Naomh Columba and Donegal GAA are mourning the loss of one the county’s great GAA stalwarts with the passing of Jimmy Cunningham.
(Jimmy is pictured back row on right in picture: Kilcar senior team 1962)
Jimmy ‘Beag’ as he was affectionately known, died in Letterkenny University Hospital on Sunday night.
He had been in hospital for a couple of weeks and he was laid to rest in his native Carrick yesterday (Wednesday).
“Jimmy was a real gentleman and highly respected by all at the club and all who knew him. He was a great ambassador for the club and county,” said Naomh Columba club member John James McLaughliln. John James played club football alongside Jimmy and also played under him when he managed Naomh Columba.
Jimmy played his early football with Kilcar and was a member of the Kilcar team that lost the 1959 Donegal Senior Championship final to Sean MacCumhaill’s. That year provided him with his big success as a player, winning a Democrat Cup medal as Kilcar won the league.
And he was captain of the Kilcar team four years later in 1963, that again lost to MacCumhaill’s.
When the GAA club in Glencolmcille, the forerunner to Naomh Columba, was reformed in 1964, Jimmy returned to play with his home club.
He played for the club for years and played in two county junior finals, before retiring and taking up coaching and managing the club to a first Donegal Senior Championship title in 1978.
“I played with Jimmy for a number of years and he was on the Glencolmcille junior team that lost the county junior finals of 1972 and ‘73,” John James said.
“He retired at the end of ‘73 and took up coaching and was a member of the management team that masterminded the junior championship triumph of 1974.
“Glencolmcille defeated Cloughaneely in the ‘74 final to bring the first piece of championship silverware back to the club.”
Glencolmcille lost the ‘72 final to St Naul’s and the ‘73 final to Termon.
His greatest triumph as a player and manager was when he guided Glencolmcille to its first Donegal Senior Championship title in 1978.
Jimmy ‘Beag’ was manager of that team and John James McLaughlin was captain. Glencolmcille defeated Gaoth Dobhair in the ‘78 final, 1-12 to 0-10.
“That was without doubt his greatest success. Jimmy had a great knowledge of football and was highly respected by the players,” explained John James.
“He was a great man to give advice to younger players and they always listened to him.
“1978 was a great year for us; we also won the All-Ireland Gaeltacht and the senior league, Democrat Cup and Jimmy played a huge part in the success.
“He was a good all round GAA man and had great pride in his parish and was a proud Donegal man.
“He was involved with the club in recent years but still continued to support both the club and the county and he rarely missed either a Donegal or Naomh Columba game.
“He was a great character and all those that knew him will really miss him.”
Jimmy Beag was also a county mentor/selector with Donegal in the early 1980s and was a member of Brian McEniff’s 1983 Ulster Senior Championship winning backroom team.
Jimmy ’Beag’ Cunningham was well known and well respected far beyond the boundaries of Glencolmcille and Carrick
“Jimmy ‘Beag’ was so well known that if you addressed a letter to him and just addressed it Jimmy ‘Beag’ Cunningham it would have found him,” was how Kilcar clubman and official Sean McGinley described him. Sean, as a boy, watched him play for Kilcar.
Jimmy was in his mid 70s and a single man. He was a carpenter and farmer and he is survived by his brothers Connie and Barney; sisters Philomena and Margaret, nieces and nephews and a wide circle of family and friends.
Ar dheis Dé ar a anam.