James McVeigh, Tír na nÓg Randalstown.
Boxing Day 2020, was a day that many Gaels woke up to the devastating news of the death of our dear friend James McVeigh. A life taken too early, in just 42 short years what a positive impact James had on so many.
Over the past couple of days, the testaments from all around the world have paid compliment to James’ personality, infectious smile and love of all things Irish culture, language, friends, family and GAA. James’ boyhood club was Kickham’s Ardoyne, where he was brought up by his loving mother Louise and father Jim and had the values of the GAA instilled in him from a young age alongside his brother Anthony and sister Clare. James took an early interest in coaching and getting the best from young boys and girls. His earliest success was with the Ardoyne U16 hurling team.
During his studies James devoted himself to Ulster University and became Chairman of the Sports Union. It was clear from the beginning that he had an expertise in many areas and took a keen interest in developing all aspects of the sporting clubs he was involved in.
Moving to England to continue his career in teaching, James became a member of the Erin Go Bragh and James Connolly clubs. He continued coaching and progressed to county level leading Warwickshire GAA to an All Britain U21 Championship in 2009. He also had success with the U16 and U18 teams. In 2002 and 2003, James won Intermediate Hurling titles with Erin Go Bragh. His uncompromising style demanded nothing but greatness from all involved, and in 2006 he helped to capture a historic Senior Hurling Championship. At James Connolly’s, his tireless work on and off the field reaped the rewards with many cup wins and perhaps more importantly the days out with friends. A spokesperson at James Connolly stated “The work James did within the club laid the foundations for all successes in the clubs future Senior history. He was an inspirational Gael, and empowered a wider group to take over after he left to go home. We were lucky to know him”. He was also a huge figure at Aston University GAA in Birmingham. The club consistently had no Irish players – or players of any GAA experience – but with James’ help, they fielded in BUCS championships consistently, including the launch of a ladies team. James created community spirit wherever he went.
When James moved to Randalstown with his parents, Tír na nÓg, Antrim and Ulster gained an invaluable member who went above and beyond in everything he got involved with. He quickly got involved with coaching Antrim development squads before securing a job with Ulster GAA, where primary schools all around Ulster, and in particular Co. Antrim, experienced the love of GAA that James oozed. At the time of his passing, he was also secretary of South West Antrim. When asked to piece together these few words, I was asked what roles did James fulfil in Tír na nÓg. To be honest, it would be easier to state what James wasn’t involved in. He began with coaching Gaelic for Mother’s and Others, it’s fair to say his method was fun and craic, particularly their outing to the annual blitz in Malahide. James then stuck with the ladies and played an active role with the Senior Camogs, before taking the reigns of the underage structure within the club and re-grouping a sub juvenile committee. He identified particular underage teams who were struggling for numbers and single handedly began recruiting and took charge or assisted these teams until they too were excelling.
The children of Tír na nÓg had a genuine love for James, no task was too big for him and he regularly enjoyed putting on the blue suit of the underage mascot “Gorm”. Outside the 4 lines of the pitch or 4 walls of the committee room where he was actively involved in writing a club master plan, James was an enthusiastic character taking part in the club Strictly Come Dancing and dressing up as Princess Elsa to perform “frozen” in the club’s 2018 Lip Sync. It is true, James was larger than life and had such a welcoming smile. He had time for everyone within Tír na nÓg and further afield. Always keen to help develop the coaches and encourage others to complete their foundation and level 1&2 courses. In line with this, James started moving up the age ranks and coached the U21 team and brought a few senior men along with him to help inspire these young lads. For the first time in the club history, James led the U21 footballers to an All-County Final in November 2019. At the beginning of the 2020 season, James was appointed Senior Dual coach. Despite the challenges of Covid-19, the men were kept occupied over this period with different fitness and skill challenges. With the games up and running again, James and JP put a plan in place. One young player asked him before the Intermediate Hurling Semi-Final ” How do you think we will get on in this game?” James replied in his broad accent “I’m only thinking about the final mate”.
On Saturday 12th September, James helped deliver a Hurling Championship that our club yearned for years and years. Emotionally charged, he acknowledged all the work done over the years by everyone involved in the club, not only in the recent years.
The tributes have flowed in over the past few days and as a club we have set up a “Book of Memories”. Please feel free to leave your personal memory of James, which we will present to the family in the weeks to come.
In accordance with government guidelines the Wake and funeral will be strictly private. Family flowers only, donations in lieu if so desired to Chest Heart and Stroke NI. To conclude, James first and foremost you were a friend to everyone. You have left a void in many people’s hearts and indeed within our club which will never be filled. For now, we will do our best to support your family during these difficult times.
Sleep tight our dear friend.
Tír na nÓg PRO
James’ remains will be removed from his late residence, 127 The Meadows, Randalstown on Friday 1st January, at 9.30am to St. MacNissi’s Church for 10.00am Requiem Mass. Interment immediately afterwards in the adjoining cemetery.
The funeral can be viewed through the church webcam on https://www.mcnmedia.tv/camera/st-macnissis