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Letter from Tyrone

Eamonn De Paor – An Appreciation from Naomh Colum Cille Club in Tyrone

Ned Power. The name when spoken of amongst the Naomh Columcille hurling fraternity always has a reverence around it. The master coach – coach of coaches, Gormanstown pioneer, 1959 All Ireland winner, flying through the air to defy Ring in the greatest ever action photo taken in a game of hurling – and standing in the middle of Tallow hurling field, black and red tracksuit on him, a big welcoming smile awaiting us coming off the bus from the north for one of his memorable coaching sessions.

Ned made us feel like hurlers, that although we were far removed from the heartland of the game, we really were part of the fold. He spoke to us as if we were the same as any other hurling team he prepared. He encouraged us, urged us on and revealed the secrets of the game to us in an effortless way. We were the weakest of hurlers but Ned sent us back home each time refreshed and bubbling with renewed enthusiasm for the game. He asked after us many times and how the club was getting on and took great delight when we started to make a breakthrough in Tyrone and Ulster. Ill health came against him in his great wish to come to us in the heart of Ulster but he always strived to make it. 

On 2nd November 2006 he wrote to us:
“My greatest joy would be to visit you in Coalisland. If God is good, next Summer I’ll make my way up to Cavan, where my daughter Annette is married, and on to Tyrone for an evenings meeting with your beloved hurlers. We’ll have a couple of hours of hurling saturation. I’d love that!”

Although Ned didn’t make it up to us, his letters to our annual dinner dance are treasured memories. When Liam Mulcahy read out these missives of Ned’s the packed hotel room of NCC devotees would be hanging on every cherished word. His passion for the game came shining through. Always encouraging he urged us never to flag in our endeavours and when I think of the phrase “fiabhras na fuinseoga” I think of Ned. He encapsulated all that was positive in that pithy saying.

Ned placed great emphasis on individual corrective coaching and many NCC hurlers benefited from his ability to diagnose faults in technique and give those little tips that made all the difference. And what’s more in his dealings with us Ned was always a gentleman marked with an endearing humble quality. He imparted his great hurling knowledge in such a warm kindly way. Although he had an in-depth knowledge of hurling he still maintained a boyish marvel for the game eager to learn more himself. This came to the surface readily in even a short conversation with him.

One of the binding factors behind the close affinity of Ned and Naomh Colum Cille was his interest in and affection for the “gaels of na sé chontae”. He had a deep appreciation of the history, ancestry, and culture of the Gaelic people of Tyrone and Ulster.

“You need toughness to play hurling and by God there is toughness in ye Tyrone people”
It was uplifting to hear this from Ned. He was of course reflecting on the strife over the dark years of the Troubles. Le cúnamh Dé we are now entering a new era where the Gael and Planter can share a better future.

We paid a final visit to Ned at his lovely home in February 2007. Though he was weaker then, he was still inspirational to us. He was full of zest and exuberance as he regaled us with stories from his playing years. As long as the talk was of hurling he was animated. He punctuated his conversation with thanks to God for all the blessings in his life and it was very clear to me that Eamonn De Paor was a man of great faith. We will treasure that final visit with him.

Tá sé imithe ar sli na firinne anois. Páirc Eamonn De Paor will preserve his memory in his beloved Tulach an Iarainn. In Tyrone we will remember him in our hearts.

Damian Mor O Neill,
CLG Naomh Colum Cille, Tir Eoghain