Castlehaven GAA is in mourning following the passing of club president Ned Cleary.
Mr Cleary (91) was considered one of the most influential figures in transforming the small club into a superpower of Cork football.
A native of Ballindine in Mayo, Mr Cleary joined the club after being stationed as a Garda in Castletownshend village.
He had previously served in Timoleague where he met is wife, Kathleen.
Club PRO Batt Maguire takes up the story: “Ned got involved with the club immediately as a player and then took over as trainer of the junior team in 1969. He brought respect, discipline and organisation from the outset. Ned always emphasized that there were great footballers in Castlehaven so the most important ingredient, he felt, was always there.”
Over the next decade Cleary would transform the club - and how the rest of Cork viewed Castlehaven.
The journey began with a West Cork JFC title in 1969 which sparked huge celebrations in the parish. But it was merely an appetiser for the greater days which lay ahead in a future which few could have predicted.
Cleary guided them through the ranks at divisional and county level hoovering up titles as they went.
Castlehaven won a Cork JFC crown in 1976 followed two years later by an IFC title.
In 1979 they defeated Nemo Rangers - who were then the All-Ireland Club champions - in the county SFC semi-final before losing to a powerful Barrs side.
Maguire continued: “Ned was so proud of that semi-final win against Nemo. It is incredible to think back on the journey and how a club went from playing football in the lowest possible grade to beating the All-Ireland champions ten years later.
"During the seventies, Michael John O’Leary who was an old man in the parish, famously said that ‘Ned Cleary was the greatest man to arrive in Castlehaven since our Lord.’
Cleary’s talents didn’t begin and end as a coach and trainer. As chairman of the club he oversaw the purchase and development opening of their wonderful pitch and Moneyvollahane in the eighties.
And there were few men prouder when Castlehaven won their historic first senior county and Munster titles 1989.
Maguire continued: “He never missed a Castlehaven match from underage to senior. Would you believe that he was still helping collect money for our monthly draws this time last year. He watched all sports and was looking forward to the upcoming senior and minor county finals. His greatest legacy to the club is his family and the contribution they are making to the GAA.”
And what a legacy. His son John was on the All-Ireland winning Cork teams in 1989-1990 while another son Denis won an All-Ireland U21 medal in the eighties. His daughter Nollaig won nine All-Ireland medals with Cork while he has three granddaughters - Emma and Laura Cleary and Méabh Cahalane - on the current Ladies Football squad.
Damien, Jack and Conor Cahalane are his grandsons - indeed he will have five grandsons on the Castlehaven team that plays Nemo Rangers in the county final.”
Maguire admits that it will be impossible for the club to give Ned Cleary the send off that he deserves.
“A lot of our members died during the Covid lockdown so the plan is for the club to organise a mass to honour all those who passed away over the past year. The Castlehaven club expresses its deepest sympathy to Ned's wife Kathleen, children John, Denis, Ailish, Deirdre, Emer, Edmund, Orla and Nollaig along with his 27 grandchildren and extended family.