“Young players may come and old players may go, but there’ll ne’er be another like the Gallant John Joe.”
John Joe O'Reilly needs little introduction. He is widely revered as one of Cavan's greatest ever sportspeople. He captained Cavan to All-Ireland victories in 1947 and 1948, and in 1999, was named on the GAA Team of the Millennium.
In January 2021, a committee was formed with the aim of raising funds to develop and erect a statue of John Joe O’Reilly. Gaelic football is sewn into the fabric of County Cavan. Even those who have no interest in the sport could not deny the intrinsic part it has played in the life of the county.
We believe the best place for the statue is right at the heart of civic life in the county, in the centre of the county town. It is also important that the statue be in a public place, available to be seen by the public 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It should not be behind a gate or a closed door, but rather be a living cultural monument at the centre of the life of the county town.
Cavan County Council have recognised this vision and they have very kindly offered us the perfect site for the statue - in the heart of Main Street, Cavan town, near the Market Square. The exact location is on the footpath, between Bank of Ireland and the Post Office.
We hope this statue will outlast us all. The job of sculpting it is therefore both a huge honour and challenge. The committee quickly identified Seamus Connolly as the outstanding candidate for the work. Widely recognised as one of Ireland's leading portrait and bronze sculptors, Seamus' portfolio of previous works includes some of the country's best known statues, including of several GAA icons. Among his best known works are Páidí Ó Sé in Ventry, Dermot Earley and Gerry O'Malley in Roscommon, Mick Mackey in Limerick, John F Kennedy in Bruff, Co Limerick and John B Keane in Listowel, Co Kerry.
We believe this statue will be for the people of Cavan – for those among us, those no longer with us and those still to come. We ask you to support us in our vision with whatever donation you can offer. All support is hugely appreciated.
More about The Gallant John Joe
A born leader, John Joe O'Reilly is the ultimate symbol of Cavan's most glorious sporting period. He transcended his sport and indeed, transcended county boundaries. In the 1940s and 1950s, he was one of the most famous and respected people in Ireland, with his status as an All-Ireland winning captain enhanced by his senior position in the Irish Army, where he rose to the rank of Commandant by the age of 27. His untimely death at the age of 34 immortalised him in the folk memory of the county and country.
The proposed site has very strong personal and sporting links to John Joe. Just around the corner from the proposed site, on Town Hall Street, is the house where John Joe's wife Olive and four children moved just a few months after his death. They opened a confectionary shop and ice cream parlour, and lived and worked there for the next decade.
Cavan’s most famous ever All-Ireland victory came in the Polo Grounds Final of 1947, the only time the spectacle took place outside of Ireland. On May 23, 1948, the Cavan team, led by John Joe, were feted at the Town Hall and presented with these most famous of medals at the venue. The area outside the Town Hall, facing into the old Farnham Gardens, was for many years associated with the homecomings, celebrations and presentations to Cavan teams that had won All-Ireland and Ulster titles.
"I would safely say that John Joe O'Reilly was the greatest Cavan man of them all. He was a wonderful clean footballer, I never saw him take an unfair advantage either with club or county. I looked up to him and so did everybody else."
Mick Higgins, 3 x All Ireland winning Cavan footballer (1943-1953)
John Joe O'Reilly Memorial Committee Members
Cllr John Paul Feeley (Chairperson)
Lochlann Egan (Secretary)
Arthur Sullivan (Vice-Secretary)
Paul Fitzpatrick (Sports Editor, Anglo Celt)
Mark O'Rourke (Vice Chairman, Cavan County Board)
Jimmy Finlay (Dublin Branch Officer)
George Cartwright (Author of 'The Gallant John Joe - Cavan's Millennium Man')
Susan Brady (P.R.O. , Cavan County Board)