Stars line up for Dublin club’s fundraiser in Chicago

Scoil Uí Chonaill gala dinner to be addressed by former taoiseach Enda Kenny

Rahm Emanuel may have announced that he will not be seeking re-election next year as Mayor of Chicago but the former chief of staff in the Barack Obama White House will in two weeks' time be among an impressive guest list at a dinner to raise funds for Dublin GAA club Scoil Uí Chonaill.

The gala dinner on September 20th will be addressed by former taoiseach Enda Kenny, who has taken an interest in the club because of its interactions with the North Inner City Task Force, which he established in 2016 while still in office.

The dinner is one of a number of events being held on the weekend under the banner of 'Oneness,' which seeks to celebrate Irish heritage in the US and includes networking events and a competition for entrepreneurs.

Chicago was chosen arose because of the links fostered by former player Liam Egan, who is a resident of the city.

Egan was full back on the Dublin U-21 team that reached the 1975 All-Ireland final before losing to a star-studded Kerry side, many of whom had started the senior final victory over Dublin just weeks previously. He went on to play a number of times for Kevin Heffernan’s seniors the following season.

The fund raising is also to benefit the Scoil Uí Chonaill schools, primary and secondary – almost literally in the shadow of Croke Park – from whose past pupils the club originally drew all of its members.

Founded in 1828 at the height of the campaign for Catholic Emancipation, the school’s foundation stone was laid 190 years ago last June by Daniel O’Connell, leader of the campaign, and after whom the schools are named.

The club is unusual in that past-pupil catchments are more associated with rugby than Gaelic games. With Synge Street having amalgamated with Templeogue Gaels, Scoil Uí Chonaill is the only such example in Dublin although the famous Mount Sion club in Waterford is another.

On the playing fields the club found greatest success in football, winning the 1983 and '86 Dublin titles. Robbie Kelleher is the club's most famous player, having been a mainstay of the 1970s Dublin team at left corner back, winning All-Ireland medals in 1974, '76 and '77.

North inner city

He also was awarded four All Stars in the number four jersey, a record at the time and one he still holds jointly with Keith Higgins from Mayo, who accumulated his during this decade.

The club wasn't founded until 1950 but quickly established itself as a presence in the north inner city and later towards Clontarf where its current grounds are. It was founded by Brother Jim Scully, then principal of the school, to provide a facility for past pupils to play Gaelic games.

The Christian Brothers did a great deal of work to establish and maintain the club but, surprisingly, the school originally dabbled in rugby, a legacy still detectable in the team jerseys, which with their tight amber, maroon and royal blue hoops are more reminiscent of the oval ball.

Legend has it that the colours were the brainchild of a Brother who having spent some time in the Vatican, had become taken by the colours of the Swiss Guard but that is treated with scepticism by some members.

These days the club is thriving with particular growth in the area of women’s football. Having been in reduced circumstances all the way down in Division Five of both hurling and football, Scoil Uí Chonaill’s men’s teams are both back in Division Two.

One of the schools' best known alumni is actor Colm Meaney, who provided the voice-over for a promotional video to publicise the Chicago fundraiser.

Meaney played for the U-14s in 1967-68 but informed trainer Gerry Rowley at the end of the season that he wouldn't be available the following year because he had enrolled in the Brendan Smith Academy of Acting.

Rowley doesn’t spare himself in recalling how he greeted the news: “I said to him, are you off your head?”

Around 50 members, including another past pupil, Dublin Lord Mayor Nial Ring, will make their way to Chicago later this month.

Details of the Oneness Gala are available on the club website, www.scoilgaa.com.

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