Dermot Earley; an appreciation

December 11th, 2010

By Seamus Hayden

The following was written for inclusion in the 2010 Roscommon SFC Final match programme

I would like to thank Roscommon County Board for allowing me the privilege to pen my thoughts on the late Dermot Earley who passed away recently. Dermot Earley is for me the greatest Roscommon person I have known.

I first met Dermot Earley in 1966 when I was nine years old and Dermot was eighteen. We met at Fullard’s filling station in Roscommon town. It was a Sunday evening and Dermot was on his way back to the Curragh. I was in the back of my family’s black Anglia. I was so excited to meet this fine, strong Roscommon footballer with the crew cut hairstyle. Even then he made an impression on me. For the next few years playing football at home in Kilteevan and elsewhere I was, in my own mind, Dermot Earley. He was simply my idol.
You can imagine the feelings of joy and awe when years later the then-Roscommon senior team manager Tom Heneghan informed me that I was selected to play midfield beside Dermot in the National Football league of 1978/79. To play alongside my boyhood hero was something special.

We won the League that season and went on to play together in the 1980 All-Ireland Final against Kerry. Our eight-year midfield partnership lasted until Dermot retired in 1985.

Dermot was a mighty man to play with, welcoming us young fellows onto the team, encouraging and praising all the time –“your ball” mighty catch”, and “well done” rang out from him during a game or on the training pitch. His words of encouragement made us younger players feel bigger, faster, stronger, and eager to win all our games for Dermot’s and our beloved primrose and blue.

We all looked up to Dermot and he was a hero and role model for us. That team of the 1970s and 1980s remain very close to this day. We were all stunned and saddened by the passing of Dermot this year.

Even after we stopped playing, meeting Dermot was still a special and memorable experience. With his great handshake, his big smile, his hand on your shoulder, and his genuine words of “good to see you”; we knew we were with a very special man and friend.

He was always upbeat about Ireland and Roscommon and life in general. After spending time in Dermot’s company one would walk away feeling good about life. This was a very special and wonderful gift that Dermot had. He had many other fine qualities also that are all too rare in people and that we could do with finding in the Ireland of today.

In the 1990s when Dermot was asked to manage Roscommon, he did it with great pride and enthusiasm. He invited myself and John McGowan to be his selectors – an honour for both of us. We all loved Roscommon but none more so than Dermot as he proved time and again when he was asked to do so many things for his native county and clubs in and around the county.

Dermot was the greatest ambassador that Gortaganny, Roscommon and Ireland could have. He made us proud of who we were and where we are from. He was proud and emotional about his roots and he delighted in Mary and their fine family yet was humble about his stature in Irish society and the esteem in which he was held in the GAA community.

When news broke that Dermot was not well we all wondered how such a strong man could be brought down like this. Alas for us there will be greater interest in the All Heaven final this year. I am sure Dermot will have some role to play either as a player or team manager or match analyst in the proceedings.

To his mother Kitty, his wife Mary, who was always at his side, his children and grandchild, his brothers and sisters it is difficult to find words that offer any consolation in your great loss but rest assured that we know Dermot will share in the laughter and special memories whenever we meet and recall the many great memories that we have of this very special man.

As for my Roscommon teammates, we were privileged and honoured to have played with such a man on the playing fields of Ireland and especially here in Hyde Park. Every time a ball is plucked from the sky in this great theatre of Gaelic games we will know that we have seen it done more gracefully and skilfully by Roscommon’s mighty No 8 Dermot Earley. We are confident that Dermot will continue to inspire future generations of young players in his beloved primrose and blue.

Many fine, accurate words have been penned to describe Dermot Early, an officer, a gentleman, an ambassador, a legend, and possibly the greatest footballer never to have won an All-Ireland Senior medal. Personally, I know one thing; I have lost a true and genuine friend.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh do anam dilís Dermot.

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