Meath All-Ireland winner Jim Reilly passes away

June 23, 2013

Meath All Ireland Champions 1954.Back: Paddy Brady, Ned Durnin, Dick Mee, Jimmy Farrell, Brian Smith, Kevin McConnell, Michael Grace, Paddy Connell, Tom Moriarity, Brenard Flannigan, Frankie Byrne, Gerald Smith, Paddy O'Brien. Front: Patsy Ratty, Jimmy Reilly, Kevin Lenehan, Tom O'Brien, Matty McDonnell, Peter McDermott (Captain), Paddy Meegan, Patsy McGeraty, Willie Rattigan, Larry O'Brien, John "Nobby" Clarke, Michael O'Brien.
Meath has lost its second All-Ireland senior footballer winner in the space of three weeks with the passing, in his 89th year following a lengthy illness, of Jim Reilly, one of the heroes of the 1954 triumph.

Jim Reilly's passing follows the death of Noel Curran at the start of the month.

The Dunboyne clubman was a versatile player, starring in defence and attack in major successes. The high point of his career came in 1954 when filling the centre half-back position when the Royal County lifted the Sam Maguire Cup for the second time.

After victories over Wicklow, Kildare, Longford and Offaly in Leinster and Cavan in the penultimate round of the championship, Meath went into the All-Ireland final against Kerry as rank outsiders.

Eight of the history-making team of 1949 were still there five years later with Reilly in the middle of an entirely new half-back line and Kevin Lenehan and Ned Durnin on the wings.

Jim recovered from an injury which forced him to retire during the minimum margin win over Cavan to play a notable part in the impressive 1-13 to 1-7 victory over the defending champions.

That was his fourth All-Ireland SFC appearance, including one replay, in as many years. The other three were at full-forward, against Mayo in 1951 and two clashes with Cavan in '52.

Reilly was also in the number 14 jersey for the National League triumph in 1951. After defeating Mayo by 0-6 to 0-3 in the 'home' final Meath overcame New York by 1-10 to 0-10 at the Polo Grounds.

Another notable inclusion on Jim's playing CV was lining out at right half-forward on Leinster's Railway Cup winning team in 1954. Connacht were defeated by 1-7 to 1-5 in the final and as well as Meath colleague Paddy Meegan, the Dublin trio of Ollie Freaney, Kevin Heffernan and Cathal O'Leary and Louth's Jim McDonnell were also in the winners' attack.

Jim Reilly enjoyed notable success on the club scene with St Peter's, Dunboyne. He was centrefield for the IFC success and centre-forward when the Feis Cup was annexed in 1959 - St Vincent's being defeated in both finals - before continuing playing into his 40s.
His passing came three weeks after the death of Meath 1967 hero Noel Curran, whose son Paul gained All-Ireland honours with Dublin in 1995 as well as being part of a number of other triumphs.

Brendan Reilly, son of Jim, also followed in his father's footsteps when gaining two All-Ireland senior medals. He will be most remembered for shooting the spectacular winning point at the end of the controversial final replay against Mayo in 1996.

In 1988 he played a starring role at right half-forward in the NFL final replay win over Dublin. He was among the substitutes when the All-Ireland two-in-a-row was completed later that year, having sustained a shoulder injury in the opening round clash with Louth.

Jim Reilly's funeral mass will be in Dunboyne church on Monday, June 24, 1 am, followed by burial in Rooske cemetery.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

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