Gaeltacht village holds festival to honour man of many talents

Former director generals of the GAA seldom have a festival held in their honour.

But then few of them manage to balance the weight of officialdom with successful careers as ballad singers and radio personalities either.

So when Cork and Dublin kick off a senior football match next Sunday in honour of Seán Ó Síocháin, director general at Croke Park from 1964 to 1979, they will represent just one of the many and varied facets of the life of the footballer, hurler, referee, actor, Gaeilgeoir and entertainer.

The Cork gaeltacht village of Cill na Martra next weekend hosts its inaugural Comóradh Sheáin Uí Shíocháin in honour of its native son.

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He played football for both Cork and Dublin after his early teaching career led him to the capital.

Liam Mulvihill, his successor as director general, will unveil a plaque at Mr Ó Síocháin’s family home 101 years after his birth, as part of a four-day festival featuring solo music and singing competitions, dancing, and live bands.

Mr Ó Síocháin’s baritone voice was a familiar one on Radio Éireann from 1937 onwards and he was a regular fixture on programmes such as Ireland is Singing, Round the Fire, and Ballad Makers’ Saturday Night in pre-TV Ireland.

Singing in both Irish and English, Mr Ó Síocháin toured America on many occasions, with ‘The Boys of Barr na Sráide’ becoming one of his signature pieces.

As a GAA administrator, he succeeded Pádraig Ó Caoimh as general secretary, going on to become the first holder of the new title of director general and being involved in the foundation of the club development scheme, players’ insurance scheme, and Scór na nÓg.

He died in February 1997, aged 82.

“He made a huge contribution towards the modernisation of the GAA; its management at central level and putting it on a secure financial footing,” said Gearóid Ó hÉalaithe, cathaoirleach of Cumann Peile Cill na Martra. “He was also an extremely popular figure at cultural events, through his ballad singing and radio programmes and as an Irish speaker, and we wanted to honour this national figure in his own locality.”

-Registration for music and singing competitions is in advance via: secretary.cillnamartra.cork@gaa.ie, or see gaa.cillnamartra.net.

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