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Legendary Glenties Footballer

The death took place of Columba McDyer, a member of the Cavan team which defeated Kerry in the 1947 All-Ireland football final in the Polo Grounds, New York.

A native of Glenties, Co. Donegal, McDyer was on the first Ulster team to win the Railway Cup in 1942 and also played in the same competition with Connacht.

His travels took him to Cavan in 1947 where he was a valuable member of the attack which defeated Kerry by 2-11 to 2-7, scoring a point in the final. Following his success with Cavan he returned to Donegal and his native Glenties where he coached the Donegal senior team for a number of years.

While in Cavan he worked as a carpenter with Elliotts, Church St. but in later years on his return to Donegal he took up a teaching career in Vocational schools in Donegal teaching carpentry.
Aged 80, the funeral takes place in Glenties today (Thursday).

He is survived by his wife, Peggy, sons, Paddy, Alec, James, Columba and Dan and daughters, Ena, Peggy, Deirdre, Patricia, Annie, Breege and Paula.

In a tribute to Columba McDyer, former Cavan star of the forties and fifties, Mick Higgins who played with him in that great All-Ireland year of ’47 said there was no yellow or red cards needed when Columba was playing.

“He was a gentleman on and off the field and was fortunate to have a midfield partner in Phil “Gunner”Brady who looked after anything that was needed to be looked after.
“I played against him when he was playing for Donegal. He came to Cavan at a time when we were having centre-field problems.

We found him to be an outstanding player and he solved our problems in this area of the field in partnership with Phil Brady.

“He was a great athlete with wonderful fielding. His chief asset, at least I felt, was his fetching. He was a fine fielder of a ball and never relied on punching, he always caught it.
“Columba was a genius too to launch an attack.

He didn’t play defensive football as was commonly understood and he always managed to get scores at vital periods.

Mick described Columba as quiet and unassuming. “You wouldn’t know he was on the pitch. He was a real gentleman on and off the field.

“He never resorted to rough play and was always skilful and naturally fit throughout his life. We used to train only for finals at that time and he would always be supremely fit. He had a tremendous attitude overall.

There are only five survivors from that ‘47 final – Mick Higgins, Tony Tighe, John Wilson, Peter Donohoe and Simon Deignan.

The following piece was written by Columba McDyer prior to Donegal’s victorious appearance in the 1992 All-Ireland final:-

As a link with the past and this year of historic success with the present record-breaking Donegal Senior GAA team, I have been asked to put on record, as a Donegal born All-Ireland senior medal holder – albeit with Cavan – my memories of that famous win in the Polo Grounds in New York in 1947.
Like everyone else, I am a very hopeful and aspirant spectator waiting cautiously and patiently to see our long overdue quota of 21 “Carruth” Gold (apologies to Olympic hero) medals coming to our illustrious Tyrconnell.

We all know and feel within ourselves what this will mean to us, and our faithful and popular scribe “The Follower” will, I am sure, adequately and fittingly describe this momentous sporting occasion, and I look forward to his contribution.

As for myself, I feel there will have to be some rumblings emitting from the distant past denizens of the Grianan of Aileach, recording their uncontainable approval.

However, to get back to what I was asked to do – to put on record a summary of my memories and experiences of the 1947 All-Ireland Senior football final at the Polo Grounds, New York, as a participant with the victorious Cavan team of that day.

I begin at the beginning – interrupting my honeymoon, saying farewell to my understanding wife, Peggy (music, Stand By Your Man) and joining up with my playing colleagues to motor from Ballyjamesduff to Shannon Airport (then Rineanna) and after a long delay and dispute with air pilots of T.W.A. plane, “The Moulmein Pakoda”, about luggage weight excess, we finally headed off for New York, landing first at the Azores and then on to Gander Airport, Newfoundland.

There we were served tea and muffins with maple syrup; reboarded the plane only to be told that one engine was not functioning correctly. Back to the airport for a long delay while the plane was being serviced; re-boarded again and on to Boston where we were all allowed off the plane to meet the Kennedy family and friends who were there to greet us. Finally, on to our destination at New York, where a bus awaited us to take us to our respective hotels.

Our hotel was “Hotel Empire” beside Times Square and a bus was laid on attached to the hotel for our collective activities.

I remember the many meetings with callers and friends; the difficulty to get a peaceful period for rest before the game.

I recall that the game itself was a very close encounter, and I do remember Kerry’s whirlwind start, and our shaky one, but gradually our team pulled out and got control and eventually we won by four points.
I remember the excitement after – moving out of the Stadium to where our bus awaited us. The attendance at the game was about 44,000 but there were twenty or thirty thousand more outside who couldn’t get in, and mounted police had to clear a way for the bus to get going.

I remember after the match meeting my friend, John Joe Campbell of Ardara, who came rushing to me on the field to congratulate me.

We had a series of luncheon engagements then where many important celebrities of the day attended, including a special function laid on by Co. Mayo born Bill O’Dwyer, then Mayor of New York. I still feel the excitement of the ticker tape cavalcade through New York City where all traffic was brought to a standstill and where we were paraded for miles in police vehicles, through lined streets, again courtesy of Mayor O’Dwyer, who also arranged for us to visit the Precincts of some Police Department to view the call up of criminals and crimes of the night as various police handed over their unfortunate arrested clientele.

The Mayor also arranged a special police car cavalcade for teams and officials for a visit to “West Point” Military Academy and a viewing of the spectacle of the lowering of the flag there at eventide, with a special meal laid on for us at the famous “Bear Mountain Inn.”

I also remember a visit and an interview with the German manager of “Schaefers”, the world famous brewery – one of the actual owners – who arranged with his Burtonport publicity advertising agent in USA a team visit to his New York Brewery. He was at the game and was very impressed. He presented each player present at the Brewery visit with a beautiful commemoration book and medal struck specially for some big centenary occasion worldwide for the brewery.

He was also interested in engaging the teams for exhibition matches throughout the States at his firm’s expense – a type of sponsorship job, you could say, but this was not possible.

A second game also took place in New York where a mixture of the Cavan and Kerry teams played an American selection. We were altogether three weeks on American soil and it was a hectic time. I remember a visit with one of my friends to a film in one of the big cinemas where a “Grantland Rice” special feature of the All-Ireland was shown and it was lengthy, very well done and much better than the record I have seen in Ireland of the filmed game. I haven’t met anyone else who has seen this feature.

The highlight of the journey home on the Cunard Liner, “the Queen Mary” to Southampton was a special meal for our party where the Captain entertained us with a banquet and where he issued special menus in Irish
for the two teams with the names of all the players in Irish and decorated with Cavan and Kerry colours. I have my copy of the menu still.

From Southampton we travelled by rail to London, stayed one night, then on to Holyhead by rail, and back by boat to Dun Laoghaire on the then “Princess Maud” boat.

We were there joined by friends and well wishers and proceeded to a function and dinner in the Gresham in Dublin.

I conclude with thanks for patience and my good luck and good wishes to Donegal team and management for the history of the century, in our sporting life.


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