The last bonfire – Cal O’Donnell R.I.P.

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. 


14 thoughts to “The last bonfire – Cal O’Donnell R.I.P.”

  1. i went to school with Cal i also played juvenile and minor hurling with him i also left for england in 1956, i met cal about 4yrs ago in fitzgeralds bar and had a great nioght full of laughs and cant remem ber how many times Cal shouted out that i had scored 3 goals in the 1955 minor final a lovey man and a great character i was very surprised and sad when i heard of his passing he will be greatly missed my condolences to his family and all who knew him ,R.I.P CAL.

  2. Cal is my uncle , having visited my family in kilmallock many times since I was a young lad there is one thing that has never changed , the strong bond between all the local and surrounding communities is a joy to watch, the love and respect for one another is very special and heartwarming, for anyone witnessing these last few days past in kilmallock honouring my uncle cal’s life will know this gift has been passed on by his generation to the next , he and those gone before him would be very proud of you all, so cal can be happy knowing he wasn’t the only gifted man in kilmallock, all cal’s associated loves from hurling , golf and the greyhounds can proudly sit on his tree of life with his family and friends at the top, there going to have some craic up there tonight now there reunited with my uncle cal , take care of him he’s one of the best.

  3. Having returned home to London and having the time to sit and reflect on my Dad and the character that he was,I would just like to give a huge thanks to the people of Kilmallock and to the folk who travelled from near and far to his funeral.We gave him a great send off,one he himself would have been proud of,that captured every aspect of his life.There was only one CALEEN and i’l miss him for the rest of my life.You were my Dad and my best friend,Tom xx

    1. He was such a character Tom . We all have great memories of him. YOUR bond so so strong it was obvious when ever you were together. He got a well deserved great send off

  4. Nephew to the much loved Calleen i would like to take this opportunity to thank the good people of Kilmallock for the overwhelming show of respect and the manner in which they honoured uncle Cal.
    The spectacle of the long lines of people waiting to pass on condolence, to the sight of the bonfire at the cross and the procession holding Cal aloft like an all Ireland champion shoulder high down to the church left me awestruck and somewhat humbled.
    I often felt that with the passing of uncle Cal and those of his generation, it was like threads of the great tapestry of life being undone and forever lost, the good people of Kilmallock and those who travelled from afar to honour him have demonstrated that the tapestry is always repaired and Cals name has now been woven into the story
    For what was a solemn occasion it was you who made it a great celebration to mark the passing of a man whom I now realise was a greater than just his sum. you good people did that, you good people have assured me his legend will go on, you good people I thank you

  5. Cal was a great person one of lifes once meet never forgotten my Dad Dan O”Donnell always had great stories of Caleen. My Mom also thought the world of him. I remeber him from a young age Rest in Peace Caleen you will be sadly missed fly high to meet all the O”Donnell clan xxxx

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