A Tribute To Joe Rattigan

It was a bitterly cold day in early January when they carried the coffin from the clubhouse to the graveyard, recalls An Fear Rua …

From Drumree Gaelic Football and Hurling Club, in the county of Meath, to the little cemetery at Knockmark is but a step of a mile and a half or so. It’s a fair enough distance, even taking the carrying in relays, with muffled steps and laboured breaths condensing in the chill air. Yet it was the least they could do. It was an unusual – yet - extremely appropriate, tribute to a man who had lived and breathed the club all his life, until his untimely death in his late fifties.

The coffin carried the red-and-white jersey of Drumree and the red-and-black of the juvenile club, Saint Martin’s. The dead man’s name and family have been synonymous with the Drumree club. His brother was on an All Ireland winning side in ’54. All three brothers in the family were on a Drumree panel that won a Meath Intermediate championship in ’69. As far back as ’57, the deceased was starring at juvenile level in Saint Martin’s and was a stalwart in helping the under-age teams develop to the dominant force they now are in the county. 

He was secretary and chairman of the club as well as a delegate to the County Board. Once, Drumree failed to field a team for a Sunday morning game, timed to avoid a clash with a Meath county game that afternoon. The Chairman asked why they hadn’t fielded. ‘On account of the day that was in it’, was the reply. ‘What day was that, might I ask?’, the Chairman said. ‘Mothers’ Day! Our lads were all bringing their mothers out for Sunday lunch.’ Game, set and match to Drumree …

In the local Drumree stores his was a genial presence and the red-and-white name on the exterior rightly betokened a shrine to Drumree footballers inside. In a dark, cosy interior, football boots jostle with sacks of potatoes, not far from the big bottles of Cidona and boxes of crisps, but it is the pictures of the likes of Evan Kelly and John Cullinane – lovingly cut out from newspapers – that glow on the walls. Literally on the day the man died, the ‘Irish Independent’ carried a prediction that Cullinane is going to be one of Meath’s brightest stars in 2002. It will be no surprise at all if both Cullinane and Kelly turn in scintillating performances this year as their way of paying tribute to a beloved deceased clubman who revelled in their success stories. 

For a man’s wife, children, relations and friends the beauty of their final resting place can be but little consolation in a great loss. Yet, if there is such a place that can offer a modicum of solace it must be somewhere like Knockmark. It is a beautiful, peaceful country graveyard, with the grass gently sloping towards an old church. In it lies the grave of Séamus (James) Fox who, at the age of only sixteen years, was ‘out’ in the Easter Rising of 1916 and was killed-in-action with James Connolly’s Citizen Army. It reminds us of those insightful lines of Patrick Kavanagh’s: ‘I inclined to lose my faith in Ballyrush and Gortin / Till Homer’s ghost came whispering to my mind / He said, ‘I made The Iliad from such / A local row. Gods make their own importance’. 

Now, Joe Rattigan, too, lies peacefully among the heroes of Knockmark…

Joe Rattigan 1944 - 2002
Leaba i measc na nGael go raibh aige


Source - http://www.anfearrua.com/viewdoc.aspx?id=822