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Former GAA President Joe McDonagh has passed away.

Former GAA President Joe McDonagh has passed away.

Joe McDonagh 'leaves a lasting legacy'


By Cian O'Connell


A light went out in Irish sport with the sad passing of former GAA President Joe McDonagh.

Whether it was searching for medals or attending meetings seeking to improve affairs Joe McDonagh always mattered.

A sporting journey which commenced in the Ballindereen shirt included glory with Connacht, UCG, and Galway.

Fittingly Joe McDonagh’s last days as a player were spent with the club alongside his son Eoin, who captained the Tribesmen in the All Ireland minor decider of 1997.

By then Joe McDonagh was the President of the GAA having made a rich contribution throughout the decades in a variety of roles.

Joe Connolly located the correct words to truly reflect Galway’s delight at ending a 57 year search for Liam McCarthy in 1980, his friend and colleague subsequently provided a stirring rendition of The West’s Awake.  It remains an iconic GAA image.

Joe Connolly, former UCG and Galway colleague


“We go back a long way, more than 40 years now I suppose.  We played together for UCG winning the 1977 Fitzgibbon, they were really wonderful days. 

“With Galway then we had the agony and ecstasy of so many days together.  We had good days and bad days, but one thing we always had were great nights.  Joe was central to that.  Like a lot of the hurlers I played with at that time he was great craic and fantastic company.

“Joe had a superb hurling career and played in as well a known line as Galway ever had in history.  Joe McDonagh, Sean Silke, and Iggy Clarke were unbelievable players during a wonderful era for Galway.

“At times like this you look back on the brilliant social nights, and of course he will be remembered for what happened after the 1980 All Ireland final.  It was a memorable occasion.

“He leaves a lasting legacy in so many ways, he was just a super talent in whatever he did.  He was a brilliant linguist with music and singing ability too.  His personality was magnetic, when he finished he went into administration going all the way to President."

*Aogán Ó Fearghail, Uachtarán Chumann Lúthchleas Gael *

“Joe was held in extremely high regard and his company was enjoyed by so many over the course of his long involvement with the GAA in so many different capacities, not least as President from 1997 to 2000.

“He and his tenure left an indelible mark on Cumann Lúthchleas Gael and his passion for our games and activities was only matched by his passion for the Irish language.

“He also had a profound interest in our international network and the further expansion of the GAA overseas.

“He will be sorely missed and I would like to offer my sympathies to his wife Peig, his family and his wide circles of friends and admirers.”

Brian Fahy, former Salthill-Knocknacarra GAA Club Chairman and teaching colleague at Colaiste Einde


“Joe was such a great fella, he was a one in a million type of guy.  When I started teaching I just found him a really inspiring figure, not only in GAA terms, but in the way he carried himself.  Joe was a brilliant communicator, he was a beacon of light in our school.

“He was a past pupil, and he brought a lot to the table in whatever he did.  What always struck me was his great love of language and learning, he was a tremendous leader.  He had tremendous qualities, but most of all he was passionate and infectious. 

“You’d always learn something when you reflected on a conversation you had with him.  He is looked upon as a great leader in the GAA and rightly so.  Joe is held in huge esteem, and any time I travelled abroad the people held him in huge esteem.

“Joe could relate to the President of Ireland and he could also make the so called ordinary man feel good about themselves, his words carried so much meaning.  He was a very innovative person, he was able to get things over the line.  In our school three pictures are evident when you come inside the door, Brendan O’hEithir, Enda Colleran, and Joe McDonagh."

Sean Walsh, Galway Bay FM Hurling Correspondent

“Maybe the phrase is sometimes overused, but Joe McDonagh really is an iconic figure for Galway people.  Of course 1980 has gone down in GAA folklore, but Joe McDonagh did so much.  He lived the dream really starting off hitting a sliotar against the wall, to playing for Galway, and then winning an All Ireland singing on the steps of the Hogan Stand.

“After his playing career he had such success, ending up as President of the GAA.  You couldn’t script it.  He will always be fondly remembered in Galway."

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