THE GAA community across Armagh was saddened yesterday to learn of the death of serving honorary president, Joseph Canning.
Mr Canning was also the current president of his native St Killian’s Whitecross, having held all manner of positions within the club across a distinctive life.
He started into administration in the 1960s when he became Whitecross club secretary, a role that he would hold for more than a decade before moving on to the county’s south board.
Joseph would later serve as the county board’s treasurer for an astonishing 20 years, during which time he worked closely with county management teams.
He was secretary of the Minor Board when Armagh won the 1968 Ulster Minor championship and county treasurer when Armagh reached the All Ireland final in 1977.
The county board had appointed Canning, who was born in 1931, as honourary president in January 2020.
Speaking at that time, county chairman Mickey Savage hailed Joseph as a “passionate volunteer” and a “genuine, true Armagh gael who devoted so much of his time and contributed to the development of our county.”
In an interview with the GAA’s oral history project several years ago, Mr Canning spoke of how his involvement with the GAA – which was not a big part of life growing up – had a significant impact on his identity and “sense of Irishness”.
He recalled the difficulties of raising sufficient finances during his time as county treasurer, and how that role forced a reduction of his involvement with Whitecross.
Mr Canning also spoke of the local devastation when the three young Reavey brothers, John, Anthony and Brian, were killed in their own home in January 1976.
A former teacher, he was also a former librarian and treasurer with the Cardinal Ó Fiaich Library and archive, which said yesterday that he had left “a huge legacy through his work”.
Whitecross GAC said that they were “deeply saddened to announce the death of our club president Joseph Canning” and announced that all club activity is cancelled until further notice.
Meanwhile, Saul club chairman and former East Down GAA board stalwart Columban Fitzsimons also passed away over the weekend.
A club stalwart, he was a former player, manager, committee member, referee and most recently “a guiding light as chairman”, a club statement read.
“Columban was on the ground when it was a struggle to field teams and we played on the filed at Loughmoney, chasing the cattle off before matches. Along with a small band of men and women he kept the blue and gold going right through to where we are today.
“It will not be the same without Columban at the pitch many nights watching all ages of football, and this was witnessed only last Friday when the Senior Men played Saval,” said Saul GAC.
The East Down Board also extended their sympathies.