Galway county councillors were united in grief at the county council meeting in Abbeyknockmoy on Monday as they paid their respects to Joe McDonagh by holding a minute’s silence.
The former Galway hurler, GAA president and distinguished linguist passed away last weekend after a short illness, aged 62.
County cathaoirleach Pete Roche said, “It is a special and sad morning because of the untimely passing of Joe McDonagh. We celebrate his contribution to sport in Galway, in Ireland and in education.” Mr Roche then invited the chamber to stand for a minute’s silence.
The meeting room of The Abbey Inn was full of emotion as councillors paid their tributes.
Cllr Michael Fahy described Mr McDonagh as one of the greatest Galway men of all time. “In 100 years, at the 200th celebration of 1916, Joe McDonagh will stand alongside Liam Mellows as Galway’s greatest men. Joe was everything that is good about Galway and sport. Joe was an outstanding son of county Galway.”
Mr McDonagh was a member of the All-Ireland winning Galway squad in 1980 and during the presentation of the Liam McCarthy Cup, he famously sang The West’s Awake.
Referencing this, Fianna Fáil councillor Mary Hoade said, “We remember him best for singing The West Awake’s at Croke Park. He was a wonderful man for Galway GAA who touched the lives of many in several ways. It is a very sad day for city and county who have lost one of our greatest ambassadors.”
Cllr Hoade continued, “Joe, you were a wonderful icon, a great man for sport and education. You will never be forgotten for what you have done for city and county.”
In 1997 Mr McDonagh was elected as the 32nd president of the GAA and he was instrumental in the repealing of Rule 21 which prohibited members of the RUC and British Armed Forces from participating in Gaelic Games.
Cllr Michael Connolly highlighted Mr McDonagh’s determination to remove Rule 21 despite the obvious risks to his presidency. “He was a true leader and risked his presidency in order to bring about change in the GAA.”
Thousands came from all over Ireland and further afield to pay their respects to Mr McDonagh on Monday at the Church of Mary Immaculate Queen in Barna.
Mr McDonagh who is survived by his wife, Peig, son Eoin, daughters Muireann and Eilis, was laid to rest at Rahoon Cemetery on Tuesday.