Evening Echo Pays Tribute to Br Enda

Date: 17 Oct 2016

Venue: Cork

The following article appeared recently in the Evening Echo, celebrating the life of Br Enda O'Donovan, who passed away last Friday, 14th October 2016:


SATURDAY, OCTOBER 15, 2016. Plunkett Carter 

ANYONE who has experienced the intensity and excitement of Sciath na Scol in the 1950s, 60s and 70s will immediately appreciate the vast contributions the Presentation and Christian Brothers made in nurturing the native games.

It is with sadness that followers of those games will mourn the death of one Sciath na Scol’s greatest ever coaches, Br Edna O’Donovan, who died at Marymount University Hospital on Friday. Br Enda from Derrivereen, Rossmore joined the Presentation Brothers Novitiate in 1947 and as a GAA coach his contribution to the development of the games can never be overstated. His prodigies, and there were many, graduated to represent their chosen clubs at senior and inter-county level. This is the type of nurturing and dedication that success-starved Cork supporters now bemoan.

Enda taught in Glasthule, St Joseph’s, Mardyke, and Cobh before arriving in Greenmount NS in 1953. That famous Barrs nursery which had dominated Sciath na Scol games in the 40s for over 10 years had endured a barren period following the departure of excellent tutors when Enda took on the onerous role of filling their shoes in 1956.

His first task was to restore Gaelic football which had been banned in 1951 by the previous administrators to the curriculum. After winning back-to-back titles the then coach felt Gaelic football was becoming a breeding ground for foreign games and withdrew his school.

During Br Enda’s nine years in the parish Greenmount teams won three Sciath na Scol (County Schools Shield) titles and seven Sciath Cathrach (City) titles while the young athletes won several Best Overall School awards at both city and county athletic meetings. His most famous protégé has to be Gerald McCarthy who went on to captain Cork to All-Ireland glory in 1966 and another household name who benefited from his simple but effective coaching techniques was Cork’s first hurling All-Star Tony Maher.  

The Philpott brothers, Eric and Denis, were other inter-county stars who were influenced by him. And, there were those who put their grounding in Gaelic games to use in other sports like Phil O’Callaghan who won 21 caps with the oval ball and a quartet who represented Ireland in soccer.

Gerald McCarthy, who remained a life-long friend of his great mentor, credits Enda with instilling in him an enormous love for Gaelic games particularly hurling. “He was ahead of his time in terms of coaching and meticulous with regards to grasping the basic skills – the elements that make a good hurler – like striking, blocking, lifting and passing,” said Gerald. The only way to stop Greenmount’s winning run was to transfer the coach and he was duly sent to Donegal!

Enda returned to Cork in 1971 to teach in Scoil Chríost Rí where he trained the athletics team which on nine consecutive years won the All-Round Schools Cup at the City and County Sports. The athletes became known as ‘Enda’s Flyers’ and his successes on the track were unprecedented and impossible to match. His long hours diligently spent coaching the boys in the school field paid rich dividends. It was always a great honour to be selected on to Enda’s athletic teams, but to stay on it, you had to be dedicated to the cause and you did it his way.

Enda was a ‘slave and master’ to the hundreds of budding hurlers, footballers and athletes who attended his training sessions in the Dya and Capwell and has given invaluable unrecognized service to the GAA. May the Lord have mercy on his gentle soul.