Lives Remembered

Paddy Donnelly: 'His spirit, smile and legacy will never be forgotten'

WHEN the GAA club in Tullysaran, Co Armagh folded due to mass emigration in the late 1950s, there would be no football in the area for the next decade.

During these years the local lads would have played for neighbouring clubs. Paddy Donnelly, from the townland of Tullynichol, opted for Blackwatertown and appeared in goals in the 1967 junior championship final, but he always longed to line out for a Tullysaran team again.

After attending Cemetery Sunday in the parish in 1968, Paddy, Austin Conlon and Seamus Sheridan got talking about the possibility of reforming the club.

They called a meeting in the school and asked the priest to announce it from the altar. A bumper crowd turned up and as a result, Tullysaran GAC was up and running.

In the 1970s Paddy both played for and managed the senior team, coaching them to a junior final in 1978. He also had two spells out in Philadelphia playing for the Tyrone club, winning a North American junior medal.

He went on to manage various underage teams, was a long-standing committee member and held the office of secretary on several occasions, and was one of the main organisers of Scór.

Paddy was a keen musician and travelled near and wide as lead singer and guitarist with the Nashville Ramblers, and later The Highwaymen, having been singer with the popular Premier Aces showband in the 1960s.

He was also a founding member of Tullysaran Comhaltas and a trustee of the Tullysaran Community Development Association.

When Tullysaran developed their new playing field and clubrooms in the early 1990s, it was Paddy who plastered the facilities.

He was also an Armagh fanatic, rarely missing a game through the years and the proud sponsor of a seat in the Athletic Grounds – seat 105 reads ‘Paddy Donnelly, Tullysaran, a true gael’.

After many years of falling at the final hurdle, he was ecstatic when Tullysaran won their first ever junior football championship in 2015, after which he penned a poem now ingrained in the club’s history. This followed success by the camógs in 2013.

In recent months Paddy’s health had started to deteriorate. His last visit to the club grounds he dedicated so much of his life to was to witness a league victory over Annaghmore in early April.

He died a few days later, just short of his 76th birthday.

A proud Gael, all at Tullysaran GAC are indebted to Paddy for the foundations he laid and the example he showed for future generations. His spirit, smile and legacy will never be forgotten.

Above all though, he will be remembered as a loving family man and that love was replicated by his wife of 47 years, Anne McArdle, and his son Pierce and daughters Patsy Anne and Teresa during their care for him over the last few years.

As a keen historian he took great pride in the Donnelly and McGleenan family history and was also very close to his brothers Mickey D (RIP) and Donal, and sisters Margaret and Mary (RIP).

More than anything, Paddy loved spending time with his five grandchildren, Molly, Ryan, Pierce Óg, Mia and Matthew, and they were a great source of comfort throughout his illness.

From his wide circle of friends and family, we are all the better for having known Paddy Donnelly.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

Pauline Lavery

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