October 24, 2008
The late Greg Fives
We all knew in our heart of hearts that Greg Fives was not going to win what had become his final fight for survival. His illness was terminal, the destiny of his fate inevitable.
That, however, in no way lessened the sense of grief all of us became submerged in when news filtered through early last Thursday morning that the big man from Abbeyside had indeed answered the Final Call at the comparatively young age of fifty nine.
I visited Greg at Dungarvan District Hospital just a few short weeks earlier and I don't mind saying that I left in a distressed state. The strong, ebullient and outgoing man that I had remembered was no more, and instead his illness had wreaked devastation on him.
In some ways then it can be said that he is finally at peace, but the tragedy is that a man who had so much more to give to his wife, to his family; to the GAA and to life itself had been so prematurely called ashore.
In the context of the GAA - and it is in that specific context that I am attempting this tribute - Greg Fives was a giant of a personality. He was known the length and breadth of the county and so very much beyond, and while there were times when you could and would lock horns with him on this or that issue his sheer charisma was the certainty that hostilities could never be prolonged.
He rose up through the ranks in his beloved Abbeyside/Ballinacourty club displaying an abundance of the talent that very speedily marked him out as a very talented hurler and footballer. Forty two years ago at the tender age of seventeen he won West and County Under 21 hurling championships in the blue and gold of his Abbeyside and four years later while still eligible in the Under 21 grade he skippered Ballinacourty to an historic first football county title at that level.
Some few years later illness intervened, and it was Abbeyside/Ballinacourty's massive loss when on medical advice Greg decided to call 'finito' to his playing career.
There was almost an inevitability about him taking the route into GAA administration and coaching which he subsequently took. He became a mentor at several levels on both the club and county scene; he took over as Waterford's senior football manager for a three years span; he was the man in charge of a Waterford team that reached a Munster intermediate hurling final against Clare; he was a Waterford senior hurling selector for a time, and he went on to have hugely important inputs for club and county in other grades too.
Administratively he served as both secretary and chairman of his club at different times and was a member of its executive in this present year.
He also represented his county on the GAA's Munster Council for a number of years, and at the time of his passing was a member of the County Board executive in the role of its Development Officer. You name it and Greg did it.
As a team motivator what could you say of him? He always insisted on calling a spade a spade, calling it as it was, and it it was fire in the bellies of the players that was needed who better than Greg to fan the flame.
As a person, as a human being, there was only one Greg Fives. You knew exactly where you stood with him, and that is why he commanded the massive measure of respect that he did. To have known him was my pleasure and privilege, and to have befriended him is a thing I will cherish for the remainder of my days.
His removal last Friday evening and his funeral Mass and burial in his beloved Abbeyside last Saturday were manifestations of the standing and the esteem in which Greg was held not just within the confines of his home place but throughout the county and far beyond. His beloved club most certainly did him proud on both occasions, and the attendances were amongst the largest the parish has ever seen. In their own right those turnouts were tributes on a strikingly impressive scale that only the big man himself could have commanded.
Some of the biggest names in Deise gaeldom were there. Among them the chairman of the Munster Council Jimmy O'Gorman, the chairman and secretary of the Cork County Board, Mick Dolan and Frank Murphy respectively, former Association president Sean Kelly, Clare's Tony Considine, Limerick's Pat Fitzgerald, the great Micko Dwyer of Kerry and so many more.
Our own County Board representation was headed up by the chairman Pat Flynn; both Divisional Boards were also represented; chairman Tony Mansfield led a huge Abbeyside/Ballinacourty officership presence; many of our hurlers and footballers, past and present, were also there, as was senior football manager John Kiely. In truth the attendances on both occasions represented a virtual "who's who" of the GAA, and they were the kind of fitting tributes that the big man himself would have been so very proud of.
In saying farewell to Greg let it go on record that we are bidding adieu to a man of many exceptional parts. A superb husband, father and friend, and a veritable legend to whom the GAA in the Decies will forever be indebted.
To his wife Marie, his sons Michael, Declan and Mark, his mother Maureen, his brothers Fr Colin OSA, Michael and Raymond, his sister Geraldine, and his many other relatives our sympathy is extended.
Go ndeine Dia trocaire as a anam dilis.
The Waterford News & Star, October 24 2008
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