Category: Archive

Untimely passing of great Gaelic Football Gael, Charlie Sweeney, leaves a big void.

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Struggling to draw air from a container by his side, Charlie Sweeney’s heart was still racing when Donegal played at Gaelic Park two weeks ago. Sweeney, from the rural parish of Glenvar, west of the Lough Swilly estuary in Donegal, was one of the most devoted Gaels ever to enter Gaelic Park. "What’s left in the game", Charlie queried as Tyrone mounted another attack on his loyal county men. I didn’t realize at the time who Charlie was or what he had done, but I knew looking at him he was a passionate GAA fan. A minute later he rested his head on the press box counter and you could almost touch his disappointment as the gap widened between the sides. "The day didn’t suit us’, he said as the final whistle sounded. Tyrone had won 1-13 to 1-11. A minute later a kind and caring relative, asked if he’d like to leave before the final game and avoid the rush. Kerry and Cavan, you’d think won’t keep the Donegal man for another hour. The rain and wind battered at the plastic window in the press box and young men, full of the joys of life, took the easier option and headed for their homes. Charlie didn’t stir. "I’m alright here", he said. You’d swear he knew it was going to be his last trip to the hallowed ground that he loved so much and he wanted to get every last drop of action before he departed. In fact, that was Charlie’s last time to enter Gaelic Park. ‘Terrible day for football’, another Gael said as he rubbed his hands together after coming into the warmth of the press box to greet Charlie. He didn’t respond. Eddie Reilly was lording it around the middle for Cavan and the Donegal man needed all the energy in his body to keep on top of the game. When the game finished, I said goodbye as Charlie straightened his oxygen tank and wheeled it out of the park. As he walked along the sideline, GAA men wished him well. They didn’t know either it was going to be his last day at Gaelic Park. When he reached the turnstile, he paused, turned towards the field and looked back for the last time. Charlie Sweeney had got his fill for another week.

When the news broke of his untimely death on Sunday July 15th there was widespread shock and regret. His death has left a major void in New York GAA as was evident at his wake and funeral mass in Brooklyn. His last wish was also fulfilled when his body was shipped home to his native soil. Last Sunday there was a minute’s silence for Charlie when Donegal and Stamford and Kerry and Donegal ladies took to the field. "This one is for you Charlie", one of the more established Donegal players said afterwards. "Hope you were watching". If he was his heart would have been racing again. He loved good forwards, with pace, passion, accuracy and power. Brendan Devanney and Peter Loughran would have kept Charlie Sweeney in conversation for at least another two weeks. His love of football and in particular Donegal was immense. He never missed a game at Gaelic Park and his enthusiasm for the game inspired others to follow him. In 1998 the Donegal Club honored him with the Campbell-Houlihan award for his wonderful contribution to the club over the years. "He was such an passionate supporter", present Donegal manager, Donal Gallagher said this week. "He wasn’t happy with our performance that day against Tyrone and he wasn’t afraid to let us know his feelings on the way out’. Sweeney was diagnosed with Cancer just over a month ago. After tests and blood samples had been taken in a city hospital he decided he had enough and signed himself out a day later. A life of construction and tunnel work made Charlie Sweeney a hard man. "If you survived with Charlie you were a good worker’, Gallagher said. "He worked hard and when it was over he enjoyed himself to the full". At the Donegal Dinner dance this year he didn’t leave the floor. He was also a regular at Donegal Ladies training where he loved to see the ladies develop their skills. He was also a committed family man and supported his wife in all their endeavors. I didn’t get to meet Charlie Sweeney after that brief meeting in Gaelic Park, now I’m sorry I didn’t.

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