On Wednesday, 7th September, 2016, at Carrick graveyard, we laid to rest one of the great stalwarts in Cumann Luthchleas Gael in the county with the passing of Jimmy “Beag” Cunningham.
The town of Carrick came to a standstill on Monday evening when his remains came home from Letterkenny University Hospital. The cortege was met by a very large guard of honour at Carrick bridge which included former and present players and club members. Our neighbouring club, Kilcar, also formed a guard of honour in Kilcar which included many of Jimmy’s former playing colleagues.
Affectionately known county wide as “Jimmy Beag”, he was a man who gave his life to gaelic games and to Kilcar in his early playing career and in particular to the Glencolmcille club from the early sixties onwards .
As the Glencolmcille club had no adult team in the 1950s participating in county competitions, this resulted in the talented players from the parish playing with neighbours Kilcar. Jimmy was selected on the Kilcar minor team in 1958 and with his great talents and leadership he was selected as captain on the Kilcar senior team who reached the county semi-final in 1962 and again in 1963 reached the county final against Sean McCumhaill’s. In 1961 he had the honour of being selected on the Donegal county junior team.
In 1964 the Glencolmcille club was reformed; the players from the parish who played with Kilcar returning and an adult team was entered in county competitions.
Jimmy immediately got involved and was one of the driving forces along with his brother Connie and the late Charlie Cunningham in the success of the club. I had the privilege of playing with Jimmy when the club reached 1972 and 1973 county junior finals. I found him to have a good vision and he was also a great motivator. By the end of 1973 after being defeated in the county final by Termon, Jimmy decided to retire and to take up coaching and management. He soon noticed the potential of the young footballers in the Parish and was a great encouragement to them.
He was on the management team that masterminded the winning of the junior championship in 1974 by defeating Cloughaneely in the county final and winning the county league in the same year and being promoted to senior in 1975.
His greatest triumph was as manager in 1978 when he guided Naomh Columba to their first ever senior championship by defeating a very strong Gweedore side in the final. In the same year he guided the team to further glory by winning the county league and the All-Ireland Gaeltacht by defeating a fancied Clonbur in the final.
He was a selector/mentor with county team manager Brian McEniff from 1980 to 1985 and saw Donegal winning an Ulster final in 1983 before being defeated by Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final. During this period as mentor he was very highly regarded and respected by management and players. He had no agenda and it was all about a player’s ability. It did not matter what part of the county he was from; he would fight his corner to get the player on the Donegal panel.
Jimmy was one of nature’s gentlemen and was respected by young and old in the club. He was a great man to encourage, especially young players, whether he was manager or not, and you would never have heard him ridicule a player from the sideline.
The esteem in which the deceased and family are held was reflected by the huge attendance at the wake and funeral. A guard of honour was formed from the house to the church comprising of Naomh Columba past and present players, and also his former players from the Kilcar club.
Father Francis McAteer, PP, Carrick, was the chief celebrant assisted by Fr Eddie Gallagher, PP, Kilcar and Fr Paul McGeehan, CC, Glencolmcille. In his homily Fr McAteer paid tribute to Jimmy saying that he devoted his life to the GAA and his farming. He went on to say that he was a very skilled carpenter and this could be reflected on his workmanship throughout the parish.
A reflection was read by his niece Carol Ann McIntyre. There was also a very moving and humorous oration at the graveside which was read by his playing colleague and long time friend Sean Burke.
Chairman, John Joe Doherty, laid a wreath on the grave on behalf of the club.
On behalf of Naomh Columba Club I would like to extend our deepest sympathy to his brothers Connie and Barney, his sisters Margaret and Philomena, his nieces, nephews and a wide family circle.
I am sure he is now relating the latest news with his playing colleagues especially his brother Francie “Beag”, Cathal McLoughlin , Con Sean McShane, Francie Cunningham, Michael Oliver McIntyre and many more.
Slán leat Jimmy, tá tú imithe uain anois agus ní dheanfaidh muid dearmaid ort go bráth. Go raibh mile buiochas ar son an obair mhór a rinne tú don fhó chumann anseo i nGleann Cholm Cille.
John James McLoughlin,
Naomh Columba GAA Club,
Gleann Cholm Cille