The late Garda Robert McCallion will be fondly remembered by family, friends and colleagues next month when Swinford GAA club host a challenge GAA match between Mayo and Donegal to mark the reopening of their all-weather pitch.
The event is one that has been meticulously planned by senior club members for over two years and is one in which Donegal players and gardaí will play a huge part. Robert McCallion lost his battle for life on April 7, 2009 from injuries received while on duty as a garda in Letterkenny. McCallion was a proud and very active member of Swinford GAA club and the community feel that this dedication is a fitting tribute to him.
The chairperson of the Swinford GAA Club, Micheal Murtagh said: “Robert was a huge part of the club and the community and was an extremely nice person. He always had a smile. He was a truly dedicated member of the Swinford team and brought that same dedication as a player. He was a totally different person on and off the pitch. He was on the successful Swinford minor team of 1997 which won every match they played that year. He would have been a driving force on that team. He played mainly centre half back. He travelled from Donegal to Swinford all the time to train and never transferred clubs.”
Robert was also a key member of the team that won the county intermediate football final in 1999. He represented Mayo at under 21 and senior level. Murtagh added that the dedication and value that McCallion practised are values that they hope to bring to the Swinford team in memory of their former player.
“We contemplated hosting the event last May but we wanted to have the pitch in the right condition, we wanted to do the grounds justice and now we are ready for the full gala event,” Murtagh said. “There is huge excitement relation to it. When we posted the event on the Swinford site we got 3,000 hits - that just dosen’t happen.”
The community in Swinford intend to make the pitch reopening a day of celebration for their club. The activities will start on Sunday, May 6, with a game between Swinford and a Garda Selection at 12.30pm. The main highlight will be an inter-county challenge match between Connacht champions Mayo and Ulster champions Donegal at 2.30pm.
The official reopening ceremony will be performed by former Swinford and Mayo great Dr. Padraig Carney at 2pm. Carney, known as ” The Flying Doc, ” will be travelling from California for the occasion. The 84-year-old doctor was on the Mayo team that last won the Sam Maguire in 1951. Dr Carney is also an Uncle of another Donegal and Mayo GAA legend and RTE analyst Martin Carney. Referring to Dr Carney, Murtagh added:
“Once he was asked there was no hesitation. He believed that it would be a great honour. The same can be said of the Donegal manager, Jim McGuinness, who was very willing to do it and who met Robert a few times,” he said. “On Sunday May 6 we will dedicate our pitch in memory of Garda Robert McCallion.”