Goodbye, James

Goodbye, James

18 August 2021

THE funeral took place yesterday of Down GAA legend James McCartan.

Described as a footballing legend, he was a key member of the history-making Down side of the 1960s.

He won two All-Ireland medals playing alongside his brother in 1960 and 1961, and gave a lifetime of service to the GAA in Down.

He went on to manage the Down senior and U-21 football teams, which brought Ulster Championship and National League successes at senior level and an All-Ireland U-21 title.

His son, James, followed in his footsteps by helping Down win the Sam Maguire Cup in 1991 and 1994. Another son, Daniel, played in the 2010 All-Ireland final when Down lost out to Cork by a point.

At yesterday’s funeral service in St Mary’s Church, Burren, former team-mates and those who played under him paid their respects by forming a guard of honour.

Kevin Mussen, who captained the Down side which brought the Sam Maguire Cup over the border for the first time in 1960, described McCartan, who was in his mid 80s, as a “massive figure”.

“We were the first and therefore the most important in many ways,” he said.

“James McCartan was a central figure in all of that, through his personality and his performances on the field.

“It’s always a sad day to see a man of his quality go.”

Paddy O’Rourke, who captained Down’s All-Ireland-winning side in 1991 and played under McCartan at senior and U-21 levels, described him as a “warm, fatherly sort of figure.

“He had a great ability to see the good in young people and a warmth about him that automatically made young players especially feel at home,” he said.

GAA president Larry McCarthy said: “James was a true giant of our games.”

In a statement Down GAA said the GAA world in Down was a “poorer place with the loss of a man who was renowned throughout Ireland for his swash-buckling style as centre half forward on the Down team of 1960 and 61”.

“As part of this iconic double All-Ireland winning team, his became a household name and his football abilities were respected and feared by opponents.

“He was part of the great half forward line with Seán O’Neill and Paddy Doherty that played a key role in the historic breakthrough of 1960,” the statement continued.

“James McCartan was a man who was passionate about Down. He wanted success and he was driven as a player and a manager to seek out success.

“He would take great pride in the achievements of his sons in the county jersey; they were the third generation to wear the Red and Black and all displayed the qualities of the men who had gone before.

“James was one of those people who helped make us the proud county that we are. He was an iconic figure in the annals of Down GAA, and was known throughout Ireland by generations of people who marvelled at his exploits on the playing field. Wherever Gaelic games are played, the name of James McCartan will be synonymous with Down and with a team that brought so much joy and happiness to so many people.

“He was a legend in the true sense of the word, who had the heart of a lion, and an astute football brain. His passing has robbed us one of our greatest sons, someone who loved his football, his county, his club, and most of all his family.”

The statement added: “On behalf of the Gaels of Down, we say thank you for the wonderful days and the pride that you gave us in our place.

“To his wife, Marie, his children, Delia, Maria, Brian, James, Charlie Pat, Daniel and Eoin, his grandchildren, daughters-in-law, brother Dan and sisters Gay, Eileen and Delia, we offer our deepest and heartfelt sympathy on the loss of a husband, father, grandfather and brother.”