won the award I feel very humbled.”
Saying that he has asked to tell an anecdote or two from his lengthy involvement in the GAA, Eamon recalled an occasion in 1971 when he was driving the Leitrim team to a challenge match. “Leitrim had just 15 players and Packie McGarty had a hamstring injury so I was asked to tog out for the second half. You can imagine how I felt wearing the Packie McGarty’s boots and gear but it went alright and I scored four points!”
Eamon concluded by passing on some advice to the current generation of players stressing the importance of PMA adding, “I put an R in it. Have a positive mental and ruthless attitude.”
The evening’s formalities were concluded by County Board Chairman Joe Flynn who congratulated all the award winners and declared the Supporters Club to be officially launched in Leitrim.
• Next week’s Leitrim Observer will carry full pictorial coverage of the Leitrim GAA County Board Annual Awards and Dinner Dance.