General Owen O'Duffy rememberred

December 02, 2009
There was a large and very representative gathering particularly from the wider O'Duffy family in the Aughnamullen Sarsfields Community Centre on Wednesday evening last for the unveiling of a plaque in memory of Owen O'Duffy by the president of the Ulster Council Tom Daly. Owen O'Duffy was a native of the Aughnamullen area having been born in the townland of Laggan and while a lot of his life was spent away from his native place his contribution to both the GAA and the Irish nation still resonates very strongly in that part of Aughnamullen parish. There had been some debate about the most appropriate location for the plaque but Tom Daly acknowledged that he knew the right decision had been made and "I know we are in the right place". The club had gone to great lengths to organise this particular night by inviting all his surviving relatives and they came from further a field to be part of the historic occasion. In welcoming everyone to the ceremony Aughnamullen chairman PJ Fordd recalled his late father's recollections and impressions off Owen O'Duffy whom he described as a very generous man. The club had also gone to some lengths in putting on an exhibition of photographs and newspaper cuttings relative to the club over the years but most interest centred on an exhibition of O'Duffy memorabilia that had been gathered together by his great grandniece Roisin Duffy. Among the items were an unpublished biography of O'Duffy in typescript that had been written by an army colleague of O'Duffy's, Captain Liam Walsh. There was also great interest to in the memorabilia that referred to his time in the Garda Siochana, extracts from the Garda Review and the reproduction of minutes and letters from his time as secretary of the Ulster Council. Before unveiling the plaque to General Owen O'Duffy. Tom Daly spoke of the special occasion it was and the special man that O'Duffy had been particularly in the GAA in Ulster. He described him as a very significant figure who had served as secretary from 1912 to 1920 which was a difficult time in that it was a period of unrest and upheaval at home and abroad, a time that saw the waging of WW1 which had put a lot of pressure on the Irish people. The GAA in those days was still a very young organisation and O'Duffy proved to be "a seminal character" in helping to develop the structures for the GAA in the province that served the association well over the years. Daly went on to describe O'Duffy as a great organiser and a man whose thoughts when committed to paper were inspiring even though outside of the GAA he had provoked different reactions particularly from his time as Garda Commissioner. Even then though he had held on to his affiliation with the GAA and he encouraged all members of the Garda to be involved in local clubs where they were working. That type of dedication had helped strengthen the association in Ulster and hurling in particular benefited with members of the force from the stronger hurling counties being posted to places like Cavan, Monaghan and Donegal. Current Ulster Council secretary Danny Murphy in paying tribute to his predecessor used the occasion to quote from an old minute book of the Ulster Council that was relative to O'Duffy's time with some of the minutes in his own handwriting. "The minutes Danny Murphy told the gathering "show O'Duffy to be a courageous man" and he used the example of how he organised Gaelic Sunday in 1918 as proof of his courage when he took on the whole establishment and the law that forbade game son Sundays. The minutes also contain some poignant entries relative to O'Duffy's resignation as secretary at the meeting on March 17th, 1920 where he simply stated that he "could not continue" but he saw "a bright future for the association when we reap the harvest of the work that had been done to date". His reasons for stepping down showed the integrity of the man as "the risk to my freedom" he said is increasing every day" and he wanted to be free to attend the meetings and matches which if he wasn't might lessen the effectiveness of the association and he would be very upset "should the flag be lowered when in my hands". O'Duffy concluded that particular minute by asking to be allowed to take the opportunity to pay thanks to the Ulster Council officials, the county boards and clubs for the friendship and co-operation he enjoyed in his eight years in office and he signed off as he always did "Yours in the cause". The volatility of affairs at that time was illustrated when Danny Murphy read from a minute of a meeting on April 17th, 1920 when the Ulster Council was adopting a resolution regarding travelling expenses the meeting was invaded by the Armed Forces of the Crown and the secretary was arrested and taken away with an armed guard remaining in the room while delegates finalised the discussions. Alien events to where the association is now" Danny Murphy said but the endurance of these things helped develop the Ulster Council in its infancy. Following the unveiling of the plaque to Owen O'Duffy Anita Finnegan read a short resumé of the events that led to the formation of the present Aughnamullen Sarsfields club and the Monaghan 125 plaque was unveiled adjacent to that of Owen O'Duffy, underlining the strong GAA tradition in this part of Monaghan. The formalities concluded with a relative of the late Owen O'Duffy, Mickey Duffy, speaking on behalf of the extended family and paid tribute to the GAA and the Ulster Council in particular for organising the erection and unveiling of the plaque.

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