Dava O'Brien- DOD report from the echo

Dave O'Brien with his daughter Mary Sheehan at the Senior County Hurling final between Glen Rovers and Sarsfields last September


"The following piece is been published by Diarmuid O'Donovan. I would like to thank him for allowing us use this on our website".


Dava - Dave O'Brien President of Glen Rovers

The passing of Glen Rovers president, Dave O'Brien last Sunday morning was very much the end on era for the club.


It is not just that he was president of the club, or that he has given over 70 years of active service, it is that nearly all of this service was given to the underage section of the club. Every boy who put on a Glen Rovers or St Nicholas jersey in the Cork City Bord na nÓg competitions, sooner rather than later, met Dava Brien. Dava was there when you first joined the club, he passed you on to the adult section and if you got involved in running teams or club administration after you retired, he was still there.


That was my experience and it was also the experience of hundreds of other players in the club.


He was born in May 1923. His family had come to Cork from Aghabullogue. Dava went to school in the North Mon. During his time there, a group of boys from the North Mon's Gerald Griffin Technical School entered a team in the St Annes hurling and football leagues. Dava was a member of the team. The following year, 1939, the Cork City Juvenile Board (Bord na nÓg) was formed. Gerald Griffins entered under the guidance of Brother Cass and won both the hurling and football leagues.



Gerald Griffins 1939. Dave O'Brien is third from the right on the middle row.









"I was hardly worth my place on the team" Dava told me earlier this year when I interviewed him about Gerald Griffins, "it was the only medal I ever won as a player."


In 1940, Brother Cass moved on, Dava was too old to play, but Gerald Griffins still had a powerful team and Dava took over the role of administrator. They had more success in 1940 and '41 but by then most of the team had left school and  organising them was proving very difficult. Gerald Griffins disbanded and most of the players, including Dava, threw their lot in with Glen Rovers.


Even though Dava had experienced considerable success as a mentor with Gerald Griffins, he had to start at the bottom again with Glen Rovers.


"I remember, I was detailed to help Paddy O'Connell with the minor team" he once told me. Paddy O'Connell was known as the ‘Father of the Glen", he was the most far-seeing individual in Cork when it came to developing underage Gaelic Games and he didn't take too kindly to the young "whipper snapper" who had been sent to help him. "Our first game was up the ‘Dyke," said Dava. "It was a windy day and Paddy gave me a couple of sliothars and told me to ‘go away and soak those in the river, for when we will be playing against the wind.'


"It was a ploy to get me out of the way as much as it was a tactic" Dave chuckled.


Dava, however, was not going away. He learned all the ploys and all the tactics and, most importantly the rules. "I made a bags of an objection once. I never signed it properly and I vowed there and then that I would never be caught in an objection again." I don't believe he was. His knowledge of the rules became famous and he often gave advise to others on how to phrase an objection or a  counter objection.


He attended thousands of games throughout the 1940s and ‘50s. All the while, he was adding to a vast store of knowledge of teams and players. He was a confidant of Christy Ring, who would discuss games with Dava and check out the strengths and weaknesses of opponents with him.


By the mid 1950s Dava was selecting inter-county teams. He was a selector in the All-Ireland Junior hurling teams. He was a minor football selector in 1959 and he was still there in 1961 when Cork won its first ever All-Ireland minor championship. That team will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of their win later this year.  Dava was looking forward to that.



He was also a Cork minor football selector in 1967, '68 and '69 when Cork won three in-a-row All-Irelands. In 1974 he took a special delight in being a selector of the Cork minor hurling team that defeated a top-class Kilkenny side in the All-Ireland final.


He maintained relationships with many of the players from these teams over the years, and many have been in contact since he took ill a few weeks ago. Besides his ability to read games and his ability of understand which players were best to mark strong opponents, he also developed a strong network of scouts throughout Cork and beyond. There were many players from small junior clubs who got to play minor for Cork because of Dava's network.


But it was through the Glen and Saturday afternoons in the Mon Field, or Bord na nÓg venues throughout the city that most people got to know Dava. It is remarkable to look back at that time in the 1970s, (when I was playing) or earlier, and think that Dava, and the underage mentors of all clubs, got through so much work.


Dava had no car, there were no mobile phones, and he worked shifts in C.I.E., but he always seemed to be there. He would know all the opposition; you would get your instructions before the game and he would expect you to carry them out to the best of your ability. He could forgive you if you were beaten by a better man, but if he thought you were not putting it in, he mightn't wait until the game was over to let you know that he though you could do better.


As Chairman of the Glen Rovers Under-age Committee he was the leader of a very highly motivated band of men. He was a good delegator and when he gave you a job he expected it to be completed. Once when a Bord delegate told him that he intended to "rebuff" the Bord secretary at the next meeting, Dave suggested a much stronger word than rebuff.


Behind the odd roar and his competitive edge, Dava was very loyal to all the Glen and St Nicks players he dealt with. He considered all of us a part of his extended family. Even though he occasionally used strong language, he made a point of never cursing or swearing when addressing or in the vicinity of young players.


He had great time for the try-ers and those who were interested in playing and just weren't good enough. From the late 1980s, when he felt he had enough of the rough and tumble of ‘A' competitions, he acted as a selector on the Glen's juvenile ‘B' and minor ‘B' teams. Through those efforts he kept a great deal of boys active in the club.


Cork Northside under-16 team 1975. This team won the Tailtain Games by defeating Waterford, Dublin and Limerick. Dava was a selector on this team. He is on the extreme left back row.


Dava would admit that he did his fair share of drinking "in my early days". But when it was time to settle down he took the Pledge and remained a non-drinker for the rest of his life. He was a daily Mass attendee until very recently.


Over the years he had amassed a tremendous amount of information and stories about the GAA. He seemed to have a story about every game that was ever played. When you listened to him, he made the halcyon days of the Munster hurling championships in Thurles and Limerick come alive. Equally his stories about tournaments between the Glen and Ahane in Millford made them real for those who weren't even born when these games were played.


He also had a grá for other sports. The advent of Sky Sports was a Godsend to him and it allowed him to see all sorts of sport that he had only read about for years. I discovered he had a great interest in Baseball. Dava was a devotee of the sport in the 1950s and 1960s when the only way you could follow it was by tuning into the crackly commentaries on Voice of America (VOA) radio station. He spoke of games between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Yankees as if he had stood on the sideline and seen them played.


I have missed Dava's funeral because I am in New York at present. Tomorrow night, I will be in Yankee Stadium to see the Yankees play the Chicago White Sox. By a strange quirk of fate, the only two men I've known who listened to Baseball on the VOA, both spent their sporting lives with Gerald Griffins, Glen Rovers, St Nicks and Cork. They are Dava and my father.


Tomorrow, I will be seeing something they would have loved to see, but never got the chance.  I'll say a prayer of thanks to both of them for all they have passed on to me. As for those already in the playing fields of heaven, the Rings, Doyles, Mackeys, Stockwells, Di Stefanos, Di Maggios, Mantles and all the rest, they better sharpen up. Dava is coming. He may not always get his game, but he'll be there organising, picking the teams, and analysing every move when the day is over.


Dava's passing is greatest for his daughter, Mary, son Stephen, son-in-law Eddie and grand daughters, Maria and Eimear, but he also a tremendous and irreplaceable loss to the entire GAA community. Is trua mór nach mbeidh a leithéid ann arís. As dheis Dé go raibh a anam.





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