Tributes pour in for GAA singing legend Dermot
By Anne-Marie Walsh
Wednesday May 23 2007
TRIBUTES flowed in from the entertainment and sports communities last night following the death of legendary showband singer and Louth All-Ireland winning captain Dermot O'Brien.
Friends offered their sympathy to the family of the showband singer and TV presenter who was known through the length and breadth of Ireland.
There was hardly a place where Dermot and his Clubmen never played.
His much-loved band was one of the biggest draws in Ireland in the mid- and late-1960s and he also hosted his own TV programmes, most notably 'The Dermot O'Brien Show' on RTE.
Among his most memorable achievements were appearances on American TV with Bing Crosby and Ed Sullivan and sharing the stage with Johnny Cash and Bill Haley and the Comets.
A talented accordion player, his recording of 'The Merry Ploughboy' went straight to No 1 in the Irish charts in 1966.
He was also an iconic figure on the GAA pitch and made a huge impression on thousands of fans when he captained Louth to their last All-Ireland success.
"The news of the death of Dermot O'Brien came as a great shock to us all in RTE," said director-general Cathal Goan.
"In the '60s and '70s, Dermot, who had been a renowned footballer, became known to a whole new audience through his regular appearances on RTE.
"Always known as a gentleman, he saw himself first and foremost as an accordion player who also happened to be a singer.
"There was hardly a village in Ireland which did not at some stage have Dermot O'Brien and his famous Clubmen playing in their local dancehall. But Dermot was also a great ambassador for Ireland abroad, especially in the US."
GAA president Nickey Brennan expressed his deep sadness at Mr O'Brien's death. He said supporters would be united in grief at the death of the iconic captain, describing him as "an immensely talented man" who left a huge impression on thousands of people who saw him play football and entertain "at the highest level".
Mr O'Brien was also a fluent Irish speaker who regularly visited the Rann na Feirste Gaeltacht. His All-Ireland winning speech in 1957 was mainly delivered in his native tongue.
"Everyone in the GAA would be saddened to hear of the death of such an iconic figure," he said.
He said Mr O'Brien's death would be a massive and grievous loss to his family and expressed his condolences to his family, friends and former teammates on behalf of the GAA.
A member of St Mary's Club in Ardee, Mr O'Brien won three Louth senior football championship medals in 1951, 1956 and 1960. He also played for one year with Navan O'Mahonys.
In 1953, he won a Leinster senior championship medal as part of the Louth team that defeated Wexford in the provincial final.
He won a second Leinster championship medal when Louth defeated Dublin in 1957. In September that year, he lifted the Sam Maguire Cup after the Wee County beat Cork.
- Anne-Marie Walsh