Shay Connolly’s Big Night

Pictured: Shay Connolly with Ringsend Mayor Alice Foley.

Pictured: Shay Connolly with Ringsend Mayor Alice Foley.

A night of recognition for the combined services of four Clanna Gael Fontenoy greats took place on July 3rd in the club’s bar. Well-wishers on the night – including friends, family and Clanna Gael figures past and present – paid homage to Shay Connolly, who has had a 50-year involvement with the club, and also to Frank White, Eugene Davey and Michael O’Kane.

The night featured music and speeches from prominent Clanna Gael figures, with John Dodd beginning proceedings with an email from Shay’s sadly absent friend Ciaran O’ Donnell, and went on to thank the contributions of the four men to the club’s legacy.

Awards were then handed out to the four men, described by John Dodd in the following terms: “Frank White, a proud son of Roscommon, Eugene Davey, a Sligo man who insists he’s from Dublin, Michael O’Kane from Belfast, Shay Connolly a full time Dublin man from Longford!”

Also speaking on the night was Padraic White, founder of the Irish Development Authority, who described how he first met Shay through his wife, Senator Mary White.

Padraic was struck by Shay’s commitment to the local area and how he intertwined both club and community in the true ethos of the GAA. Padraic said he was delighted to be working with Shay on the new Our Town Project for Ringsend and Irishtown.

“Shay was born on a street called Hope,” Padraic said on the night. “Shay has his philosophy; GAA is more than just games. He epitomises everything about Clanna Gael.”

Shay recalled his years at the club, describing the pain, the agony and the ecstasy that was experienced during those years. He extemporised at length about how the original development committee that featured himself, Eugene, Frank and Michael, along with Dave Reddy and John McKenna, had a vision for the club, and spoke of his pride of their long journey.

“We loved each other, we hated each other, we got through it and we were chuffed and delighted that we did,” Shay said.

After the evening’s events Shay sat down to chat to NewsFour about his back story, both personally and club-related. Shay originally started playing with Clanna Gael Fontenoy at age eight, when the club was still based in Ringsend Park. His father had been manager of the team he performed for, who won the Dublin Juvenile Hurling Championship for the first time in the club’s history.

The following year the team continued their winning streak by winning the Under-16 Dublin County Championship, with five of that team eventually playing for Dublin.

Until 1989, the club had been bereft of a premises for a number of years before eventually securing the lands in Sean Moore Park from Dublin City Council, with work being done on the site by Frank White and John McGinley.

Initially, a bar was built, with two dressing rooms and a hall. In 2000 the development committee, comprising of Shay, Michael, Eugene, Frank and Dave Reddy and John McKenna sat down to discuss expansion due to increased demand from the community. As a result of these endeavours, the car park was re-developed, their two dressing rooms became six and an overhaul of the club’s pitches is being tended to by specialist firm Prunty Pitch of Fermanagh. Further developments within the club involved the astro turf arena and the refurbishment of the hall.

Shay was club manager for 12 of his 50 years association with Clanna Gael. Other sporting triumphs encountered by the club included their 1991 O’Briens Cup victory, the club’s first adult football trophy since 1968, with Shay and Frank at the club’s helm at the time.

The club had also contested the Dublin Senior Championship semi-final in 1983 before enduring a few barren years. “Our team reached huge heights,” Shay told NewsFour.

Shay has since moved on from Clanna Gael and is now deeply entrenched in our local Our Town project. When Diarmuid Gavin initially proposed the Our Town initiative, Shay was quick to get involved in the project’s objective in seeing to the regeneration of Ringsend and Irishtown and in dealing with many of the social difficulties that our community faces.

“I’m delighted to be involved in the Our Town project,” Shay said. “There’s lots of energy, lots of positivity. Feilim Dunne was the architect who I got in to do the hall and we were talking about Ringsend constantly. Diarmuid Gavin had a series on when he went around towns in Ireland, and we wanted to do something bigger for Ringsend, a whole regeneration.

By Craig Kinsella