Former All-Ireland winning Meath hurling and Meath camogie manager John Davis was inducteed into the Meath Chronicle Sports Hall of Fame. At the presentation (from left) were Tom Gannon (Meath Chronicle), Noel Moran (Bective Tea Rooms), John Davis and Valerie Moran (Bective Tea Rooms).

Meath Sports Awards: John Davis honoured to be latest inductee into Hall of Fame

When the Meath Chronicle rang John Davis for a chat the other week - and inform him he was selected as the 2023 Hall of Famer - he was getting ready to go out the door of his house in Dunshaughlin. He was heading to the local church to attend a Mass that was organised to honour the memory of his son Derek.

Derek was just 26 when he fell ill with a brain tumour. He was just 30 when he passed away in 2009. The Mass was held to mark Derek's birthday. "He would be just 45 now," added John before he politely made arrangements to talk at another time and headed on his way. Politeness and modesty is part of the man.

The loss of Derek was obviously a traumatic time for John Davis and his wife Teresa. "It takes you back when something like that happens of course, really takes you back," he added when we got a chance to chat. "Knocks you."

One of the things that helped John absorb the blow was the support he received from people, including those within the GAA fraternity. Heartfelt displays of sympathy that really helped to soften the blow.

"Derek passed away in October 2009 and at that time I was the manager of the Meath camogie team. I remember after we won our first junior title (the All-Ireland Junior A Nancy Murray Cup). We came back to Trim, and Derek was taking all the photos himself. He never took up photography until then but he did an awful lot of it after that.

"When Derek passed the girls in the camogie team were very good to me, kept me going. Being involved kept you busy, kept you occupied. Sport does keep you going."

In 2016 John was hit with another major blow when his wife Teresa also passed away. "The day of Teresa's funeral the Meath girls were playing in Croke Park and they were going to cancel the match.

"I said no to the players, it's an opportunity for you all to play in Croke Park, I think it was a league final against Down. I recall they came up here to the house and I said go play the game, Teresa would want that and they did."

Before he passed away Derek Davis had put together a series of scrapbooks made up of cuttings from episodes from John's time spent coaching hurling and camogie teams.

The cuttings included episodes from John's spells managing the Meath hurlers and later the camogie team. Only recently John realised the extent of Derek's dedication to collating his father's achievements - and there were no shortage of those.

Right up there was Meath's achievement in winning the All-Ireland B title in 1993. In the National Hurling League in the mid 1990s Meath hosted Offaly hurlers in Athboy. The Faithful County had only the previous September won the Liam MacCarthy Cup under Limerick legend Eamon Cregan. Meath were expected to be pounded by the Offalymen.

Instead the home team hurled like heroes getting the better of their lofty, aristocratic opponents by a point.

"It was a great result for us and afterwards this man from Ratoath, sadly now gone, came up to me as we were going out of the ground and he had tears in his eyes and he said to me 'I thought I would never see the day when we'd beat a top team like that.' That really stuck in my mind. It hit me then what it meant to people."

There was also the day Meath travelled down to play Wexford in Enniscorthy in the league. Once again Meath dug out a sensational result; they turned Liam Griffin's team over and won. Afterwards a Model County supporter acted in anything but a model fashion when he walked over to Griffin and spat in his face. Wexford went on to be All-Ireland champions later that year.

In 2006 Davis took charge of the struggling Meath camogie team. He guided them from Junior B to All-Ireland Intermediate champions in rapid-quick time and from Div 4 to Div 1. To claim the All-Ireland Intermediate crown in 2017 they defeated Cork but only after a replay. "It was disappointing that we didn't win the Intermediate title in Croke Park but when we went to Limerick, seeing the crowd afterwards, the Meath people, it was clear what it meant to them."

Such results suggest that as a coach Davis had the Midas touch that is rare; that ability to get the best from a group of people in his charge. There were numerous other examples a club level.

He was still a player with his home club Brownstown in Westmeath when he turned to coaching. He enjoyed many triumphs with them as a player and coach.

John lived with his family in Dunshaughlin and was involved in the newspaper distribution business. He took charge of the local side (back when Dunshaughlin had a hurling team) and guided them to an intermediate championship success in the 1980s. He had championship triumphs with Drumree and Baconstown, twice guiding the latter to junior hurling crowns, 10 years apart. He also trained Castlepollard to two SHC titles in his native county.


While big, headline-grabbing wins with Meath were all well and good there was always, for Davis, something that little bit extra, that little bit sweeter, in helping the little guys flex their muscles and enjoy their hour in the sun.

"I always got great enjoyment out of helping the smaller club do well. When Baconstown won the junior I went to the pub afterwards and you could the delight in people's faces. Same with Drumree, we went into a small place after that win but the delight...There's a great sense of enjoyment when you see small clubs winning something. It's unreal."

Not, that this modest of men wants to bask in the glory of having led such teams to the summit. He feels nothing can be achieved without a manager having players willing to graft and work. Players always looking to learn and improve.

He points to his time as Meath manager when he could call on a string of quality hurlers. The attitude of players is everything, he insists, no matter what the context. "The lads didn't look for much, they just wanted to hurl, that was the main thing."

It was, considering the facilities or lack of them, just as well the players weren't too fussy. Finding a pitch to play in was regularly a big problem.

"We did an awful lot of training in Warrenstown College at the time. They had a big hall and we played hurling inside that hall with the little goals and sure the lads would be laying into each other."

The Meath Sports Awards are kindly supported by Bective Stud and Tea Rooms, Meath Co Council and Meath Local Sports Partnership

In the lead up to that memorable league win over Offaly in the mid '90s Davis recalls training one night in the college grounds and the water bottles freezing. The team was supported in other ways.

"In Warrenstown Peter Gorman would do a big stew in the hall afterwards and the sandwiches were made by the wives. There was no sponsorship for the hurlers, we had nothing. Then Malachy Lynch, Lord have mercy on him, came in and gave us a few pound. If it wasn't for him we would have been really stuck. He started to sponsor us."

He has to laugh now when he thinks of such things, how teams now are pampered in comparison. He pays tribute to others who did what they could for the hurlers back in the day; people like Brian Smyth, the man who captained Meath to the county's first Sam Maguire success in '49 and who was Co Board chairman. He also pays tribute to another great hurling man, Brian's nephew Fergus Smyth from Blackhall Gaels. He wishes Fergus well in his own journey through illness.


No matter what team he was in charge of Davis sought constant improvement. He recalls when as Meath hurling manager taking hio team to play Clare in a challenge. It was a revelation in that the Meath players were introduced to the harsh realities of hurling at the top level. It was much the same with the Meath camogie team.

"We went down to Galway and played them and got hammered a few times but, by God, we learned and learned and that's what it is about," he added.

Last year, for the first time, in many, many years Davis, now in his seventies, didn't train a team. That's not to say he has lost the gra for coaching. He hasn't. Recently he spent a few days in Buncrana coaching at the invitation of a friend. He enjoyed it all. He goes to see his mother Mavis who is 98 a few times every week. She always closely followed his career.

His CV certainly suggests he knows what's required to get the best out of a team, that he had the Midas touch. His record - and scrapbooks that were put together by his admiring son Derek - certainly suggests that too.



"At club level it's gone where coaches are brought in to take charge of teams and they want this or that but there are plenty of good people in clubs who should be able to look after their own club teams. There is an awful lot of money spent in clubs now bringing in coaches from other counties, they are paying for a name but if the players have the passion and pride in the club jersey and they are managed by a local man there's no reason why they can't be equally successful. The money spent on outside coaches could be better used on developing young players in the club."


"Valerie Curtis and David Troy were the two people who came to me at the beginning to see if I would go to Meath Camogie (which he did in 2006). There were great people involved over the years, people like Christy Mangan who was chairperson there for a time. There were an awful lot of people who were interested in just one thing - and that was trying to help Meath camogie to improve."


"All players involved were great and even today you meet the girls and lads and have a chat about times past. There's still that gra there for the games and I would only be afraid I didn't offend anyone, it was all for the sake of the game. If we ever had words with someone it was over and done with, the game was over and that was it, you went on to the next game. We always looked to overcome challenges and tried to improve things. We played the top teams as much as we could and that's how we learned, that's how we improved."


"We had some great times but it wasn't down to me that we won this championship or that. It was down to the players and others, so many others. I'm just so thankful to all the chairpersons who I was involved with in hurling and camogie, the selectors, coaches, physios, doctors, officials, supporters, sponsors, helpers, everyone who played a part in one role or another. It was a pleasure to be with them all. I just enjoyed hurling and camogie, still do, and managing the various teams. I knocked great enjoyment out of it all."