O’Reilly family will be split for Ulster U-21 final

Alan Foley


Alan Foley

O’Reilly family will be split for Ulster U-21 final
Terry and Tom were the respective second last and last of the 12 O’Reilly children in Belmullet, Co Mayo.

Terry and Tom were the respective second last and last of the 12 O’Reilly children in Belmullet, Co Mayo.

Their father Pat Rua lived to 101 years of age and mother Mary to 96 in the town at the western tip of Mayo known as “the last stop before America.”

The winds of change has taken the family into various places over the years and on Wednesday night at Brewster Park in Enniskillen the two youngest brothers will be wearing opposite colours for the Ulster U-21 final.

Terry, club chairman of Sean MacCumhaill’s in Ballybofey, will be of green and gold persuasion having lived in Donegal since was first stationed here as a member of An Garda Siochana back in 1975.

On the other hand, Tom, three years Terry’s junior, will be supporting his adopted Cavan, his homeplace since moving 32 years ago, where he worked as a prison officer, primarily in Louglan House in Blacklion. Tom retired six years ago and spends his free time on the Cavan County Board executive as chairman.

“Tom was up in Donegal only last Tuesday, before the respective Ulster U-21 semi-finals and we both agreed there it would probably be a Donegal v Cavan final,” Terry says.

Cavan are aiming for their third successive Ulster U-21 championship and haven’t been beaten in the province since Jim McGuinness’s Donegal toppled them in the showpiece of 2010.

And while Donegal squeezed past Derry 2-11 to 0-15 at Healy Park in Omagh on Wednesday, Cavan, at the same time, were dismantling Down at Armagh’s Athletic Grounds.

“Tom believes the Cavan team are as strong as they have been for the last three years,” Terry says of his brother’s hunch.

“He would call the Donegal game now a bit of a 50-50 but that’s Tom for you. Cavan will justifiably go into the match as favourites but that will suit Donegal, who’ve improved with every game. They’re very well prepared and you have to congratulate the management on that.

“Whoever wants it the most will win it. Tom will be shouting for Cavan and me for Donegal. Look, we’re both Mayo men but Cavan is his team now and Donegal is mine. But we’ll shout for Mayo then against absolutely anyone else! But we’ve a bit more power in Donegal as we’ve another brother, Liam, who is living in Dungloe, whose daughter Martina seldom misses a game, and our other brother PJ in Burtonport, whose grandson Christopher McGlynn is the Donegal U-21 sub goalkeeper.”

While Terry’s son Martin will in all likelihood line out at centre-back for the team managed by Maxi Curran, Tom’s son Eamon, a former Cavan junior, minor and U-21 from the Shannon Gaels club, is involved in Gaelic games in the different role nowadays – as the physiotherapist of Dublin’s hurlers.

“Donegal had no form shown but they are coming good now and their senior panellists are a big help,” Tom says. “Martin’s a good young footballer. He had a tough time last year when he got glandular fever and that held him back a bit, so it was great to see him getting an All-Ireland medal as part of the Donegal panel.

“He’s a good gasúr. But there will be no love lost on Wednesday evening, we want to avenge three years ago. They’re good GAA people and our whole family have been involved in it for a long time.

“After the game is over we’ll shake hands and I’ll put my arm around the young lad surely and wish him luck in the senior championship and I’m sure he’ll wish us well going forward in the U-21!”