Every country, every county and every parish requires its heroes. For almost two decades Dermot Earley filled that role for Roscommon people at home and abroad. He reached the highest levels in sport and in his chosen profession. He set standards of professionalism, sportsmanship, dedication and example for more than a generation of Roscommon’s young people and indeed for many outside the county. In the seventies and eighties Roscommon people could walk taller in the glow of his reputation. Football Odyssey Dermot’s football exploits are pretty well-documented. In the mid-sixties, with the end of the O’Malley era, Roscommon football supporters wondered if they would see a comparable player, in the primrose and blue, again. Little did they realise that such a player would emerge within a just a few years. Rumours of this ‘special’ player filtered through the county in the mid-sixties. His football progression followed a record-breaking introduction of playing Minor, under- 21, Junior and Senior in 1966. He was part of a fine All-Ireland winning under-21 side in ’66 and the future looked bright for the St. Nathy’s star. It was to be six years before the Senior side captured a Connacht crown in the scorching heat, of a July Sunday, in Castlebar, in the first eighty-minute Final. Earley was an irresistible force at midfield. The characteristics of his play were all in evidence, with sublime fielding, driving solo-runs and precision free-taking. There were disappointments, of course, like the League Final defeat of ’74 assuaged by his first All-Star award that year with the second coming in ’79. The latter half of the seventies was a golden period for Roscommon with the four Connacht title wins of ’77, ’78, ’79 and ’80. As has been said so often this fine team deserved the ultimate award but this eluded them especially in the ’80 Final which they might have won. The picture of a downcast Earley, as he left Croke Park after the All-Ireland, contrasted with him being carried shoulder-high after their semi-final victory over Armagh. Dermot did not retreat from the challenge of recovery after this deep blow but continued to inspire for a further five years in the county colours. It was an emotional day when he finally called time, (with Pat Lindsay), on his inter-county career after defeat by Mayo in Hyde Park with an unprecedented tribute by friend and foe alike. The Mayo players carried him shoulder-high from the field. Michael Glavey’s Dermot of course was devoted to his club in West Roscommon, Michael Glaveys, named after a patriot soldier of the foundation of the State. His father, Peadar, was responsible for founding the Club. He helped Glaveys to Championship wins at Intermediate level in 1970 and 1972. The friendships, comradeship and fun with his neighbours and friends are always with him, like a band of brothers. This was cemented with the official opening of the Club’s fine ground at Ballinlough, named in honour of his father who had died in 1983, and had been a seminal influence on him. Later he transferred to Sarsfields in his new home of Newbridge, County Kildare where he continued to inspire them to further success. On his arrival for a work posting in New York in ’87 he was recruited for the Roscommon team and was part of a Junior Championship winning campaign there. He also returned to Roscommon for a spell as Manager of the County Senior team in the early nineties and followed this with a similar posting with the Kildare team. He interest was maintained as he followed the fortunes of his son, Dermot Junior, in the Lily-White colours of Kildare. Roscommon continued to honour one of its greatest players as he was unanimously selected on the Roscommon team of the Millennium. Major-General Earley, Chief of Staff In his chosen career, as an officer in the Irish Army he has distinguished himself by reaching the top echelon. This rise has seen him give distinguished service in many troubled parts of the world, where the presence of Irish peace-making forces, with the United Nations, has brought hope and inspiration and left a respect and regard for the Irish Nation. From his cadetship in 1965 his profession has brought him to the Golan Heights, the Lebanon, Iraq, Angola and South Africa and many more danger zones. In 1987 he received the prestigious appointment of Assistant Military Advisor to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Perez de Cuellar, in New York. This led to his ever-supportive wife, Tipperary-born Mary, and the family living in New York and becoming involved in Roscommon Gaelic activities in ‘The Big Apple’. Dermot’s work involved continued travel to the world’s troubled areas. On his return to Ireland his career continued to receive recognition and advancement. Today he has achieved the ultimate accolade with his appointment as Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces. So behind the genuine warmth and accessibility of the man there is the necessary steel of the leader as was so evident on so many sporting fields. Man of Roscommon Dermot Earley has an abiding interest in the fortunes of Roscommon and is one of its outstanding ambassadors. This is demonstrated by his willingness, in his busy schedule, to make time and return to the county and its far-flung tendrils, often to present medals to young players, to formally open pitches or to give one of his inspiring addresses. In these he will talk with humility, enthusiasm of; tradition, the role and benefit of sport, the pride in the jersey worn whatever the level, and of discipline, discipline, discipline. Throughout 2006 he often visited the Roscommon Minor team during their great All-Ireland victory march and was an inspiration to them. He was feted in New York at a huge function when Roscommon played there in the Connacht Championship of 2006. At the function he enunciated what his native county meant to him in an emotional address. His presence gives these functions the imprimatur of approval and the encouragement to go on to set and achieve further goals. It will give those present the opportunity to say with pride, into the future; ‘Ah yes, Dermot Earley, he was one of the greatest footballers ever. He played for Roscommon you know. I saw him play many times. He could reach the stars. A pure gentleman with a big broad smile and a powerful hand-shake coming straight from the shoulder. I met and he shook my hand.’ Today all Roscommon people feel proud that their county has a man of his stature. Dermot, today all Roscommon salutes and congratulates you, your wife and family on your magnificent and richly-deserved achievement in reaching the pinnacle of your career. Comhghairdeas I bhfad.