Blackhall Gaels and the Parish of Kilcloon were deeply saddened at the untimely passing of Dessie O’Brien late of Harristown, Kilcloon. This sadness was further compounded by the death of Dessie’s wife Patricia less than a year earlier, both of whom will be sadly missed by their daughters Olivia and Tara and son Cyril.
The O’Brien family have made a huge contribution to the GAA over the years firstly with Kilcloon and later with Blackhall Gaels. Dessie’s father, the late Cyril O’Brien was a driving force within the Kilcloon Club serving on numerous committees down through the years. This is reflected in the fact that the grounds in Kilcloon are named after himself along with the late Jack Fitzgerald and John Kelly who acted as Trustees for the Club when it acquired the playing pitch back in 1963. Dessie along with his three brothers Noel, John and Gerry played at underage and adult level providing the backbone of the team for many years. Today the third generation of the family are representing the Club continuing a great family tradition.
Dessie first came to prominence playing Juvenile football with Kilcloon/Batterstown under the stewardship of Fr. Martin Burke. He was a key member of the U-14 team that reached the County final in 1965 for the first time in the Club’s history only to lose to Yellow Furze by a single point in a thrilling contest. Another notable milestone in his underage career was reaching the U-21 Football Championship final in 1972. The semi-final was notable for two drawn games against Dunderry with Dessie and Gerry again playing key roles at midfield throughout that championship.
Dessie progressed to the adult grade while still in his teens. Undoubtedly the high point in his playing career was in 1973, again playing at midfield, he captained Kilcloon to the County Junior Football Championship defeating Gibbstown in the final. The significance of this victory was that it bridged a gap of 48 years from the Club’s first title in 1925 while proving to be their last success at this level prior to amalgamation. He also wore the Meath County jersey on a number of occasions.
When Dessie’s playing career was over he turned his attention to coaching with Blackhall Gaels at underage level. The pinnacle of his achievement was his involvement with the U-13 Football team who defeated Navan O’Mahony’s in the 1994 County final. This final was remarkable as the Gaels stormed back to reduce an eleven point interval deficit to take the title and went on to represent their County in the All Ireland Féile series held in Mayo.
The team which included Dessie’s son Cyril and nephews John and Dermot won through the Group stages and were unlucky to be beaten by a single point in the semi-final. The team and mentors were based in Claremorris in an event which will be long remembered for its sporting and social success.
One cannot write of Dessie without recalling his contribution as a referee in underage competitions. In particular, the P&L Cup and the Paddy McHugh Memorial Cup are to be associated with Dessie as the ‘man with the whistle’. Whilst he always officiated in a fair manner he also showed his kind nature in the way he may have bent the rules to allow a very young player their moment on the ball (even if it was clearly picked clean off the ground).
Dessie O’Brien, friend, neighbour, footballer, mentor and referee you will be greatly missed and fondly remembered by your many friends from far and wide.
“ Ní bheidh a leithéid ann arís”
Submitted by: Blackhall Gaels GAA Club.