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22 May 2022

Death of a legendary Clara and Offaly GAA administrator

Death of a legendary Clara and Offaly GAA administrator

The late Mick Sheirdan at the 2014 National Congress.

THE death has taken place of one of Offaly's most famous and iconic GAA administrators, Michael (Mick) Sheridan.

In his early 80s and known the length and breath of the country, Mick Sheridan died on Monday morning after a brave battle with illness.

The Clara man gave a life time of service to the GAA in almost every capacity. He was a talented player in his youth, a key member of the first great Clara senior football team and a former Offaly footballer. He was a long serving chairman of Clara GAA Club for many years, only stepping down in 2012 and he was a former treasurer of the Offaly GAA County Board, as well as serving on several committees over the years. He was an outstanding referee who took charge of both Offaly senior football and hurling finals and he was one of the main Scor activists in Offaly.

He had an infectious, absolutely powerful passion for the GAA. He was a surpreme worker, capable of getting things done and he possessed ambition, courage and imagination. He was chairman of Clara GAA Club when they purchased the Old Convent of Mercy buildings and land in 2007. While Clara paid a whopping €2.5 million for that and it left the club with an unmanageable debt, it all worked out well for them. The debt was reduced to under €500,000 some years ago after tense negotiations with banks and Croke Park involvement and Clara now have tremendous facilities.

The ground, Pairc Prionsiais, located on the Kilbeggan Road, has become Clara GAA's headquarters with their old ground, Pairc Brid, on the Ballycumber Road, now the headquarters for Offaly ladies footballers – at the time of the Convent deal, Clara had hoped to sell Pairc Brid for property development but unfortunately they were one of a dozen clubs across the country who embarked on a deal of this nature at the wrong time. The recession had kicked in within a year and efforts to sell Pairc Brid were not successful.

The club went onto develop excellent facilites at their new grounds with two full length sand based pitches, floodlights and a training pitch while rooms in the old Convent were converted to dressing rooms, meeting rooms etc. Sheridan's excitement as the Convent deal was unveiled in 2007 and his pride as the developed facilities were officially opened in 2012 was palpable to all who met him.

The Convent development is just one of many legacies that he has left to the GAA in his beloved Clara. Mick Sheridan was a ferociously proud Offaly man and his contribution to his county was considerable and varied. He also served as an Offaly senior football selector in the late 1980s under Donegal man Michael McBrearty and again later and he was asked to serve on many committees, always answering the call – included in this was development committees, fundraising groups and committees to select Offaly senior football management.

However, his love of Clara GAA Club always trumped everything. Clara was closest to his heart, his main priority and he made no bones about this, both in words and deed.

He was a controversial figure at times. He was a very outspoken Clara GAA delegate at County Board meetings for several years, speaking on almost every subject. He was not afraid to express less than popular opinions and step on toes. He often got involved in issues and controversies that most clubs remained neutral in and steered clear of. It meant that there was sometimes a downside to this – he often came up with very good ideas and suggestions but on many occasions, these did not get the hearing and support that they might have got from delegates, who did get exasperated at the way he dominated meetings and the length some of those took.

This aspect of him led to the end his long term as County Board treasurer in 1992 – he served from 1981 to '92. He was a capable and conscientious treasurer, fulfilling his role very well but he was also chairman of Clara GAA Club for some of this time. He regularly championed Clara's cause from the top table in those years and this led him into conflict with fellow officers and then chairman Brendan Ward, who insisted that you could not represent you're club at County Board meetings as well as be a County Board officer.

He resigned in the wake of one 1992 County Board meeting when he had spoken vociferously on Clara's behalf on a number of issues. He was taken to task over this at the next executive meeting and his resignation was accepted by Brendan Ward. He subsequently tried to withdraw his resignation but it wasn't accepted and he then put his name forward for election when a new treasurer was being elected weeks later. Sheridan was beaten by Tullamore man Andy Gallagher in a vote at that meeting and he didn't serve as a County Board officer again - he did seek election on occasion, including for chairman (2002) and Central Council delegate but was always beaten except in votes for Congress or Leinster Convention delegate. It was, however, a measure of the man that these setbacks didn't disillusion him and he didn't hold grudges against anyone. His ability to have rows, sometimes furious ones, with people and resume friendly, jovial, cordial relationships was one of his many endearing traits. He merely went on with life, continuing to speak his mind at County Board meetings and answering his county's call when asked to serve on various committees.

He was on an early County Boards facilities committee, and from this, O'Connor Park was eventually leased from Tullamore GAA Club while he was later on an O'Connor Park development committee. He attended several national Congresses and Leinster Council Conventions as an Offaly delegate and he was in his element at these, relishing the opportunity to speak and be heard on issues of national importance as well as meeting officials from other counties.

His first GAA love was as a player and he was a key figure in a golden era for Clara in the 1950s and 1960s, playing both football and hurling, though he was a better footballer. He won an U-16 hurling medal in 1955, playing centre half forward as Clara defeated Shinrone in the final – he was midfield on the Clara team beaten by Tullamore in the U-16 football final in '56 and was in goals asthey beat Shinrone again in the minor hurling final. He won U-16 and minor football medals in 1956 while Clara were denied a minor double as Carrig-Riverstown beat them in the minor hurling decider. He was the U-16 captain but missed the final against St Conleth's, Daingean as he was ill.

Clara also won the Intermediate Football Championship in 1956 and soon developed into a force to be reckoned with at senior level. Sheridan was in defence as Clara won the minor football and hurling double in 1957 while Edenderry beat them in their first senior football final the same year – he was corner back as they were denied three minor football titles in a row by Tullamore in 1958. In 1959, he estabablished himself on the Clara senior football team for the first time, playing corner back as St Patrick's eliminated them in the second round.

They finally reached the promised land in 1960 and he was midfield alongside one of Clara's greatest ever footballers, Peter Nolan as Tullamore were beaten in a replayed Senior Football Championship final. He was corner back when they won their second championship in 1964 – and he was club chairman when they won their next titles in 1991, 1993, 2003 and 2009, meaning that he was central to all their greatest triumphs. He was also a selector on several successful Clara sides, including senior.

He was corner back when Clara were beaten by Rhode in the 1966 senior football final and had drifted off their first team by the end of the decade.

By then, the next phase of his GAA life had begun. He was elected onto the Clara GAA committee in 1966, he became assistant secretary in 1967 and that was really the start of fifty years of the most incredible service to his club.

He played underage football with Offaly and was on the periphery of the senior panel as they made their big breakthrough in 1960/1961, though he didn't play a senior league or championship game for his county.

As he wound down his playing career, he became a very capable referee. He refereed every grade of football and hurling in Offaly and was in charge of the 1974 Senior Football Championship final between Ferbane and Gracefield and three Senior Hurling Championship finals – the 1979 draw and replay between Kinnitty and Coolderry and the 1984 meeting of Kinnitty and St Rynagh's. He took charge of finals in most grades in football and hurling from underage up to senior.

He held every position in his club. He was secretary in 1983 and 1984 and he was treasurer from 1970 to 1981. He was elected chairman for the first time at the 1984 AGM and was re-elected at the 1985 AGM but there was a bitter club row at that time over invitations to the club's centenary dinner dance. This resulted in an Extraordinary General Meeting being called and he was replaced by Noel Kelly as chairman at this.

He took a sabbatical for a couple of years after this but went back into the chair at the 1989 AGM and stayed there until he was replaced by Brian Gavin at the 2012 general meeting – at the time, there had been moves building by a younger generation to take over the club but it was a measure of the respect that Sheridan was held in that he was given time to stand down on his own terms before handing the torch over.

The hours he devoted to the club during his term as chairman was mind boggling. He immersed himself in every aspect of club activity. He was a leader and was always willing to dictate policy but also got his hands dirty. He looked after pitch maintenance, he sold dozens of lotto tickets each week, he helped look after the lotto draw and other fundraising activities. He collected tickets at gates and doors, he looked after teams. There was almost no day during his term of office that he didn't do something for the GAA.

Even though football was the main game in Clara, he enjoyed hurling and helped ensure this flag was kept flying there.

He loved GAA administration and club AGMs were often marathon affairs under his watch, sometimes taking two meetings to complete as every aspect of club life was analysed in painstaking detail.

His hands were on every big Clara GAA development in a near fifty year time span. He did trojan research and writing work when the excellent Clara GAA history was proiduced in 1994, alongside many others.

He loved travelling to matches, going to all of Offaly's great wins in Croke Park with some of his great friends, enjoying tea and sandwiches in around the Garden of Rememerance area for years before matches. He had an excellent knowledge of the rule book, often giving advice to other clubs and individuals when it was sought, while he was a shrewd judge of games and players.

He had a great passion for Irish culture and dance and he showed this in a real sense by leading the cultural arm of the GAA, Scor, which ran yearly competitions for dance and song. He was chairman of Offaly Scor for decades with a fellow Clara man, Br Sylvester Carney, the secretary. He supported Clara and Offaly Scor and Scor na nOg participants all over the country and was particularly proud when the Clara ballad group won provincial and All-Ireland titles.

He was the archetypal GAA political animal. He knew how to bend ears, to get things done and his personality was such that it was hard to say no to him when asked to do something. He could cut corners and he certainly did step on toes. Most people who devote themselves to the GAA to the extent he did and in the positions he did will encounter controversy and he had to deal with several scrapes in his own club over the years. Hard calls were made, managers walked away or were replaced and there was a mixture of all that can happen in a club. He was in GAA terms a “lovable rogue” and while he was involved in some decisions and actions that didn't win universal approval, he always moved beyond that and the betterment of the GAA in his own area was his over riding incentive.

He worked in that great Clara employer, Goodbody's for years, having served his time as a fitter there and he put this knowledge to good use for Clara GAA Club – he was a able to fix and sort out plumbing, electrical and mechanical problems.

Of course the GAA was just one aspect to his life. He became known far and wide through the GAA but there was a lot more to him than that. There was Mick Sheridan, the devoted, loyal and loving husband and father who doted on his grandchildren in later years. There was Mick Sheridan, the friend, who enjoyed people's company and enriched their lives. He had a great knowledge of GAA facts and statistics and also of people he met and what they did.

He took up golf some years ago and enjoyed games in this, playing at Moate Golf Club. He was great gregarious company, a powerful force of personality and a real character. He was engaging, personable and a tremendous conversationalist. He didn't drink alcohol or smoke but was a very sociable character.

His life is best summed up by the practical legacy he leaves behind in Clara and further afield and the treasure throve of memories his family, friends and the wider GAA community will retain of him.

After getting ill, he remained a regular at games and was spotted in O'Connor Park and other venues regularly last year as Clara won the Senior “B” Football Championship and went well in the Senior “B” Hurling Championship.

Leinster Council chairman and formerly Offaly GAA chairman, Pat Teehan paid tribute to the deceased on Monday evening, saying: “He was a very colourful character. As a County Board chairman, you never had an ego when Mick was around, he told it as it was but you couldn't question his dedication to the GAA and in particular Clara. His involvement in Scor at club, county and provincial level was second to none. He helped Sco rget a big profile from late 1970s. He was a regular contributor at national Congress. People mightn't have always agreed but when Mick spoke, people listened.”

Deeply regretted by his loving wife Angela, daughters Elaine and Dorothy, son Peter, brothers, sisters, grandchildren, Caomhan, Caitlin, Colm, Ciaran, Clodagh, Ailbhe, Caragh, and Conor, great-grandchildren Cadha and Lucas, daughter-in-law Karen, sons-in-law Mel and Paul, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, nephews, nieces, neighbours, relatives and friends

R.I.P.

Reposing at his residence on Tuesday from 3 pm until 8 pm. Removal on Wednesday to St. Brigid's Church Clara for 11 am Funeral Mass. Burial afterwards in the Monastery Cemetery Clara.

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