GAA fraternity mourns the late Fr Michael Cremin
News of the death of 85-year-old Fr Michael Cremin, O.Carm, late last Sunday night week was greeted with great sadness particularly in Moate and, indeed, many parts of Westmeath and neighbouring counties.
The Carmelite priest will always be fondly remembered in the Lake County for training the Westmeath minor football team in 1963, when they reached the All-Ireland final.
A wonderful Leinster final victory against Dublin (Jimmy Keaveney, Tony Hanahoe et al) was followed by a Pat Bradley-inspired win against Down in Croke Park. Unfortunately, Frankie Connaughton and his merry men were well beaten by Kerry in the Tom Markham Cup decider.
However, the ultimate prize in colleges football was not to be denied the County Cork native and, following some promising years in the ‘B’ grade, Carmelite College Moate eventually came good in ‘A’ football in the mid-1970s, losing the 1975 Hogan Cup final to St Colman’s, Newry, by a point, before winning the prestigious trophy in 1976 by defeating the famed St Jarlath’s, Tuam.
The following year, St Colman’s, Claremorris prevented back-to-back successes, but a two in-a-row eventually arrived with wins against the up-and-coming St Patrick’s, Maghera and the aforementioned County Mayo school in the 1980 and 1981 deciders respectively.
Many future inter-county players and managers were coached by Fr Cremin and they have consistently praised his influence on their football development. Indeed, ‘a man ahead of his time’, is a term often used to describe him. Offaly’s Vincent Henry, alongside Aidan O’Halloran, later to represent both Westmeath and Offaly, are still remembered as the midfield stars of the mid-1970s side.
The 1980 team featured now-prominent referee Pat Fox from Rosemount in goals and was skippered by Moate’s Jimmy Bradley. Other star names included Galway’s Val Daly and John Maughan from Mayo, nowadays the Offaly senior manager.
Fr Cremin also trained the Moate club team to a range of successes in Westmeath, while a brief spell as Lake County bainisteoir in the early 1980s coincided with an undoubted improvement in the county’s fortunes. A particularly memorable ‘moral victory’ was achieved in 1981 when an unheralded side in maroon and white put All-Ireland finalists-in-waiting Offaly, under the tutelage of the late Eugene McGee, to the pin of their collar in a Leinster championship match in Cusack Park.
In recognition of his outstanding contribution to Gaelic football, Fr Cremin received a GAA President’s Award from Nickey Brennan on St Patrick’s Day 2009. Two years later, the Westmeath Independent chose him as their Hall of Fame recipient.
He has suffered from poor health in recent times. He lived for many years in the Carmelite Centre in Gort Muire, Ballinteer.
Son of the late John and Mary Cremin and brother of the late Billy, John Joe, Kathleen (Lowry) and Denis, Fr Michael is deeply regretted by his niece, nephews, grandnieces, grandnephews, relatives, Carmelite Confreres, friends and all staff at Gort Mhuire.
Fr Michael will be reposing at Gort Muire Chapel on Tuesday (today) from 4pm, with night prayer at 8pm. Funeral Mass will be celebrated in the Carmelite Church, Moate, on Wednesday at 12 noon, with burial immediately afterwards.
• Next week, Gerry Buckley will remember Fr Cremin in more detail by talking to members of the 1963 Westmeath minor team and a couple of his successful Carmelite College, Moate players.