It was with shock and regret that we learned this week of the sudden passing of one our greatest-ever Clubmen – the great Cal O’Donnell. Kilmallock GAA sends sincere condolences to his wife Ann, his daughters Rose and Sue, sons Tom, Pat, and Dave, brother Tom, sisters Mary, Biddy, Ann, and Nelly and to his extended family and his many, many friends.
Cal O’Donnell lit many a bonfire, down through the years, to welcome home and honour victorious Kilmallock teams. His bonfires lit up the town on many happy occasions but the bonfire that lit up the Cross of Kilmallock on Sunday night brought tears to many eyes.
The flames danced and sparked to light up Cal O’Donnell’s last journey, his coffin draped with the Balbec colours, as he was carried by his family and clubmates from the funeral home to St. Peter & Paul’s Church.
For seven decades, Cal O’Donnell was at the heart of Kilmallock GAA and he will be remembered as one of the most colourful characters in the club’s history and truly one it’s greatest supporters.
He was a member of the Under 16 hurling team in 1953 that was narrowly beaten in the county final by St. Patrick’s. In 1955 he lined out at corner back on the minor team that won our first county title beating Treaty Sarsfields. In this final, Cal had a daunting task of marking Eric Smith, who up to the final had scored 26 goals. Cal put a stop to Eric’s gallop and the rest is history.
Like many young men in the ’50s, Cal emigrated to England in 1956. He continued his hurling career with St. Mary’s of London, a club he served as chairman for many years. During the late ’60s and ’70s Cal was Chairman of the Kilmallock Mens’ Association in London and together with his wife Ann, who was Secretary, organised many trips home to the county finals in the ’70s.
Cal and his family returned to the Green Road in the early ’80s and he immediately immersed himself in the local GAA Club. He was elected Chairman of Kilmallock GAA in 1983 and 1984.
This week Kilmallock GAA has lost one of it’s greatest ever supporters. He wore the green and white with pride and he was proud of everyone that ever pulled on the Kilmallock jersey.
The stories of Cal’s after-match exploits are endless. Everyone that ever met him has a story – the stories are legendary and all the stories are true. Along with a great supporter, this week, we have also lost a great friend. He was part of the club for decades and decades from now the stories of Cal O’Donnell and the name Cal O’Donnell will be spoken of wherever hurling supporters gather.
The likes of Cal O’Donnell will never be seen again.