Cavan’s Football Ambassador by PJ Carroll
During the 1980’s, the most prominent figure to wear the ’blue and white’ of Cavan on the inter-county scene was Jim Reilly (Kingscourt Stars). From his very first appearance in a Cavan jersey, it was evident that a football star was born. He went on to play regularly for his county, and also to captain Ulster in the Railway Cup competitions, and he was acknowledged throughout the land as a cultured footballer and a top-class sportsman in his own right.
Born in November 1958, brought up on the family farm, four miles from Kingscourt and Bailieborough on the scenic ’Lough an Lea’. He was educated at Edengully and Ballinamoney National School. It was at Edengully that he came under the guiding hand of Peter Connolly, a man renowned for his knowledge and great ability to coach and train underage football in the area. At that time, Kingscourt juvenile football was booming due to unlimited talent as that provided by the Faulkner bros, Tierney, Reilly, Farrelly brothers as well as Joe Dillon, Kevin Smith, Sean Barrett and Sean Gaynor, many of whom went on to represent Cavan in all the grades from under 16 upwards on the inter-county scene. It was a time of progress on the underage football scene for Kingscourt, and many under 12 and under 14 titles were won by this group of players.
In 1972, Jim entered the home of Cavan football ’Saint Patrick’s College, Cavan’, which had won the Hogan Cup that very same year. During his stay in the college, Jim began to come to the fore of the gaelic football scene, and made his place on the College team. In 1976, he won an intermediate championship medal with Kingscourt Stars, playing in the half forward line, and incidentally this side laid the stepping stones for further success in the club at senior level right up to the present day.
Many of that Kingscourt Stars senior team, winner of eight county senior championship title, came to the fore in 1979, when on a cold, snowy Christmas week in Bailieborough, Kingscourt Stars defeated Laragh Utd. to become under 21 county champions. Jim was beginning to make his mark on the club scene in the county, and that same year he was drafted into the senior county panel for the National Football League. He made his competitive inter-county debut against Roscommon in Hyde Park, Roscommon and although a member of a young and inexperienced side, Jim had an outstanding game against All Star John O’Connor, and his display caught the notice of the national media on that occasion.
That same year, Jim was a member of the Cavan side that defeated Kerry in the opening of the new stand at Breffni Park, and his display on that occasion was highly praised by no less a man than the legendary Joe Keohane (RIP), who labelled him a ’star of the future’.
In the eighties Jim went from strength to strength on the club and inter-county scene, winning numerous county senior titles with Kingscourt Stars, and being a member of a number of successful Ulster Railway Cup sides.
Among the highlights of the eighties for Jim, was being a member of the Cavan team which reached the Ulster Final for the first time since 1976 in 1983, and although disappointment was his lot on that occasion, Donegal went on to win a closely-fought final, the Kingscourt player had an outstanding championship season.
In 1984, Cavan reached the semi-final of the Centenary Cup, only to lose to Meath at Croke Park, and again Jim was a member of that side. He also gained another Railway Cup medal with Ulster, and had the honour of helping his province defeat the touring Australian side in the first international series. Jim was a permanent fixture on the county side, captaining it for many years, and proving his versatility as a player by playing with distinction in defence, midfield and in attack. 1986 looked promising for Cavan and Jim Reilly as regards championship honours and after defeating reigning champions Monaghan in an epic game in Breffni Park – a game in which the bould Jim was selected man of the match – Cavan went out to Derry in a semi-final replay.
Still the honours came his way on the club scene, and in 1987 he helped his club reach the Ulster Club Final, only to lose to Burren narrowly in Pearse Park, Ballybay. Again in 1990, Kingscourt Stars reached the Ulster club decider, only to lose to the Derry champions Lavey, who went on to take the All-Ireland club title.
In 1987, Jim turned in some outstanding displays for club and county and he along with Stephen King were selected as members of the Irish team to compete against the touring Australians in the international test series. Jim played in the series, and indeed was among the better players on the Irish side.
In 1989, Cavan had a great run in the National Football League, reaching the semi final, only to lose narrowly to Dublin in Croke Park. In that game, Jim looked at home in headquarters, and turned in an impressive display. Following that Cavan had a disappointing period both in championship and league competitions, but instead of ’calling it a day’, Jim got more involved than ever, taking up the added responsibility of assisting team manager, Eamonn Curley in coaching and tactics with the county team. He also had the distinction of captaining Ulster to Railway Cup success in recent seasons.
What can one say about Jim Reilly and his football prowess, only that he was a very talented footballer, a true sportsman and a man dedicated to the improvement of Cavan football fortunes. His dedication and commitment to the game he loves, have made him a household name not alone in Cavan, but throughout the land. Without doubt, Jim was Cavan’s best player over the decade or so he represented his county and while ultimately success may not have been that frequent it is a measure of Jim’s ability as a footballer and a man that he is still remember throughout the country as a true GAA great.
Original article taken from Hogan Stand magazine 31 May 1991 Playing Career
Born: 25 November 1957
Educated: Ballinamoney N.S.,St. Pats College Cavan.
Started playing football under the guidance of Peter Connolly (RIP).
Won honours quickly at under 12, 14, & 16.
|1972||At college he won Corn na og medal.|
|1973||Won Fr. Manning cup medal with Cavan under 16’s|
|1974||Won Ranafast medal.|
|1975||Defeated in McRory cup final.|
|1976||Defeated in McRory cup final.
Lined out at right half forward with Kingscourt when beating Arva in Intermediate Championship final
Defeated in Ulster Minor Championship final in 1976
|1977||Played first senior match for Cavan in the National League versus Roscommon -
Never missed a championship match for his county for the next 17 years
|1979||Played centrefield to win under 21 title against Laragh Utd. on Christmas Eve.|
|1980 – 93||Won the first of 8 senior championship medals 80,81,86,87,90,91,93
Captain in 1980 and Man of the match in 86 and 90
Also won 5 senior league medals in those years.
|1983||Captained his county for a long number of years reaching the provincial decider|
|1985||RTE man of the match in 1985 for his performance against Monaghan in the championship victory at Breffni Park|
|1987||Voted Anglo Celt Cavan Person of the year
Played International Rules in 1987 for Ireland against Australia
|1988||Voted Cavan Association in Dublin Cavan Person of the year|
|1989||Only inter-county honour came in 1989 when winning a Dr. McKenna cup medal defeating Derry
Victorious on 5 occasions and captain of the winning team when defeating Munster in Pairc Ui Caoimh in 1989
|1992||Voted Cavan Supporters Club Dublin Branch, Cavan Player of the year|
Other Honours & Attributes
- Selected by Sean O’Neill and Brian McEniff on 8 consecutive Ulster Railway cup teams.
- Selected on Brian McEniffs best Ulster Railway Cup Team at left halfback to mark the Millennium.
- Once described by the legendary Joe Keohane as “The player he would most like to buy to play with Kerry” during the early 1980’s.
- Finished playing career with “The Geraldines” in Dundalk.