The sudden, unexpected death of Creggs native and former Roscommon footballer, Conor Connelly…hit us all like a bolt of lightning
It’s hard to believe it, but it’s over three weeks since we closed the doors of our pubs and clubs. As we departed from Mikeen’s with a bit of a singsong and a night of craic, nothing could have prepared us for the seismic shock that was coming down the line for the people of, not only Creggs, but the entire county of Roscommon, and large chunks of other counties all around the country.
The sudden, unexpected death of Creggs native and former Roscommon footballer, Conor Connelly, less than two weeks later, hit us all like a bolt of lightning. In my lifetime it is hard to recall any other passing that had such a profound effect on our little village – and indeed on so many other different communities all over the country.
It was always obvious that Conor was a talented footballer – that he was destined to make his mark on the gaelic football fields of Ireland – but I have to admit that it is only since his passing that I have come to appreciate the absolutely massive impact he had in so many clubs, and on so many people. That impact was made from Creggs to Ballinlough, to St. Jude’s and UCD in Dublin, to Ballycumber in Offaly, and of course with the county footballers of Roscommon.
His influence on the journey to Roscommon’s Connacht final win in 2001 has been well documented. That year, in my opinion, he was one of the finest players in the land. One of the great ironies of being from Creggs is that a lot of us support the maroon and white of Galway, and there is no doubt that Conor absolutely loved to beat us – and through the years he often reminded us of the many times the Rossies got one over us.
Back in 1993 I was manager of Creggs Junior team, and as a county minor Conor was a key member of our side. It was obvious even then that he played his football on the edge, and it would be an insult to his memory to gloss over the fact that he at times could test referees’ (and team managers’) patience.
However, his career is testament to his considerable prowess as a footballer, and all the way from colleges to club to intercounty he featured at the highest level and leaves a legacy behind him that will live for all time.
However it was as a person that Conor shone the brightest. It is true to say that despite his enormous success – both professionally and sporting-wise – he never changed, and never lost interest in Creggs. When talking to him you would never guess that he had achieved all that he had in his all too short life. In fact he always made everyone feel that they, not he, were the real football stars, and he was always available to give advice and tips to anyone that wanted them.
The Covid-19 disaster meant that we couldn’t even go to pay our respects to his heartbroken family, but in fairness to our own parish and the wider Roscommon football community, the send-off that Conor got will live long in our memory. The flying of Roscommon flags all the way through Athlone and beyond as the devastated Connelly family made their way to Ballycumber for their final farewell must provide them with some measure of comfort.
All I can do is express my sincerest sympathies to all the Connelly family and to Conor’s wife Claire and their three heartbroken young children. May he rest in peace.
We are blessed with our small country roads…
For a good number of years now I have told you all about the huge benefits of living in the country. If ever I was to be proved right, it has to be since we – along with the rest of the country – went into lockdown, and life as we know it effectively ground to a halt.
The term ‘lockdown’ almost suggests that we are prisoners in our own homes, and maybe in some larger towns that could be the case, but here in Crosswell, outside Creggs, nothing could be further from the truth, as we are blessed with loads of little country roads where we can walk safely and without any danger of ignoring social distancing or self-isolation regulations.
In fact in the three weeks since Covid-19 closed the country down, I have not missed a single day’s walking, averaging five to six kilometres a day. If I get any fitter I could line out for Creggs again this summer – that is, of course, if there is any club football at all this year.
The other great advantage of rural walks is that you will meet the odd farmer out herding his cattle or keeping an eye on his new-born lambs, and, even in these times, you can have the odd chat. I have to admit that as I am no longer let out to do the shopping I look forward to the chat, even if we have to keep our distance – thankfully not a problem in rural Ireland. And so I confess that I am quite okay with self-isolation. I believe the people in charge of our Covid defences are doing a very good job, our own population is following the advice we are getting from the health and medical people, and hopefully in time we will all slip back into normality. Although we might well ask will anything ever be normal again?
The other huge development in my life is that I have become a baker of fancy buns, and my iced queen cakes have become a favourite in Crosswell over the last few weeks. Pat the Baker watch out – Frank the Baker is coming after you.
Finally for this week, I have found myself watching more television than normal, and this evening I came across a programme called ‘The Test’, which follows drivers as they prepare for (and take) their driving test.
Lo and behold, among the people featured was our own Creggs rugby player, Danny Arnold. Danny, a student, and a well-known local musician, was seen driving round the town of Roscommon before and during his test, and the good news is that he overcame an early minor hiccup and successfully came through it. I have to say it was great telly. I really enjoyed it and will watch it again.
In the meantime, congrats Danny, happy and safe motoring, and you have no excuse now to miss any of Creggs’ future rugby matches.
‘Till next time, bye for now, keep obeying the health experts – and stay safe.