Members of the organising group when Ballyshannon hosted the Ulster finals of the Community Games.
PJ Buggy from Ballyshannon is an all round sportsman, but by his own admission, a first and foremost GAA man.
Some of his greatest moments and finest achievements in sport were with the Aodh Ruadh GAA club in Ballyshannon.
But he also enjoyed great days and times with Community Games both at local and national level and as Community Games celebrate their 50th year, he is a perfect example of the volunteer ethos that is central to the organisation.
He served as the chairman of Ballyshannon Community Games for the best part of a decade in the 1980s and ‘90s and he was also part of the national executive of the association for a good number of years.
“Like everybody else I got involved because of the family,” said PJ, a retired Civil Servant.
“We have seven children and every one of them was involved and competed in the Community Games growing up, from swimming to Gaelic Football to athletics.
“They all qualified for the National finals in Mosney in their time and they all won national medals in their various sports.”
The seven members of the family were Donal, Grainne, Sinead, Aisling, Pauric, Ciara and Aoife.
“The Community Games is brilliant because it caters for all young people in a community,” PJ said.
“As well as the high profile sports like Gaelic Football/Hurling, soccer, rugby and athletics, it caters for all sports from the main sports right through to chess and other board games.
“Basically, Community Games caters for everybody, and I think that is why it took off after it was founded in 1966.
“Field games such as football, hurling, soccer and rugby are not for everybody and when you think at the time, the Community Games was founded in the mid-1960s by Joe Connolly, there was nothing for young people who didn’t play the traditional sports.
“This was especially so in rural Ireland. If you didn’t play football or soccer there was nothing else.
“It’s a great organisation and has played a huge role in developing our young people over the last 50 years.
“Most of our top athletes have all come up through the Community Games and for many of them, the Community Games was their first introduction to their particular discipline.
“The country owes those hundreds of men and women, coaches and officials up and down the country who have worked tirelessly for the Games over the last five decades.”
The Buggy involvement with the Community Games was very much a family affair. PJ’s wife Anne was secretary of Ballyshannon Community Games for a good number of years.
“I’m the kind of person that if I get involved in something, I get involved up to my neck and so it was with the Community Games,” PJ said.
“Anne was involved longer than me. She was secretary for a long time and really did trojan work here locally.
“When I got involved first here in Ballyshannon, I soon found myself elected as chairman and that took me to County Community Games meetings and brought me into contact with people like John Kelly from Falcarragh and Fr Francie McAteer.
“John was a big man in the Community Games and I remember being at a county meeting one night and they were looking for someone to represent the county at national meetings.
“They were having difficulty finding someone and I volunteered and ended up on the national executive for a number of years.”
During his years on the national executive in the 1980s and ‘90s, PJ served on the high powered Games Committee and attended the national finals in Mosney every one of those years.
“I used to find the National finals in Mosney very uplifting to see all the colours of other counties and hundreds of young people taking part and competing for the pride of their parish and county.
“We owe a debt of gratitude to Joe Connolly and those who founded the Community Games.
“Joe in particular, did immense work for years. He was from Walkinstown in Dublin and he served for years after as secretary and Chief Executive Officer .
PJ’s son Donal - a national gold medal winner in swimming - took over as CEO from Joe Connolly and served in the position for four years.
During PJ’s time as chairman of Ballyshannon Community Games, the Ulster finals of the games was staged in Ballyshannon and nearby Bundoran staged the annual congress of the Community Games.
“The finals in Ballyshannon were a great occasion and were a huge success. It was a massive undertaking by the local Community Games committee,” PJ said.
“But they were up to it and it ran very well and was acknowledged as having been well run and a big success.
“We have always been lucky locally here in Ballyshannon, that we have always had very good people involved.
“It has been a similar story in the county. We have been blessed with people, both coaches and officials, who have worked with the young people.
“That is why Donegal competitors always do so well at the national finals and we are always one of the top performing counties.
“Donal served four years as CEO and enjoyed his time in the job and of course we here in Donegal are very lucky that a Donegal man is the current national president of the Community Games, Gerry Davenport.
“Gerry has been the president for the last few years and is doing a good job in the position and has for years been a great advocate for the games in the county.
“It is a great honour for Donegal to have a man in the top position and especially this special year, the 50th anniversary.”
PJ Buggy is a born and bred Donegal man. His late father hailed from Kilkenny and his mother was one of the Dowds of Burt.
Apart from a period working in Cavan in his early years, PJ has lived all his life in Ballyshannon. And those great days with Aodh Ruadh, coaching and managing the club’s senior footballers, included back to back Donegal senior championship successes in 1986 and 1987.