Always Active, Always Positive – That’s Agnes O’Reilly Carrigaline
Writes Leo McMahon & Pic: Siobhan Russell
What a year it has been for Agnes O’Reilly, a woman who has given a lifetime of service to her local community. She was recently honoured with the 2018 Hall of Fame award by Carrigaline GAA Club President Tom Jones and along with her longtime friend Jean Lynch, presented with a Community Award by Carrigaline Tidy Towns.
‘Positivity’ has always been the hallmark of this very active octogenarian who has never been busier, as she outlined to The Carrigdhoun Newspaper.
Daughter of the late Bridget (nee Duggan) from Mallow and Jim O’Connell from Killenaule, Co. Tipperary, Agnes grew up along the New (Kinsale) Road just as one rounds Cogan’s Corner, next door to what was formerly Madge Riordan’s shop. The family later moved a short distance to Church Hill.
‘My father came to Carrigaline to work for a building contractor called Mr. Gaye,’ said Agnes whose siblings are Mary Stack, Waterpark; Margaret Irvine, Church Hill; Anne Angelini, Maurland; John O’Connell, Riverstick and Paddy O’Connell, Elmside, Carrigaline, the latter two of whom both played hurling with Carrigaline.
Before actually playing Gaelic games herself, Agnes said she and her friends would often cycle near and far to mainly underage hurling matches involving Carrigaline but occasionally they might get a lift in a lorry belonging to ‘Boss Wylie’ who had a store, (now Wylie House), opposite the Corner House bar where Agnes worked for seven years up to the time she got married.
‘When camogie was reformed in the early 50’s, I joined up and really enjoyed it. There wasn’t much training. Most games were played at Church Road, Blackrock and we often cycled to the city and back on match days. What’s more, there were no dressing rooms – you just togged on and off at the side the field – but they were happy times and expectations then weren’t high.’
Among the teams she played against were Courcey Maids, Brian Dillon’s, St Finbarr’s and Lee Hoisery.
Agnes is very proud to have played centre field on the junior camogie team that brought the first county title to Carrigaline in 1954 after defeating Castlemagner in the final on a wet Sunday, so wet that Tracton, of which her husband-to-be Jimmy was a member, didn’t play in the match that was to follow because of the poor conditions.’
‘The camogie final was played in Carrigaline and due to the inclement weather, the cup was presented in a shed next to the house of Jackie O’Connor, one of our trainers, near the GAA pitch,’ she recalls.
Agnes also played camogie for the Seandun divisional team and lined out for the Cork senior team that lost to Tipperary in the 1958 Munster final at the Mardyke. She also lined out in games against the universities.
On November 26th, 1959, Agnes O’Connell married Jimmy O’Reilly from Minane Bridge. They met at a ‘Ballroom of Romance’ dance in the old school (now Tracton Arts and Community Centre) on September 26th, 1957, the day Jimmy played in a county intermediate hurling semi-final with Tracton.
Jimmy worked for many years in Verolme Dockyard, Rushbrooke and finished his career as a security officer with Penn Chemicals, Currabinny. He gave long service to Crosshaven-Carrigaline Credit Union and was in the first Tidy Towns group.
The couple started their married life at Shannon Park and 46 years ago were among the first residents of Mount Rivers estate, where both were very involved in the residents’ association that won several Carrigaline Tidy Towns awards.
Over the decades, most of the O’Reilly family have been involved with Carrigaline GAA Club at all levels while Jimmy and Agnes have attended countless games involving the family and club as well as All Ireland’s and have followed Cork.
The couple have three sons, Martin and Philip and Donal and two daughters Deirdre Blyth and Therese Aherne plus 15 grandchildren.
Philip is treasurer of Carrigaline GAA Club and Donal served as Vice Chairman. Martin was involved in underage management while Deirdre has served as camogie treasurer and Therese is a committee member. Her daughter Alina and Therese’s daughter Caoimhe, like their grandmother, play camogie.
Looking back to the Carrigaline GAA Awards Night on November 9th, Agnes said she didn’t have a clue she was being honoured but several of her family of course did. ‘I was shocked. I was stuck to the chair and it was the first time I was caught for words when I was announced Hall of Fame winner (sponsored by the McGrath family) and presented with a beautiful Shandon Crystal trophy by club president Tom Jones.’
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