Cornally, Rob

On Monday morning, January 27 last, word quickly spread of the death of the former Westmeath footballer and official Rob Cornally, who had battled MS for over 30 years. Rob was married to Mullingar West Labour Councillor and Scor enthusiast, Detty, who had cared for him after his condition worsened following his diagnosis in 1982.

Rob will always been remembered for being part of the Westmeath minor team that reached the 1963 All-Ireland final. He lined out at left half back on that team which beat Dublin in the Leinster final and Down in the All-Ireland semi-final, but which fell to Kerry in the Tom Markham Cup decider at Croke Park. 

Rob became the fifth member of that trailblazing team to pass to their eternal reward, and the third in a matter of months. His long-time neighbour and fellow MS sufferer Mickey Fagan died a month before him, while Ray Niland died last October. Both Rob and Mickey had attended last November's golden jubilee reunion of the team. They were predeceased by Tom King in 1965 and Gerry Frawley in 2000.

Speaking to this Yearbook last year, Rob is convinced Westmeath would have won the All-Ireland if the players had been allowed to stay in their own beds the night before the final.

"It was a big mistake," remembered Rob, who was a student in Carmelite College, Moate at the time and was secretary of the football board when Westmeath won the All-Ireland minor title at the second time of asking in 1995.

"We went up to Bray the night before instead of travelling up on the morning of the final. I was sharing a room with four or five other fellas and we spent half the night chatting. The following morning we went for a run and that wasn't necessary either. The preparation was all wrong in my opinion. We should have been left in our own environment.

"As far as I'm aware, Kerry travelled up that morning and they're a lot further away from Dublin than we are. We should have done what the '95 team did and slept in our own beds the night before."

The highlight of Cornally's club career came in 1965 when he lined out at half forward on the Ballymore team that reached the Westmeath SFC final, only to lose to a powerful Athlone outfit. After moving to Mullingar, he became involved with Mullingar Shamrocks and was a very capable official with both them and the Westmeath football board.

All of his children - Mary, David, Rob Jnr, Louise, William, Owen and Alan - have been involved in the GAA at some stage. Rob Jnr has been refereeing local hurling and football games for many years. Indeed, the Cornally family is synonymous with the Mullingar Shamrocks and St. Oliver Plunkett's clubs.

An avid Derby County FC supporter, Rob was also co-founder of Westmeath Community Games and was the first secretary of the Westmeath Scor Committee.

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