Sport

A tribute to the late Denis 'Sonny' O'Driscoll

June 5th, 2018 1:00 PM

By Tom Lyons

The late Denis ‘Sonny' O'Driscoll pictured with his son Gene, left, and grandson Colm in 2014.

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DENIS ‘Sonny’ O’Driscoll was born, reared and spent his 90 years on the home farm at Corlis in the parish of Caheragh.

The farm has been in the possession of the O’Driscoll family for hundreds of years and it was there that Sonny O’Driscoll, having married Rita, reared a family of two boys and two girls. 

They say that the place shapes the man, but it is equally true to say of Sonny that the man shaped the place. In his lifetime, he became a legend, not only in his native Caheragh but especially in the GAA in West Cork and beyond.

Sonny always claimed there was no football history in his own family because bowling was the main – and only – sport in the Caheragh of the 1940s and 1950s. With the help of a few friends, he set about rectifying that situation in 1954 when they set up Tadhg Mac Cárthaigh GAA Club.

The fields they used were just below Sonny’s house but eventually they acquired the present grounds at Aughaville. Sonny was the driving force behind the new club and the development and he saw his two sons, Gene and Tony, becoming vital players and committee members of the growing club. Sonny himself held practically every position in the club and was chairman for many years as the club went on to capture six Carbery junior A football titles.

Sonny’s great interest, apart from the welfare of his club, was in the cultural and Gaelic side of the GAA and he was instrumental in setting up the Scór committee in West Cork. Along with his great friend Bill Harte, he held practically every position on the Scór committee and became a well-known figure at all Scór competitions in the area. Under his guidance, Scór went from strength to strength, with his own club being one of the strongest competitors each year.

Sonny was appointed chairman of the county Scór committee in 1988, a position he was extremely proud of and which he held until 1997, when he took up the role of president.

Having watched his sons play a prominent part in the Caheragh club, he was indeed a proud and lucky man as he watched his three grandchildren, Colm, Kevin and Brian, create football history in Cork, the first set of three brothers to line out on the Cork senior team in the same championship game.

Sonny’s brother Dan, a superb athlete, produced one of Cork’s best forwards, John O’Driscoll, who starred with Béal Áthan Ghaorthaidh and Cork, while Tadhg and Paddy O’Driscoll were also members of the clan, so there must have been football in the blood somewhere back along the line. Sonny himself began a football dynasty in Caheragh that has given amazing service, not only to the club but to the GAA in general.

Through it all he remained a most humble and likeable character, a man you enjoyed meeting at matches and meetings because the chat and the banter was always guaranteed to be entertaining. 

We enjoyed every minute in his company down the years as he spread the GAA and the Scór gospel in his quiet and effective way and his passing is a huge loss, not only to his own direct family but to GAA family he created around him during his busy lifetime.   

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