Lives Remembered

Paddy 'Pappy' O'Kane: Beating heart of Dunloy squeezed everything out of life

Ballerin native Paddy 'Pappy' O'Kane was weaved into the fabric of Dunloy, Co Antrim. Picture by John McIlwaine

“I don’t think Paddy and I ever exchanged a civil word,” said former Antrim hurler Terence McNaughton.

“I mean that in the nicest possible way. Paddy was a character. He’d always be giving out to you about something. He was a great supporter of Dunloy and Antrim hurling. He was a good Gael.”

It was impossible to leave Dunloy without meeting the ubiquitous Paddy ‘Pappy’ O’Kane.

Paddy's was always an open house, the jovial, welcoming hub of the north Antrim village.

Although a native of Ballerin, Co Derry, he was weaved into the fabric of Dunloy life until his sudden death last month.

In his youth, he assumed the nickname 'Pappy' merely to differentiate him from the three or four other O'Kane clans in Ballerin.

A fine corner-forward, he narrowly missed out on featuring in the 1977 All-Ireland club football final due to injury as Ballerin lost to Kerry kingpins Austin Stacks.

He was also a former chairman of the Derry Camogie Board.

Paddy married Pauline O’Hara, a Drumsurn woman, before they moved to Dunloy.

If somebody in the village needed something done, or a favour, “Where’s Paddy? He’ll sort you out” was the well-worn refrain.

He was a consummate accordion player, a dancer, he dabbled in football management with Dunloy in the early 1990s, he was a big supporter of camogie and hurling, a community leader, a pioneer, a devoted husband, a brother, a father and, most important of all, fun to be around.

In his 75 years, Paddy squeezed everything out of life. There were no half measures with him.

Whatever he was involved in, it became his burning passion.

He was grand master of St Brigid’s accordion band, which still flourishes to this day.

Everyone born into the O’Kane clan became a member of ‘Pappy’s band’.

On week nights and at weekends, the straining sighs of accordions could be heard from Pappy’s house as they practised for their next big gig.

“You were in the band a while, then you’d get married and drift off but then your kids would join the band,” explained his son Gregory, a former Antrim and Dunloy hurler.

One of the family’s proudest moments was Pappy’s band leading out the Dunloy senior hurlers before the 1995 All-Ireland club final at Croke Park, a game Gregory and his brother Gary played in. (It finished in a draw, with Offaly champions Birr winning the replay).

In later life, he became chairman of a Dunloy residents’ group that protested against the Orange Order marching through the village.

Paddy was a stand-up, no-nonsense individual. You always knew where you stood.

“I always found him fun to be around,” said Gregory.

“I wouldn’t say he was a strict man but you knew the rights and wrongs. I wouldn’t have felt he was my Da because I’d run about with him. We were always away with the band or doing something.”

Last year Paddy proudly got to see his son guide the Cuchullains to an Antrim senior championship, the club’s first in eight years.

When he passed away on November 22, a light went out in the village.

Dunloy lost a great friend, a committed Gael and leader.

As well as his wife and two sons, Paddy is survived by his siblings Maureen, John Eddie, Barney, Anne, Sally, Bernadette, Charlie, Vera, Tommy, Paul and Gary.

He was predeceased by his brothers Jimmy and Felix and sisters Rosie and Dolores.

Brendan Crossan

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Lives Remembered