‘DON’T let the side down’.
This was the mantra that Thomas ‘Tom’ O’Donovan will always be remembered for.
When asked what qualities would best describe Tom, who sadly passed away on what was his 53rd wedding anniversary, on July 1st last, his family and friends all would agree on three words that sum up the man, his life and his effect on all those around him.
It was his love for his family, his community and his dedication to supporting all those who needed his help or his experience.
Tom, who was originally from Baelad, didn’t travel far when he met and married Ena (née O’Hara) and moved to Kilmeen, Rossmore 53 years ago.
Over the years Tom made his mark when he joined Kilmeen Macra in the early 1960s and was appointed secretary of the branch in 1962 and 1963.
He handed over his duties in 1964 when he married Ena that year. Tom also recognised the need for the youth of rural communities to attain the confidence and ability to speak in public and debate the issues of the day in any company. With Tom as the instigator, debating and public speaking became the hallmark of Kilmeen Macra Na Feirme for several decades. He was anchor on the first Kilmeen team to capture the County National Debating title in 1971 and under Tom’s stewardship, Kilmeen Macra Na Feirme made tremendous strides.
As a farmer, Tom’s love of animals extended beyond the farmyard and down through the years he cared for cats, dogs and swans. He had a pet fox and all will remember the stray kid goat that he used to feed at the kitchen table with a baby’s bottle!
On the GAA field Tom has been described as not easily forgotten by those who had the experience of being marked by him.
He made his debut on Kilmeen teams around 1960 and didn’t have to wait long for success. He was the goalkeeper on the 1962, Junior B football, championship winning side which defeated Courcey Rovers in the final. Three years later, when the same sides met in the decider, Tom captained the side from mid-field to victory. Tom also served the club in various capacities, including that as chairman from 1988 to the early 1990s.
Tom’s love of debating led him to the stage and the Kilmeen Dramatic Society and his first play staged was Thy Dear Father with the lead role of Jack Dooley played by Tom.
In 1976, Tom was handed the leading role of Patrick Corcoran in The Black Stranger, a tragedy based on the Great Famine. This proved to one of Tom’s greatest achievements as he led the group to All-Ireland glory.
And when Tom retired from the stage, he took on the role of director and once again showed his talent and experience.
Tom had an immense pride in his native place and in whatever capacity he represented Kilmeen, he did so with absolute commitment, energy and just the right amount of devilment. Tom was the perfect ambassador, building relationships, making new friends and ensuring that goodwill and affection towards Kilmeen would never be in short supply.
Sense of community was terribly important to Tom and he never shirked responsibility of taking on roles of responsibility. His leadership style was unique in that not alone did he inspire others by his enthusiasm and single-minded determination, but equally important was his infectious humour and sense of fun.