By Larry Cooney at the Heart of England Conference Centre, Fillongley
Sean McDermott’s GAA Club celebrated its 60th Anniversary in style with a black-tie dinner-dance last Saturday evening. And the Heart of England Conference Centre proved to be what an opulent and quite appropriate venue as the Birmingham-based club reflected on yet another glorious decade in its remarkable history.
Boxing fans who thought they were missing out on the fight of the decade from Wembley were accommodated with every punch being relayed on numerous large TV screens around the decorative banqueting hall.
It was truly an occasion that really packed as much of a ‘punch’ as world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua did for the 400 diners who included GAA President Aogan O’Fearghail and his wife Geraldine, Provincial Council representatives Brendan O’Brien and John Gormley and many former club members who pulled out all the stops to be present including New York-based former local boxing hero Matthew Macklin and the club’s only All-Star – Cavan man Ollie Brady.
Every great GAA club usually has at least one great family behind it and every member of the McLean Clan can surely take a bow not only for their input into the preparation for the club’s 60th Anniversary celebrations but also for their immense contribution to the club’s success for almost sixty years.
Club doyen Noel McLean snr. left his customary impact on the occasion with his inspirational and completely unscripted ‘once a Mac always a Mac’ address to the attendance as well as paying tribute to former members of the Macs ‘family’ spread out all over the world.
He is also singled out a number of men who have since passed on to their eternal reward including founder member Jimmy Smith, Hughie O’Connor and the remarkable Coley Folan.
After enjoying a splendid five-course meal, the attendance was entertained by a unique DVD presentation of some of the club’s highlights over the past sixty years. The Scanlon School of Irish Dancing also performed two sets of dances. Music was also provided by Kevin McGrath and Shindig and even Elvis also made an appearance before the end of an unforgettable and most enjoyable evening.
Noel McMenamin proved to be a very effective ‘anchor’ man/MC by taking all the guests on a nostalgic trip down memory lane as well as introducing all the guest speakers from club chairman Keith Sweeney, Noel McLean snr, Warwickshire GAA County Board Chairman Mark McLoughlin and finally outgoing GAA President Aogan O’Fearghail.
The evening’s formalities were concluded with the presentation of the club’s annual awards: Ladies Player of the Year – Ailish Staunton U18 Player of the Year – Kevin McMenamin Junior Player of the Year – Dan Rushe Homegrown Player of the Year – Andy Willis Senior Player of the Year (Jimmy Smith Memorial Award) Liam Gilbride Club Person of the Year – Keith Sweeney Hall of Fame – Michelle Dowling Special Presentation – Dave Lyons