Matt Sonny McCann (R.I.P)
Sonny was a man above the average height, possessing broad shoulders, a muscular
body and tree trunk legs. This description might create a picture of a man-made
robot, though Sonny was flesh and blood and seemingly tireless. In our club he was
affectionately called ‘Tiny’, a misnomer as he was a big man physically and mentally.
He led us slowly but surely on many campaigns . He was on of the great characters
who graced Derry football. His county career began in 1940 and finished in 1954,
when he kept goals, as normally Sonny routinely played centre half. This position
he occupied for Derry in 1947 when they won their first National League title. He
was an extremely versatile player who over the years occupied various positions
on both club and county teams. His ability was recognised far beyond the bounds
of Derry county. In 1947 he played at right half back on Ulster’s Railway Cup winning
team. This Ulster side was one of the finest teams to represent the province.
Making his first appearance at eighteen years of age in 1939. His last club appearance
was in a championship final in 1962 against Ballymaguigan. This span of 23 years
at club level includes 14 years at the highest level of Gaelic football in Ireland.
A tidy record and we thank for it and pay tribute to him and latterly to his dear
wife Rosaleen R.I.P. May they both rest in peace.
Here is a kaleidoscope of Sonny’s silverware and honours: 1944: Dr Lagan and Junior
Championship medals. 1946: Dr Lagan Cup medal 1947: National League and Railway
Cup medals 1947/1954: Dr McKenna Cup medals; two Duffy Cup Medals (the first being
awarded at the opening of the Clone pitch
During a spell while employed in England Sonny won League and Championship medals
with his adoptive side in Warwickshire. As the club records show he served as Chairman
and Secretary for a period of time. He was a truly great player and athlete and
we salute him.
Alexander McKeever (R.I.P.)
He joined St. Malachy’s as a young man and his ability as an administrator and footballer
soon became apparent. He acted as club secretary for a period, before moving to
Belfast in the late forties to take a permanent post with Hughes’ Bakery. Shortly
after his departure he transferred to O’Connells GFC where he partnered the famous
Kevin Armstrong in many a high scoring game. Until Alex’s untimely death in August
1991, humour was his middle name. An enjoyable conversation, punctuated by laughter
always ensues whenever and wherever his name is remembered. He was an excellent
raconteur, whose delivery was timed to perfection. His exploits home or away were
always original and legendary and still fondly recalled in Belfast and Castledawson.
If one considers our club as a pack of cards then Alex was indeed the joker.
His death robbed the club of a great supporter and entertainer. To his wife Lydia
and family we say thanks for sharing Alex with us. May he rest in peace.
Frank McKee (R.I.P.)
We pay tribute to Frank ‘Sonny’ McKee one of the clubs founding members and a dedicated
supporter. Sonny gave long years of service as a player, committee member and on
two occasions held the post of club chairman. He played at left half back on the
team from 1940 until the mid fifties. Although small in stature he was nimble and
skillful and gave many an opposing forward the runaround with his on the ground
ball control. His skills in this regard did not go unnoticed with the result that
he was approached to transfer to another football code. These offers were not given
consideration and he remained committed to his chosen past-time, the GAA.
Sonny was a warm hearted person with his own style of humour and heraty laugh. During
his time as Chairman he saw to it that the club’s business was conducted in a quiet
and efficient manner. His death on 25 March 1990 was a great loss to his dear wife
Sara and daughter Colette. May he rest in peace.
Seamus Keenan (R.I.P.)
In march 1983 we again were left with a great void by the sudden death of Seamus
Keenan. Seamus, who joined the club at the early age was widely known as a skilled
player at county and club level. He played at right full back for club and county
before his football career was cut short due to serious knee injury. Among his many
trophies were National League, McKenna Cup and Lagan Cup medals. He won many accolades
and we were latterly privileged to have him hold many positions in the club, including
chairman for many years. He was an energetic and devoted club man who led from the
front. His business acumen, advice and friendship has been greatly missed, both
within the club and the surrounding area.
Those of us who had the privilege of knowing Seamus, realise how much his presence
is missed in our club. His talent and ability on the field of play for club and
county are frequently recalled. We acknowledge the legacy he bestowed to the club
with his children, all of whom are committed club members and supports, Two of the
boys have been credited with the county honours and display the innate ability on
the field of play that belongs to their dad. Rest in peace Seamus.
Seamus Heaney (1939 - 2013)
The Passing of a Giant
The GAA has always been about Irish culture as much as it has about men pucking balls around a field, and so it would be deeply remiss of us here not to take a moment to acknowledge the passing of a true giant of the Land of Saints & Scholars.
And so, it was with a heavy heart that I read of the death of the Seamus Heaney this morning. Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995, Heaney – more than any other artist in recent times – captured the quiet wholesomeness of rural Ireland, as in his Mossbawn collection. This is a world in which the GAA has always had a role to play, helping to knit communities together and fomenting a camaraderie and sense of place that can be seen in every parish and townland throughout the country.
Born in the same year as the founding of his local club St. Malachy’s GAC, Castledawson, Heaney was an unspectacular player, but encapsulated all that is best in the club spirit of GAA upon his relocation to Bellaghy. As a boy of only 14, he could have been forgiven for wishing to establish roots with the club of his new home, but instead he remained loyal to the club into which he was born, saying in the book “Stepping Stones” “I had no affection for the Bellaghy GAA team: I was a natural supporter of Castledawson and continued to play for the Castledawson minor team even after we moved”.
The St. Malachy’s website lists Heaney amongst their greatest sons, and has this to say about him:
“Seamus was born in Broagh, Castledawson, in the same year as our club was formed. The house and farmland now have new occupants. Local residents will pinpoint the homestead as adjoining Hillhead Hall on the Toome road. We are proud to have had Seamus play minor football for our club. He began his education at Annarhorish primary school then on to St Columb’s in Derry and then Queen’s University Belfast.
Seamus is a nephew of one of our most famous sons, the late Matt ‘Sonny’ McCann. He spent much of his younger days in and around Castledawson. Barney and Frank Devlin, both club members, who for years produced and directed a successful dramatic society in Bellaghy and Castledawson and numbered Seamus Heaney as a talent in their group. As a young man his performances, even then, showed that Seamus’ interested lay in literature, not in football. Our gratitude and thanks are also due to Seamus because in his poetry and writing he helped us understand that the outside world is not outside, but instead what we are made of.
Seamus we are proud to include you with our founders, players and members past and present and extend to you our congratulations on being awarded the 1995 Nobel Prize for Literature.”
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