Louth’s All-Ireland football championship winning team of 1957 were honoured in Ardee today – as players, relatives and supporters came out to pay tribute to the wondrous achievement that marks it’s 60th anniversary this year.
Former players Patsy Coleman, Jim McArdle, Jim Roe, Jim McDonnell, Kevin Beahan, Sean Og Flood and Frank Lynch were reacquainted with the famous trophy at the ceremony on Market Street in the town.
The tribute, which was organised by Ardee Municipal Cathaoirleach Dolores Minogue, saw a big crowd turn out for the tree planting which came after speeches from – amongst others – Minogue, Louth GAA chairman Des Halpenny, Ardee St Marys chairman Mickey Rooney and GAA President Aogán Ó Fearghaíl.
The triumph is closely associated with Mid-Louth. Infact, there were eight players based in the area part of the panel that beat Cork at Croke Park that year – Kevin Beahan, Patsy Coleman, Dermot O’Brien, Jim Roe, Barney McCoy and Aidan Magennis of Ardee St Marys were joined by Ollie Reilly (Hunterstown Rovers) and Tom Conlon (Stabannon Parnells).
Vice-captain on the day of the All-Ireland triumph, Patsy Coleman received the Sam Maguire from Ó Fearghaíl today, while he passed on the speech duties to Beahan.
“Mid-Louth produced many fine players over the years and I hope that they produce them again,” Beahan said in a short speech. “It is a great gesture to have this tree planted. Some of our own trees have fallen – members – we do remember them. We are proud to have this lasting memento.”
Ó Fearghaíl brought with him the Sam Maguire trophy and it was an emotional moment when Coleman and the other former players got their hands on the iconic cup in front of family, friends and supporters. Players who are no longer with us, such as Reilly, Stephen White and captain O’Brien, were represented at the event by family members.
The commemoration was the brainchild of local councillor Minogue who, after the idea was dismissed at local council level, worked tirelessly to ensure the achievements of the great team were honoured.
“We faced many barriers in making today happen but I would like to acknowledge that the president accepted our invite on the first phone call. We are very honoured,” Minogue said.
“The GAA plays a massive role in every town and village the length and breadth of Ireland. I am proud to say that seven of that team are fellow Ardonians and we are very proud to honour each and every one member of that team.”
“I am especially honoured to welcome many of the team, their families and the families of those who are no longer with us.
“It was a struggle to bring this idea to fruition but the support and encouragement shown by the Ardee Traders, Ardee St Marys, members of the team of 1957 and the general public – they like me see the significance of the tree – and it will flourish here in Ardee in memory of the 1957 team of whom we as a county are so proud of.”
Among the GAA officials present were Louth County Board chairman and John Mitchels man Des Halpenny who praised the All-Ireland winning side and said the tree was a symbol not just of remembrance but one of growth.
“This is a celebration of the greatest achievement in the GAA – and that is to win an All-Ireland. Back then, there was no room for mistakes. For the smallest county to emerge victorious against the biggest – that was a remarkable achievement,” he said.
“The tree will be here for future generations – not just to commemorate and remember the 1957 team but to celebrate the GAA in the area. It’s a symbol of growth and that’s what we want to do in Louth GAA – to grow and flourish.”
Also speaking to the assembled crowd was GAA chief Ó Fearghaíl. He said, “When you see over 100 people gathered on the side of a very busy street to commemorate the achievement of 60 years ago, it just shows the fantastic connection that the GAA has – and of course, the Sam Maguire Cup and its iconic imagery.
“The players were wonderful ambassadors for you and it’s great to see so many here looking like they still could tog out, still play a part. The real special people is the magnificent players and the family members of those who have passed.
“You worn the green jersey of Leinster and they wore the blue of Munster. It was a wonderful occasion. A tree is a wonderful monument of the future. The young people have to be inspired by this tree.”
Minogue’s idea was backed by local bodies including the Ardee Traders & Business Association. Chair Hughie O’Neill remarked, “Unfortunately, Sam won’t be staying today but hopefully he will be back to take up a residency in Louth sometime soon. 60 years is a long time to wait.”
“It’s great to have this tree planted here in Ardee for years to come. It may not be a Mighty Oak but it will always represent Louth’s mighty men of 1957,” he added.