Castletown mourns double All-Ireland hero, Kevin McConnell

Story by John Donohoe

Wednesday, 22nd April, 2009 9:40am

Former Meath All-Ireland winning medallist and Fine Gael former county councillor, Kevin McConnell, died peacefully last Thursday at the Kilmainhamwood retirement village.

Mr McConnell (84), a dairy farmer, also worked as a representative of Ardee livestock salesyard.

He was a member of the Castletown Intermediate championship winning team of 1946, and began his county playing career in 1944. With Meath, he won five Leinster football championship medals, and was on Meath"s All-Ireland winning teams of 1949, against Cavan who were heading for a three-in-a-row, and 1954, when they beat Kerry, who were then hot favourites for the title.

Left full-back Mr McConnell was part of what is regarded as one of the greatest full-back lines in the GAA, alongside Paddy O"Brien and Michael O"Brien. He also won two National Football League medals, four Railway Cup medals, and three senior football championship medals with Syddan, in 1949, '51 and '52. His long clearances are still remembered by many.

'It was a great honour to be involved with the first Meath team to win an All-Ireland,' Mr McConnell said of the win 60 years ago this year. 'I think it took time to sink in what we had achieved. We didn"t realise it at the time. Even though we won another in '54, the first one is always the best.'

He believed that Meath should have won the 1951 final, when they were beaten by Mayo, but a lot of the team had been very ill having been over in New York for the National League final, which they had won.

After his footballing days, he remained active and became a chairman of Castletown GFC, and a delegate to the county board. He was a selector on the Meath All-Ireland winning team in 1967 and took part in the historic trip to Australia in 1968, the first by a senior county team. He became honorary president of Castletown GFC in 1991 and was presented with the Hall of Fame award in 1993.

Following his footballing career with Meath, Mr McConnell turned to politics and was encouraged by Westmeath TD Gerry L"Estrange to run for office. From 1955 to 1979, he represented the people of north Meath on the county council, serving two terms in Navan and two in the Slane area. He was also a member of the former North-Eastern Health Board, Meath VEC and represented Meath on the Tourism Board. He was among those asked to consider taking up the late Senator Denis Farrelly"s Seanad seat following Mr Farrelly"s death, but declined due to his commitments to his family, dairy farm, salesyard and football club.

Mr McConnell was known across north Meath as a promoter of sales of cattle, calves and sheep, and would tour his area on Saturdays and Mondays prior to the Tuesday sale viewing and valuing animals and organising transport to the salesyard.

Mr McConnell, who was living with his wife Theresa in the Kilmainhamwood Retirement Village for the past four years, is survived in addition to his wife, by sons Kevin, Patrick, Brendan and James; daughters, Phyllis, Rosemary, Theresa, Elizabeth, Carmel and Claire; brothers, Brendan and Dickie; in-laws, grandchildren, including current Dublin footballer Ross McConnell, whose father Kevin was also a regular on the Meath team for almost a decade in the 1970s, and other relatives.

He was predeceased by his son, Michael. The funeral took place from St Patrick"s Church, Castletown, to the local cemetery on Saturday last.