I would like to share a few thoughts on the late Danny O’Neill who passed away in Athlone, 18th March 2021, after an illness.
Danny started refereeing in 1992, served a year in the AIL 98/99, and went on to be Association President in 2002/03.
I recall him refereeing Blake 7s (1993), and Creggs vs NUIG (1999), as well as Touch judging. He refereed at least one Junior Cup final in the late 90s. He got injured when he had been appointed to a Schools Senior Cup final. Leg injuries did hamper him thereafter.
He was of particular assistance to me in my first season starting out in 2002, and was U16 coordinator for new members. At an U16 game one day, he told me to stop putting the whistle cord around my neck. “That’s what the GAA do!” He showed me how to wrap the cord around the fingers. He tutored me on positioning and signalling.
I went to Westport for a U16 match a few weeks later. No teams were there. I rang Danny. “Did you not ring the Home club?” he asked. I had learnt my lesson. He told me he had driven to Clifden from Athlone for a Senior League match a few years earlier – no teams.
Another story he told me: Warren Gatland was playing for Galwegians in the mid 1990s. Danny observed he had illegal boots on, and told him to remove them. He didn’t. Danny: If you come out with those, I will send you off!
Danny was direct, and to the point. He was insistent that his club name was Athlone RFC, and didn’t value the Buccaneers title.
In his year as President, he pushed for new members. I recall a monthly meeting in McGanns, Monivea, where he wanted to spread them regionally.
In his time on the committee the senior members would have prepared and lead the talks on Law, and match situations. The downstream effect of professionalism has changed the format of meetings, which now involve IRFU Development officers, and Video analysis.
Other people would have found him strong willed, and forthright. I found him principled, genuine and sincere. He was succinct in his match reviews, and had good Law knowledge.
My sympathies to his family, wife Catherine, son Dermot, daughter Emma, daughter-in-law Emily, and grandchildren.
Danny served his club, his community, and gave dedicated service to the Referees. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dilis.
27th March 2021.