Slaughtneil man Thomas Cassidy was passionate about family, faith and community
To the 18th century Irish statesman Edmund Burke is attributed the famous statement: “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing.”
Thomas Cassidy was unquestionably a good man. His life bore testimony to the values and beliefs he cherished and strove to fulfil over many years.
Despite losing both parents, Barney and Betty, to untimely deaths, Thomas with his eight siblings approached life with positivity, energy and consideration towards others. He applied himself passionately to principles that were closest to his heart: family, faith, community and work.
The community of Slaughtneil was very close to his heart. “Ní neart go cur le chéile” (There is no strength without unity) was often quoted.
With a physique reminiscent of his father and uncles Jack and Denis in their prime, Thomas played with distinction in and around the midfield area for both hurling and football teams over a 20-year period.
Success was modest, claiming an intermediate football championship medal in 1982 after the Emmets' relegation from senior status as a result of the decision to withdraw from games in sympathy for their fellow Irishmen who were dying on hunger strike. A senior hurling championship medal followed 11 years later.
But in the field of coaching, Thomas - affectionately known as “Tosser” - excelled.
He himself modestly referred to his role as “looking after teams” but under his guidance, Slaughtneil won the senior hurling championship in 2000.
In subsequent years he turned his attention primarily to the club's hurling and camogie underage teams. He was steadfast in his belief that to succeed at the highest level, skills and love for the games must be instilled at an early age.
He worked tirelessly to ensure Emmets competed with the very best in these sports, not only in Ulster but throughout the 32 counties.
Thomas took his teams by car, van and bus to these strongholds seeking improvements in his young players, from friendlies to Féiles.
The under-10 with limited ability was treated with the same respect and afforded the same attention as the star who would ultimately succeed at club, college, county and provincial level.
When his beloved club reached the summit in the autumn of 2016, annexing the Ulster hurling and camogie senior championships, we were simply left to deliberate on the enormous role Thomas had played in their success.
With his beloved wife Anne Marie, Thomas also organised Scór meticulously within the club over many years. Indeed Irish language, music, dance and cultural projects were central to his life.
He was a prominent member of Carntogher Community Association, equally at home strolling the Carn and Drumlamph or collecting the Glór na nGael award.
While his faith remained largely a private matter, it must have given him great pride to see his family participate sincerely in liturgical services as readers, soloists, choir members and Eucharistic ministers.
Thomas passed away peacefully on October 19 2016 at the age of 55, having battled illness with courage and dignity.
Parish priest Fr Kieran O'Doherty paid tribute with his heartfelt words “He had higher ideas than himself. His efforts cannot be fully known; they are resistant to definition.”
Sincere sympathy is extended to Anne-Marie, sons Cathaoir, Éanna, Seán and Fearghal, daughters Eilís, Aoife and Bróna and the extended family circle.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.