Jimmy Gray was one of the most influential people in Dublin GAA’s history

Former player and referee had a long career as an administrator and was instrumental in launching Kevin Heffernan’s football revolution

The death of Jimmy Gray on Wednesday at the age of 93 has taken from Dublin GAA both its honorary president and one of the most influential people in the county’s history.

As a player, he kept goal for the hurlers in the 1961 All-Ireland final – the last contested by Dublin – and went on to referee the 1969 Leinster hurling final. He was also a founder member of Na Fianna in Glasnevin, now one of the biggest clubs in the GAA.

In a long career as an administrator during which he chaired the county executive for 11 years as well as Leinster Council and was a candidate for the presidency of the association, he was instrumental in launching Kevin Heffernan’s football revolution.

He always contended that the Heffernan appointment ranked behind his reform of the Dublin county board as a career achievement but by securing the former All-Ireland winning captain as manager, he ushered in a new era for the GAA, especially in Dublin.


The concept of a self-contained management group with minimal interference from the county board would eventually become the norm for counties and in harnessing Heffernan’s energy and vision, Gray oversaw a resurgence in the county’s fortunes.

From 1974, with just three All-Irelands in over 50 years, Dublin went on to win the next three in four years before adding a fourth in 1983 and laying the ground for what followed. His rivalry with Mick O’Dwyer’s Kerry was the starting point for the modern age of football.

“I get a lot of praise for the appointment of Kevin Heffernan as Dublin manager in 1973, but I feel my biggest contribution to the GAA has been the total reorganisation of the Dublin county board I helped bring about,” Gray said in his autobiography, Under the Bluest Sky, which was written in collaboration with former Dublin hurling manager Michael O’Grady.

One of Jimmy Gray’s proudest tasks came 10 years ago when he was invited to present the Bob O’Keeffe Cup to John McCaffrey, captain of the first Dublin team to win the Leinster hurling title since his own playing days in 1961.

He remained a sprightly figure in attendance at matches and events until fairly recently and was highly esteemed by generations of Dublin players.

Jimmy Gray will be reposing at St. Francis Hospice, Blanchardstown on Friday, 31st March, from 3.0 to 5.0.

Removal is on Saturday morning to the church of Our Lady of Victories, Ballymun Road, arriving for funeral Mass at 10.0 followed by cremation in Glasnevin Crematorium.

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times