Thousands pay respects to former GAA president Joe McDonagh

Former Galway hurler, GAA official, teacher and Irish language promoter died on Friday

Thousands of people travelled from all over Ireland and beyond to pay their respects to former GAA president Joe McDonagh last night.

Mr McDonagh reposed at the Cillín within Church of Mary Immaculate Queen in Barna in Galway throughout the day before his removal to the church late Monday night.

The former Galway hurler, GAA official, teacher, Irish language promoter and education administrator, passed away on Friday after a short illness aged 62.

GAA players, managers and officials were among thousands from all over the country who travelled to the small village at the entrance to Connemara.

They queued for hours outside the church which overlooks Galway Bay, with the church full to capacity an hour before Mr McDonagh’s body was brought from his home a short distance away.

Mr McDonagh, who is survived by his wife Peig, son Eoin and daughters Muireann and Eilis, will be laid to rest at Rahoon Cemetery after noon mass on Tuesday.

He won an All-Ireland medal in 1980 when Galway ended a 57-year wait for the Liam McCarthy Cup and famously sang 'The West's Awake' after captain Joe Connolly collected the trophy.

Mr Connolly said Joe McDonagh was an integral figure in the revival of Galway hurling, but that was just one of the many things he achieved in his life.

“One thing I would absolutely say with certainty, in our era as Galway hurlers we had wonderful fun. We had brilliant fun from beginning to end. The greatest social nights you can imagine of a gathering of people, we had it.

“We took our hurling so seriously, there was a phenomenal spirit engendered in the group at the time, but bang in the middle of all that was Joe. He was just a wonderful raconteur, a wonderful singer, a great hurler.

“In his last few years, rising to the top of the GAA and education, we shared Joe with the country, but for those years we had him to ourselves when we were hurling for Galway,” said the former Galway captain.

His former Ballindeereen and Galway colleague Noel Lane said that his long-time friend had left a huge legacy behind him.

“He lived in Barna in recent years and there is plenty of granite out there. Joe has laid granite foundations in so many things in the GAA, in education, in the Irish language. So many things that will benefit communities locally and internationally for years to come,” he said.

A book of condolence is open at City Hall in Galway city, while Galway County Council held a minute's silence before their meeting in Abbeyknockmoy.