GAA legend 'the man in the cap' who won two All-Ireland medals with Meath
PETER McDERMOTT: PETER McDERMOTT, who has died aged 93, was a renowned Meath footballer, match official and GAA administrator. Known as “the man in the cap”, he was a member of the Meath team that won the county’s first all-Ireland championship in 1949, and captained the side that won the title in 1954.
After his playing career ended, he took up coaching and was in charge of Meath’s All-Ireland-winning team in 1967 having been an adviser when Down made the historic breakthrough in 1960.
In an inter-county career spanning 15 years he was a member of six Leinster championship-winning teams. He also was a member of two national league-winning teams and collected two Railway Cup medals. His 51 championship appearances stood as a Meath record until it was surpassed by Colm O’Rourke in 1992.
While still a player he refereed an All-Ireland final and was Meath county board secretary. He later played a role in getting the compromise rules series off the ground.
The son of Meath parents, Peter McDermott was born in Belgooly, Kinsale, Co Cork, in 1918. His family returned to Co Meath when he was a child, and settled in Cushenstown near Ashbourne.
His father played hurling for Meath, and from an early age Peter was immersed in the GAA. As a minor footballer he won a county championship medal in 1936 for Rathfeigh. He was then selected for the county team which lost to Louth in the first round of the Leinster championship.
He played at intermediate level for Donaghmore, county championship winners in 1938 and was on the county junior team which reached the Leinster final in 1939 only to lose to Dublin in a replay.
The following year he made his senior debut against Wexford in the national football league. The team went on to win the Leinster championship but lost to Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final.
While Meath enjoyed league triumphs, championship success proved elusive. “Although we had great teams and great players, we just couldn’t make the big breakthrough at All-Ireland level,” McDermott once recalled.
Their luck changed in 1949, largely due to the efforts of new county board chairman Fr Tully. Starting the championship campaign as no-hopers, the Meath players, including McDermott at left-corner forward, confounded the critics and reached the final.
They then won the final, beating Cavan 1-10 to 1-6.
McDermott remembered the “special aura” of that first All-Ireland win, saying: “We always appreciated the feelings of the supporters”. In 1954 Meath faced Kerry in the final and, captained by McDermott, won 1-13 to 1-7. He said of the runners-up: “They were the most magnanimous of losers and showed great sportsmanship”.
By now he was county board chairman and involved in a programme of reorganisation. He was also an inter-county referee and officiated at the All-Ireland final between Kerry and Armagh in 1953. He refereed the 1956 final between Galway and Cork.
Meath became a force again in the 1960s with McDermott as coach and Fr Tully as trainer. The team won the 1967 All-Ireland final, beating Cork 1-9 to 0-9.
A tour of Australia followed and Meath won all five games, celebrated in McDermott’s book Gaels in the Sun. He strongly believed in the need for an international platform for Gaelic football and managed Ireland in the inaugural compromise rules test series which was played in 1984.
On top of all this, McDermott ran a family business in Navan, buying and selling eggs and later chicken and fish.
Predeceased by his wife Bridie, son Seán and daughter Maura, he is survived by his son Dermot and grandchildren.
Peter McDermott: born February 1st, 1918; died October 11th, 2011