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Highlights on Off The Ball

'Leader of men' | The life and death of Cavan GAA icon John Joe O'Reilly

The Cavan Mount Rushmore was picked earlier today, with John Joe O'Reilly not making the cut - ho...

'Leader of men' | The life and...

'Leader of men' | The life and death of Cavan GAA icon John Joe O'Reilly

The Cavan Mount Rushmore was picked earlier today, with John Joe O'Reilly not making the cut - however the impact the Cornafean man made in the county didn't go unnoticed.

Dave McIntyre and Paul Fitzpatrick were the men tasked with making the calls, but in the end only Mick Higgins made the cut from a gaelic football perspective.

One iconic figure very unlucky to miss out was O'Reilly, and Dave made a strong case for his inclusion.

"He won two All-Ireland's, he captained the side in the Polo Grounds in 1947, he was a part of the team that won the next year in 1948, he won 11 Ulster chamapionship medals, which is an unbelievable haul.

"Throw in a league medal, four Railway Cup medals as well... he was named on the Football Team of the Century in 1984, and then when they followed up he was named on the Team of the Millennium in 1999 in the centre-half back position.

"I kind of put him in the Jim Morrison / James Dean sort of category - he was taken all too young so tragically. He picked up a really bad injury while playing a game of gaelic football at the age of 34 and he died later that year in 1952, the year of Cavan's last All-Ireland.

"If anything, his premature death has added to his legend over the years - because Cavan people never got to see him grow old, never got to hear him talk about his days in a Cavan jersey. They only ever remembered that young superstar, that swashbuckling centre-half back.

"His Dad and his brother also played for the county, he's one of just eight men to have been presented the Sam Maguire as captain on at least two occasions.

"There was a great song written about him, 'The Gallant John Joe', he's just one of these legendary figures of not just Cavan GAA but the GAA in general."

Paul Fitzpatrick, Sports Editor of The Anglo Celt, added that his death has only added to his place in Cavan folklore.

"John Joe O'Reilly actually picked up an injury playing in a club match in Kildare, he was playing against Ardclough and something happened - people say he got a kick.

"He had previously refereed a game where they weren't happy with some decisions, some said there was a bit of a vendetta against him. It ended up that he got a very bad kidney ailment.

"John Joe had a huge connection with Kildare - he was gone from Cavan really from the age of 18 on, he was down at the Curragh.

"He was described as 'absolutely first-class officer material'... aside from his football career, he was a leader of men. He was the youngest ever commandant in the history of the Irish Army, and was earmarked as a future Chief of Staff.

"A hugely popular figure among his teammates, he was just one of these absolute supermen in the days before TV. He was sort of like a Cú Chulainn type figure around Ireland.

"The fact that he died young definitely added to his lustre, and as the song says 'New players may come, old players may go, but we'll never have the likes of the Gallant John Joe.'"

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Cavan Cavan GAA Cornafean Dave McIntyre GAA John Joe O'Reilly Off The Ball Otb Am Paul Fitzpatrick