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Dermot Earley Of Roscommon Football Fame
Roscommon had many great footballers down through the decades and one of the greatest ever to wear the renowned saffron and blue, was Dermot Earley. The greatest accolade for a gaelic footballer is winning that elusive All Ireland senior football medal. Like so many more famous gaelic footballers around Ireland, Dermot Earley finished his career without winning the coveted medal.
Born in 1948 the Roscommon player made a huge impact at underage football and in 1966 he achieved national stardom when he was chosen to play at minor, under 21 and senior grades for Roscommon. This unique distinction brought Dermot on to the national stage.
1966 in Roscommon will also be remembered as the year the county won its first ever All Ireland under 21 football title. Playing at midfield on that great team was 17 year old Dermot Earley and he continued his rapid rise to recognition in 1967 when the Connacht Railway Cup football selectors brought him on to the panel. In the Railway Cup final on St. Patrick’s Day, Dermot made his entry as Connacht brought him on as a substitute and they went on to claim a great provincial title for Connacht with victory over Ulster.
Dermot Earley found progress in the Connacht senior football championship eluded him until 1972 and then followed a halcyon period for Roscommon and Dermot, as the county won four successive provincial championships in a row from 1977 up to 1980.
A National Football League title was also won in 1979 and now fans of Roscommon football were looking for the ultimate holy grail. In the 1980 senior football championship, Roscommon came all the way to meeting up with the giants of gaelic football in the 1970’s and 80’s, the great Mick O’Dwyer’s Kingdom warriors Kerry, in the All Ireland final.
Kerry were pressing on to claim a 3 in a row sequence of titles and in a tough battle, played on a very wet and blustery September Sunday afternoon at Croke Park, Dermot Earley and his colleagues had to settle for a gallant defeat. This setback denied Dermot a medal he would most certainly have cherished. Roscommon had not won an All Ireland senior football title since the era of back to back triumphs in 1943 and 1944.
The county produced some remarkable exponents of gaelic football but the supreme talents and sportsmanship of Dermot Earley, made him one of the all time greats of gaelic football in his own county, and also throughout Ireland. His inter county career spanned over 20 years and so few players remained at the peak of their skills for such a long duration. From his minor debut in 1963, aged 15, right through to 1985, the Irish Army officer became a household name in the realms of gaelic football.
Dermot’s medal collection includes a Connacht minor football championship memento from 1965 but the county came unstuck in the All Ireland semi final.
A Connacht and All Ireland under 21 medal in 1966 was achieved, as Roscommon beat Mayo in the provincial decider and Kildare were accounted for in the All Ireland final.
A versatile player Dermot also played hurling for Roscommon at under 21 level.
1972 was a milestone year for the Roscommon giant as the county won provincial senior football honours, with Dermot a key component. In 1973 the All Star selectors gave Dermot his first All Star and his second and final All Star award came in 1979.
1985 is recalled as the year of departure for Dermot Earley from the inter county playing fields of Ireland at 37 years old. His final match for Roscommon was against old foe Galway in the provincial semi final, a game lost to the Tribesmen. Gone was a gaelic footballer who served his county with honour, pride and great distinction.
Away from football Dermot Earley rose to the highest rank in the Irish Army as The Defence Forces Chief Of Staff. The untimely death of Dermot Earley occurred on 23 rd June 2010, aged just 62.
Honours include: 5 Connacht senior football medals 1972/77/78/79/80.
All Ireland & Connacht U21 medal 1966;
Connacht minor football medal 1965;
N.F.L. medal 1979;
All Stars 1973/1979
Derry JF Doody