The late Bertie Cunningham. Photo: Ballivor GFC Facebook

Hero of 1967 was first Meath player to be named footballer of the year


Bertie Cunningham


The funeral took place in Ballivor on Monday 23rd January of Bertie Cunningham, Derryconnor, who was centre-half-back on the Meath team that won the All-Ireland Senior Football Final in 1967.

His death comes just a month after the passing of the captain of that team, Trim's Peter Darby. Bertie was one of Meath's brightest stars throughout that era, and became the first player from the county to be honoured with the Texaco Footballer of the Year award in 1967. He produced one of his finest displays in the All-Ireland final against Cork, and he was also named sports star of the week by a number of national papers.

He was also the first Meath man to feature on All-Ireland-winning minor and senior teams, and also won an All-Ireland Vocational Schools Championship medal in 1956. With his brothers, Christy, Ollie, and PJ, he played football with Ballivor and hurling with Killyon. He was corner-back on the team that won the All-Ireland MFC for the first time in 1957 by beating Armagh in the final, on the day Louth won the All-Ireland senior final over Cork. Their victory in the '57 Leinster Championship was also a first.

He made his senior championship debut against Longford in Mullingar in 1960, as did his brother Christy - but Meath lost by a point.

Bertie won the first of his four Leinster SFC medals in 1964 – more followed in 1966, 1967 and 1970.

The 1967 All-Ireland success led to the trip to Australia in 1968 where he played a leading role in the team's five victories. Bertie returned at corner-back for the 1970 championship which saw the team stage a famous comeback in the Leinster final against Offaly - but they were beaten by Kerry in the All-Ireland final. He was inducted into the Meath GAA Hall of Fame in 2007.

While at club level, Bertie was a stalwart on his native Ballivor team of the 1960s, and was rewarded with Intermediate Championship success in 1971. A tribute said he was a massive influence on the club’s progress in the last few years, and was always interested in how the club and players were progressing.

Aged 82, the farmer died peacefully after a brief illness on Thursday 19th January in Mullingar Hospital.

Condolences to the family last week remembered a gentleman with great stories to tell, a strong handshake and a mischievous sense of fun, with time to stop for a chat and banter with everyone.

Predeceased by his daughter, Deirdre; parents, Mary and Patrick; sisters, Mary, Vera and Pauline and brothers Oliver and PJ; he is survived by his wife, Patricia; their family, Caitriona, Ronan, Niall, Bairbre, Nuala and Eithne; daughters-in-law, Adrienne and Breege; sons-in-law, Noel, Marc, Dermot and Ronan; grandchildren, Aoife, Eoghan, Áine, Ciara, Connell, Caoimhe, Ella, Charlie, Seán and Cathal; sisters, Bernadette, Gertie, Theresa and Claire; brother Christy, brother-in-law, sisters-in-law, nieces, nephews, extended family, neighbours and friends.