GAA 'icon' Colum McKinstry kept his feet on the ground, mourners hear

One of Lurgan's finest GAA players, Colm McKinstry, dies

Colm McKinstry proudly holds aloft the Anglo-Celt.

Michael Scott


Michael Scott


FORMER county GAA captain, Colum McKinstry, will be remembered as “someone who was well respected here in Armagh and far beyond”.

He was laid to rest on Wednesday following his funeral at St Patrick's Cathedral in the city, with both the jerseys of the county he led and his club, Clan na Gael, draped on his coffin.

A funeral notice said that the Armagh great died suddenly on Sunday, August 8. He had just returned home from a couple of days away with his family in Ballycastle.

Fr Peter McAnenley told mourners that there had been great sadness in the city and throughout the county following news of Colum's death.

“Many of us were numbed and found it hard to believe that he had been taken from us so quickly and again, the suddenness of his death reminds us once more of the importance of being ready for that final call when the Lord might come and take us to himself.

“I’ve no doubt that Colum himself was a man who was quietly prepared for that call on Sunday evening and I’m confident that as he left this world for the next, he could hear those words ring loudly in his ears: 'Well done good and faithful servant, inherit now the kingdom that has been prepared for you'.”

Those in attendance at the cathedral and watching on webcams heard Fr McAnenly talk about Colum's formative years.

“Colum was a native of Lurgan and it was there that he spent the early years of his life,” he said.

“The son of the late Brian and Vera McKinstry, he was the eldest of five children. He went to the local schools and it was almost 50 years ago when he and Nuala first met at a dance in the old Parochial Hall here in Armagh.

“Within a short time and they got married and they lived for a few years in Lurgan before moving to Monaghan Road and so the Cathedral City was his home for roughly 40 years.”

Colum and Nuala soon were blessed with three daughters, Niamh, Grainne and Eimear, and in later years three grandchildren came along.

Fr McAnenly described Colum as “a great family man”.

“He was a devoted husband and father and a wonderful grandfather. He was a much loved brother and brother in law, a very kind and respected neighbour and a very dear friend to many people.

“I’m sure that Nuala and the girls could tell many stories of great family times that you’ve had and some of the great things that you did or trips that you went on as a family over the years.

“I was just looking in his home the other day at all the lovely family photographs and each of them telling a different story but they all very much point to Colm’s love of home and family and I’m sure that many of you will treasure the memory of the weekend gone in Ballycastle, his last weekend with many of his family here on this earth.”

Away from his career in the GAA, Colum worked in Goodyear Tyres and also in construction with O'Hare and McGovern. He worked in many places including Canary Wharf and was a hard worker who gave it is all until he retired a few years ago.

Colum was also a “very committed church goer and clearly a man of deep faith”, as well as being a member of St Malachy’s Church Choir where he sang every Sunday.

Added Fr McAnenly: “Someone said to me yesterday that Colm was a very sociable person, someone who loved to chat and for many years he was a familiar face on Monaghan Road, very often out doing jobs around the front of his home but very often we saw him out walking his dog along the road.

“Like all of us and he had many interests and hobbies and there were different things he enjoyed doing. He loved listening to music and especially opera and he enjoyed a good western on television, he also enjoyed the horses and having an odd flutter and he also got pleasure from working in his garden over the last number of years.”

However, of all of his hobbies, Colum loved gaelic football. Tributes have poured in from across the GAA following his death.

“Knowing Colum and the very rooted and very modest man that he was, he would be playing it all down and it would be somewhat embarrassed by it all,” said Fr McAnenly.

“That was just Colum. He was a very ordinary and a very grounded individual and he was never one to seek the limelight or to seek recognition, he was indeed a man who was firmly planted and who had his feet well and truly on the ground.

“And of all the many words I’ve heard spoken about him over the last couple of days, the most used word of all has been gentleman... he was indeed a very gentle soul and blessed are the gentle for they shall inherit the land.”

The priest spoke glowingly about Colum's career in the GAA. He played for Clan na Gael from the late 60s to the early 80s and during those years and the club won 10 county senior titles and three Ulster crowns.

“What a record,” said Fr McAnenly.

“I believe it was the late Gerry Fegan, a former County Chairman here in Armagh who introduced Colum to football but over the years and he had a wonderful career - as many have said he was an incredible player and he earned huge respect as a player and then as a manager over many years.

“He had a number of years wearing the county colours for Armagh, beginning in 1968. Colum soon established himself on the county senior team where he collected three Ulster Senior Championships, captaining the side in 1982, as well as Division 2 and three National League medals.

“But the highpoint of his footballing career was undoubtedly his appearance along with three of his clubmates in the All Ireland Final against Dublin back in 1977 and his recognition in 1980 with his Bank of Ireland All Star Award, alongside Jack O’Shea and Jimmy Smyth. Colm also represented Ulster in the Railway Cup in the late 70s.

“Recognised throughout his career as one of the highest fielding midfielders of his generation, many have said that Colum inspired many others to follow in his footsteps and commit to the game. I believe he was very popular among his team mates both at club and county level and such was his popularity within his club that he was voted Senior Payer of the Year a number of times.

“And so today we have come to bid farewell to someone who has been an icon in Armagh football for many years, someone who was a determined competitor and someone who really had a very successful career.”

After hanging up his boots, Colum managed Clan na Gael as well as Tullysaran and Middletown.

Fr McAnenly referenced an article in the Irish News by Colum's long time friend Jimmy Smyth, who said that Colm “was the sort of man who just went about what he had to do and he did it well and, as he rightly, said no one had a bad word to say about McKink”.

Closing his eulogy, Fr McAnenly said that he prayed that Colum “is enjoying his new room, his place of eternal happiness and peace and just as he fielded well in this life, we pray that he will continue to field well in the eternal life to come.”

Meanwhile, Armagh County Chairman Michael Savage said, “The Armagh and wider GAA family are deeply saddened to learn of the death of Colum McKinstry, one of our greatest gaels.

“Colum was a member of the 1977 All-Ireland final team, an All-Star recipient in 1980 and Armagh captain when he proudly lifted the Anglo-Celt Cup in 1982. He was a renowned player for his county and club Clan na Gael for many years and a highly respected player and manager.

“On behalf of Contae Ard Mhacha we extend our sincere and most heartfelt condolences to his wife Nuala, daughters Niamh, Grainne and Eimear, the wider family circle, to his fellow players, friends and members of Clan na Gael. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.”

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