13 Aug 2022

Tributes paid following death of brilliant Offaly footballer

Tributes paid following death of brilliant Offaly footballer

Tributes paid following death of brilliant Offaly footballer

Tributes have paid following the death of a brilliant Offaly footballer.

Har Donnelly, an Offaly football hero from the 1960s, who passed away on February 4 last was a brilliant forward on the first great Offaly football team and his scores from play and in particular frees were instrumental in the first Leinster SFC win in 1960.

A year later, Offaly went to their first All-Ireland final, losing to Down in front of a record attendance in Croke Park with Donnelly again in sparkling form.

He made his championship debut against Louth in 1958 and his last game was also against them, a 1964 championship defeat. He played 50 championship and league games in all, the majority in his favoured number 15 jersey.

Har's path to the Offaly jersey was not a conventional one. His father Michael was a Dubliner who drove a CIE bus into Kilcormac during the war years and he met his wife Mamie Troy here.

They lived in Bridge Street in Kilcormac for seven years, where Harry was born, before they moved to Athlone. He played juvenile football for Westmeath and won an All-Ireland Vocational Schools medal with his new county.

Har joined the Air Corps, who played senior football in Dublin at this time and he came in contact with another 1960/1961 hero here, Ballinagar native Charlie Wrenn. After one game, Charlie introduced him to Daingean man Tommy Quinn, a member of the Offaly Association in Dublin and a former P and H Egan employee in Kilcormac.

After discovering that Har was a native of Kilcormac, Tommy wrote to the Offaly GAA secretary Rody O'Brien to advise him of the outstanding talent he had discovered.

Rody wrote to Har asking him to declare for Offaly, which he did, just a week before Westmeath sought the same. He played his first game in the O'Byrne Cup in 1958 and went onto to become one of the key members of that great 1960s team and was one of the most prolific scorers in Ireland.

He was a household name during those years and would have been an All-Star contender if the scheme was in existence then. He won a Grounds Tournament medal in 1961 and his love affair with Offaly was copperfastened when he transferred to Kilcormac, playing junior football with them in the late 1960s. He also played for a south Offaly side that lost an SFC semi-final to Clara in 1966.

He lived in Arklow in Wicklow in recent decades, where he worked and was married but he retained a lifelong interest in Offaly.

He often travelled to the county and other venues for games and he loved meeting former team mates and heroes from other eras at games between Offaly and Wicklow in Aughrim. He attended most reunions of the 1960s/'61 team and was a loyal friend and colleague. He was a genuinely nice and affable man with an endearing personality. He was a character and he will be long remembered in both Offaly and his adopted home in Wicklow.

Har, who was in his 80s, is survived by his wife, Sheila, children Ronald, Colm and Karen, sisters Rita and Ann and brother Brendan.

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