GAA pays ‘This is Your Life’ tribute to Down legend Pete Mc Grath

February 1, 2016

The achievements of one of the outstanding  GAA personalities of modern times, legendary Down manager and footballer Pete Mc Grath, was dramatically re lived at the weekend  when 500 guests from his native county and from all over Ireland gathered at the Carrickdale Hotel for a special surprise “This is Your Life.” Fear an Ti and chief organiser of the event, former Abbey Grammar teacher  Aiden O’Rourke, surprised him with the Red Book shortly beforehand and led a shaken Peter into the  loud standing ovation that awaited him.

His life’s story was outlined as members of the teams he had successfully coached and managed from St Colman’s  College,  the various Down teams he had managed  and the Irish Compromise Rules team  as well as former players from Meath, Dublin and Kerry formed a long parade up to the stage to make their congratulations.

St Colman’s colleague Ray Morgan told of Pete’s enormous love of the game and his willingness and courage to take on all challenges, culminating in five Mc Rory Cups and Four All-Ireland Hogan cup victories. A superb footballer who represented his club Rostrevor and his county for many years, Ray Morgan said his commitment was boundless both as a player and manager. To have managed his county to an All-Ireland minor championship in 1987, two senior championships in 1991 and 1994, and missed out in an All-Ireland U-21 title to an injury time goal by Cork showed rare calibre as a leader. Speaker after speaker including Paddy O’Rourke, DJ Kane, Paul Mc Grane, Bernard Flynn, Jack O’Shea, Charlie Redmond, Dan Mc Cartan (wee Dan), Danny Murphy, Jimmy Cousins, Anthony Donnan, Gerry Mc Entee, Owen Brosnan, Ross Munnelly, Brian Gilligan, Brian Mc Guigan, Jack Sheedy, Mich Deegan and  Ga Fallon  all  referred to the dignity and humility of Pete Mc Grath’s personality  that enriched his natural gifts of leadership and knowledge of the game.

Former GAA President Peter Quinn told how Pete had broken the Ulster famine of All Ireland victories that had lasted 23 years since 1968 and not merely reignited Down glory and the breakthroughs of Donegal and Derry, but eventually inspired  Armagh and Tyrone in the following decade.

Down great Sean O’Neill told the guests that Pete Mc Grath had not merely achieved great success at county and colleges level, but he brought in his person a powerful sense of dignity, integrity and fair play that marked  his approach to the game as  his approach to life.

Fr Brian D’Arcy, who was part of a large Fermanagh contingent present, stated that  Pete had created great uplift in the county  in last season’s  remarkable achievements and had  brought out the absolute maximum from his players as was his trademark.  Miceal O’Muircheartaigh outlined his prophesy how it was written in the stars that Fermanagh and Westmeath would contest the All-Ireland final in 2020. Afterwards his friend and former Armagh boss Peter Makem said there was an even deeper level of achievement involved in Pete’s leadership in the early nineties.

“The four All-Ireland victories of that time, of Down in 1991 followed by Donegal and Derry and Down again in 1994 represented a powerful surge of creative Ulster assertion that gave a special momentum to a journey already begun, the Peace Process. Things never change by cold logic or reasoning. There is a deeper mode of knowing at stake, the intuitive, the instinctive, and it is my ever growing conviction that  those achievements by Down, and equally so by the heroism of Donegal and the heroic players of Derry under the late Eamonn Coleman,  asserted scope for fresh possibility.  Pete Mc Grath is the main creative figure in this great surge, the man who began it all and brought it to its conclusion, and so his achievement is not just related to GAA history, but to Irish history.”