‘HIS WAS A LIFE OF SERVICE TO MANY’ – SAD PASSING OF ANDY O’BOYLE.
There was a profound feeling of loss over Letterkenny last weekend. As word broke that one of the town’s most popular and well-liked figures, Andy O’Boyle, sadly passed away at the age of 81.
Originally from Claremorris, County Mayo Andy was a retired Garda Sergeant but it was perhaps his community endeavors – especially with Ballyraine FC – where he became best known.
By Jonathan Foley
On Sunday morning last, the hearse transporting Andy to the Church of the Irish Martyrs took a slight detour as it brought him past Ballyraine’s home ground one last time. A guard-of-honour of residents, clubmates old and new and mourners applauded the vehicle as it passed by. Alongside Charlie Shiels, Andy had been a founding member of the club back in 1979.
Over the next four decades, the two shared the managerial responsibilities of a number of schoolboys and schoolgirls teams. Their efforts and endeavors seemed limitless and, as the years passed by, they could proudly boast a wonderful alumni of players who had passed through the club’s ranks at underage level.
Among the names included were Mark English, from the athletics world, Ciara Grant who is a member of the Republic of Ireland’s Women’s National Team who are currently in preparation for the upcoming World Cup finals. Another key name is Rory Kavanagh, an All-Ireland winner with Donegal back in 2012 as well as Julie Ann Herrity who also played at international level.
Another sprinkling of names that Andy would’ve coached include Ciarán Greene and David McGinley who both represented Ireland at underage level. Additionally, there was Josh Mailey, Sean Houston, Gareth Harkin and Cillian Morrison who all went on to play League of Ireland football.
To say though that it was only the high-end players who appreciated Andy would be wrong. Andy welcomed everyone to the club, regardless of their ability, but through his patience and supportive nature, he seemed to make players feel ten-feet tall. In a way, this was referenced in Rory Kavanagh’s autobiography ‘Winning’ back in 2015:
“Charlie Shiels and Andy O’Boyle and their helpers treated us like kings, like we were playing for Liverpool,” Rory Kavanagh wrote of his former Ballyraine FC managers “They were great men and gave us a tremendous footballing education.”
Anyone who ever played on the Ballyraine home pitch, back in the olden days, could likely bemoan the slantiness of the pitch, the jaggy brambles up by the corner-flag and the unforgiving puddle that usually appeared after a spat of rain.
These were things that the home side often used to their advantage, but it was far from ideal for the visiting sides.
Back in December 2016, the club staged an official reunion. Throngs of past-players met up for a 5-a-side tournament during the day (an ideal opportunity to run off the turkey and sweets) before reassembling later in the evening for finger-food, a table quiz and some speeches to celebrate the club.
Amid all the nostalgia and fun that night at Arena 7, it was pointed out that the input of Charlie and Andy should never be forgotten. The way they provided a social outlet for so many children and teenagers is something that will sit deep in the hearts of these people for many years to come.
On the night of the reunion, Ballraine FC may have been looking back on where they came from. It didn’t take too long though until they started looking forward though and Andy was a pivotal part of this once again.
The club opted to start up the Ballyraine 200 Club which allowed patrons to sign up to a monthly draw for cash prizes. In an overall sense, this was a unique fundraiser for the redevelopment of the pitch into what it is now. A state of the art facility which is almost unrecognizable from what it was before.
Andy had over 26 years experience in running the Donegal Hospice 500 Club and, with his know-how and expertise at hand, he came out of retirement to help run Ballyraine’s version. This was commemorated last March by the club committee who made a special presentation to Andy in recognition of his great efforts.
Earlier this week, a memorial poster was placed on the railings that surround the pitch at Ballyraine FC for a truly legendary figure.
Andy was predeceased by his wife Margaret in February 2020. Deeply missed by his loving family, sons Joe (Fahan) and Sean (Naas), daughters Marie (Letterkenny), Rita Kenny (Donegal Town) and Lucie Donnelly (Dungannon), grandchildren Erin, Oisin, Ava, Maggie, Thomas, Einín, Tara, Eoghan and Leah, great-grandchild Shea, brother Pat (Perth, Australia) and sisters Betty Moran (Ballinrobe, Mayo) and Cora Kenny (Ballinasloe, Co. Galway), sons-in-law, daughters-in-law, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, nieces, nephews and a wide circle of family, friends and neighbours.