Dermot Earley, Snr

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Dermot Earley DSM
Dermot Earley 2009.jpg
Born (1948-02-24)24 February 1948
Castlebar, County Mayo[1]
Died 23 June 2010(2010-06-23) (aged 62)
Drogheda Memorial Hospital, Curragh, County Kildare
Buried St Conleth's Cemetery, Newbridge, County Kildare
Allegiance  Ireland
Service/branch Irish Defence Forces
Years of service 1965—2010
Rank Lieutenant General
Commands held Chief of Staff of the Irish Defence Forces 2007—2010
Awards Distinguished Service Medal
Relations Dermot Earley, Jnr (son)
Dermot Earley
Personal information
Irish name Diarmuid Ó Mochóir (Mór)
Sport Gaelic football
Position Midfield
Born (1948-02-24)24 February 1948
Castlebar, County Mayo
Died 23 June 2010(2010-06-23) (aged 62)
Height 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)
Occupation Chief of Staff of the
Irish Defence Forces
Years Club
Michael Glavey's
Club titles
Roscommon titles 1
Years County
1965–85 Roscommon
Inter-county titles
Connacht titles 5
All-Irelands 0
All Stars 2

Lieutenant-General Dermot Earley DSM (24 February 1948 – 23 June 2010) was an Irish army officer and sportsman. He played Gaelic football with his local clubs Michael Glavey's and Sarsfield's and was a member of the Roscommon senior inter-county team from 1965 until 1985. Earley is regarded as one of the greatest players never to have won an All-Ireland Senior Football Championship medal.[2]

Earley's status as one of the all-time greats is self-evident. In a senior inter-county career that lasted for twenty years he won five Connacht titles, one National League, two All-Star awards, however, the ultimate honour of an All-Ireland medal at senior level eluded him. In retirement Earley served as manager of both the Roscommon and Kildare senior inter-county teams. In November 2016, Roscommon GAA announced that their new Centre of Excellence located in Runnabracken will be named after Dermot Earley.

Earley also served as a high-ranking military official in Ireland and with the United Nations. He was the Irish Defence Forces Chief of Staff from 2007 until his retirement in 2010.

Early life and education[edit]

Earley was born in Castlebar, Co Mayo in 1948. He was educated at the local national school and later attended St. Nathy's College in Ballaghaderreen.

Army career[edit]

After completing his Leaving Certificate in 1965 Earley joined the defence forces as a cadet and was commissioned in 1967. His first posting was as a platoon commander in the Recruit Training Depot at the Curragh and in 1969 he was appointed an Instructor at the Army School of Physical Culture (ASPC). Two years later in 1971 Earley obtained a specialist diploma in physical education at St. Mary's College, Twickenham.

Earley's service record included overseas service with UNTSO in 1975, Adjutant to the 52nd Infantry Battalion UNIFIL, from 1987 to 1991 he served as deputy military adviser to UN secretary general Javier Perez de Cuellar and Battalion Commander of the 81st Infantry Battalion UNIFIL in 1997. While serving with the UN up to 1991 he was a member of negotiating teams dealing with the Iraqis and Kuwaitis, and was a key adviser during the setting up of the UN's mission in Kuwait – Unikom. He was involved in negotiating an end to the Angolan civil war.[3] He is a graduate of the Royal College of Defence Studies, London (2001) and holds a Master of Arts (Hons) in peace and development studies from the University of Limerick (1999). He undertook the Ranger Course in the Defence Forces, which led to the establishment of special operations training and the establishment of the Army Ranger Wing (ARW). He was the last serving member of that course.

Earley was appointed School Commandant of the ASPC. In 1991 he was appointed an instructor at the Command and Staff School of the Military College and in 1994/95 he helped establish the United Nations Training School Ireland (UNTSI) in the Military College.

He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in 1995. He commanded the 27 Infantry Battalion on the Irish border. He was promoted to Colonel in 2001.[4] In December 2003 he was made Brigadier General and was appointed Major General in March 2004 when he received his final appointment. He replaced Lieutenant General James Sreenan. He became chief of staff in April 2007, leading the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service.

On 18 April 2010 Dermot Earley indicated he would retire from the Defence Forces due to ill health. Lt Gen Earley was awarded a Distinguished Service Medal with Honour from An Taoiseach Brian Cowen.[5] His resignation was accepted on 9 June 2010 and one of his previous deputies, Major General Sean McCann, was appointed Chief of Staff.[6] Lt Gen Dermot Earley died of Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease (CJD) on 23 June 2010.[7]

His Newbridge funeral on 24 June 2010 was attended by An Taoiseach Brian Cowen, Irish government ministers and leading GAA figures, while former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave issued a statement calling him "one of the great figures of this country".[8]

Football career[edit]

Minor and under-21[edit]

Earley first came to prominence on the inter-county scene as a member of the Roscommon minor football team in 1963. He was only fifteen years-old at the time, however, in spite of his young age he quickly became a key component of the team. A Connacht minor final appearance that year saw Earley's side take on Mayo. Goals were the difference as Mayo won the game by 3–5 to 1–5.[9]

Two years later in 1965 Earley lined out in a second Connacht minor decider. Five-in-a-row hopefuls Mayo provided the opposition; however, their great run of success was brought to an abrupt halt. Roscommon won by 2–10 to 1–10, giving Earley a Connacht Minor Football Championship title.[10] Unfortunately, Roscommon were later defeated in the All-Ireland semi-final.

In 1966 Roscommon faced Mayo in the provincial minor decider for the third time in four years. A close game developed; however, Mayo's goal-scoring ability put some daylight between the two teams.[original research?] A 1–9 to 0–7 score line resulted in defeat for Earley's side.[11]

That year Earley was also a member of his native county's under-21 team as Roscommon and Mayo renewed their rivalry[citation needed] in this grade in the Connacht final. Earley's side won the game on a score line of 1–15 to 0–9.[12] It was his first Connacht under-21 winners' medal. Roscommon later qualified for the All-Ireland final where reigning champions Kildare provided the opposition. Ultimately Roscommon were champions by 2–10 to 1–12, and Earley collected an All-Ireland winners' medal in the under-21 grade.[13]

1967 saw Roscommon set out to retain their All-Ireland title. The Connacht series provided few obstacles[original research?] until the provincial decider when Mayo triumphed by 3–11 to 2–8.[14] Both sides met again at the same stage of the championship the following year, however Mayo won by 1–13 to 2–3.[15]

Earley was eligible for the under-21 grade again in 1969 and, furthermore, he was appointed captain for the year. The provincial decider that year saw Roscommon face Galway in the provincial decider. Both sides finishing level. In the subsequent replay Roscommon took the title by 1–10 to 2–3.[16] It was Earley's second Connacht under-21 title. Roscommon later qualified for a second All-Ireland final in four years, with Antrim providing the opposition. Victory narrowly went to Antrim on a score line of 1–8 to 0–10.[17]

Earley also played Under 21 hurling with Rsocommon. In 1969 he was playing in the All Ireland Under 21 C final were Roscommon faced Kildare, however Kildare won 8–05 to 4–05 on the day.


Earley was only seventeen years-old when he made his senior debut for Roscommon in 1965. After back-to-back provincial titles in this grade in the early part of the decade, 'the Rossies' were now going through a slump.[citation needed]

In 1970 Earley lined out in his first senior provincial decider. Galway provided the opposition on that occasion and proceeded to beat Roscommon by 2–15 to 1–8.[18]

Two years later in 1972 Roscommon were back in the Connacht final. Mayo, a team who Earley was more than familiar with at underage levels, were the opponents. An eight-goal thriller had supporters on the edge of their seats as Roscommon took their first provincial title in ten years on a score line of 5–8 to 3–10.[19] It was Earley's first Connacht senior title. Roscommon's next game was an All-Ireland semi-final meeting with football kingpins Kerry. That game turned into a rout as the men from 'the Kingdom' won easily by 1–22 to 1–12.[20]

After surrendering their provincial title in 1973, Roscommon faced Galway in the provincial decider a year later. Earley was one of the few players to shine as his team were absolutely trounced by 2–14 to 0–8.[21] His efforts were later rewarded when he was presented with his first All-Star award.

Two years later Earley's side indicated that they were a team on an upward curve. A thrilling provincial decider with Galway ended in a draw, however, Galway made no mistake in the replay and inflicted an eight-point defeat on 'the Rossies'.[22]

In 1977 a new-look Roscommon team took the provincial championship by storm. After some embarrassing defeats in recent years, Earley's side finally triumphed over Galway. The narrow 1–12 to 2–8 victory gave him a second Connacht winners' medal.[23] Roscommon subsequently faced Armagh in an All-Ireland semi-final. Like a lot of Roscommon's other games in previous years, a close contest developed over the seventy minutes. In the end, both sides finished level and a replay was required. That second game was also extremely close, however, Armagh emerged by just a single point.[24]

The Connacht series of games provided little difficulty for Earley's side again in 1978. Galway once again provided the opposition, however, Roscommon triumphed by 2–7 to 0–9.[25] It was Earley's third Connacht title. The subsequent All-Ireland semi-final pitted 'the Rossies' against reigning champions Kerry. That game turned into a rout as the Munstermen won by 3–11 to 0–8.[26]

Roscommon made it three Connacht titles in-a-row in 1979 as Mayo were accounted for on a score line of 3–15 to 2–10.[27] It was Earley's fourth provincial winners' medal. For the third year in-a-row 'the Rossies' embarked on the All-Ireland series in the hope of finally making the final. Dublin were the opponents, however, Earley and his teammates faced heartbreak once again as they were defeated by a single point.[28] In spite of failing to make the leap into the All-Ireland final, Earley was later presented with a second All-Star award.

1980 was a pivotal year for Earley's Roscommon team. A fourth Connacht title in succession was claimed following a 3–13 to 0–8 trouncing of Mayo.[29] It was a fifth provincial winners' medal for Earley. The subsequent All-Ireland semi-final saw Roscommon finally triumph and, after that defeat of Armagh, Earley lined out in the All-Ireland final against Kerry. The Connacht champions shocked Kerry and took a five-point lead inside the first twelve minutes. Mikey Sheehy popped up to score the decisive goal for 'the Kingdom', as Kerry went on to claim a 1–9 to 1–6 victory in a game that contained sixty-four frees.[30] It was a bitterly disappointing defeat for Earley's side while Kerry took their third consecutive All-Ireland title.

This defeat seemed to take the wind out of Roscommon's sails. The early 1980s was an uhappy period for the team as they failed to even reach a provincial decider. In 1985 Earley sustained a fractured jaw in the Connacht semi-final against Galway. When he was leaving the field the entire 12,000 spectators gave him a standing ovation as many thought that would be his farewell to football. Earley confounded everybody and lined out in the Connacht final against Mayo two weeks later. In spite of kicking six points, Mayo still triumphed by 2–11 to 0–8. At the age of thirty-seven he decided to retire from inter-county football.[31]

Personal life[edit]

Earley was married with six children. The family lived in Kildare. His younger brother, Paul and his son, Dermot Earley Junior were both gaelic footballers. Paul Earley, like Dermot Snr, was an All Star recipient for Roscommon, and while Dermot Jr was also an All Star winner, he played his football for Kildare.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Defence Forces chief was famed footballer
  2. ^ "Dermot Earley dies aged 62". RTÉ News. 23 June 2010. Retrieved 24 June 2010. 
  3. ^ Defence Forces chief was famed footballer
  4. ^ Defence Forces chief was famed footballer
  5. ^ Defence Forces Chief to retire. RTÉ. 18 April 2010.
  6. ^ Lt Gen Dermot Earley's resignation accepted. RTÉ. 9 June 2010.
  7. ^ Dermot Earley dies aged 62. RTÉ. 23 June 2010.
  8. ^ Funeral of Dermot Earley in Newbridge. RTÉ. 26 June 2010.
  9. ^ Donegan, Des (2005). The Complete Handbook of Gaelic Games. DBA Publications. p. 155. 
  10. ^ Complete Handbook of Gaelic Games p. 155
  11. ^ Complete Handbook of Gaelic Games p. 155
  12. ^ Complete Handbook of Gaelic Games p. 163
  13. ^ Complete Handbook of Gaelic Games p. 156
  14. ^ Complete Handbook of Gaelic Games p. 163
  15. ^ Complete Handbook of Gaelic Games p. 163
  16. ^ Complete Handbook of Gaelic Games p. 163
  17. ^ Complete Handbook of Gaelic Games p. 156
  18. ^ Complete Handbook of Gaelic Games p. 143
  19. ^ Complete Handbook of Gaelic Games p. 143
  20. ^ Complete Handbook of Gaelic Games p. 123
  21. ^ Complete Handbook of Gaelic Games p. 143
  22. ^ Complete Handbook of Gaelic Games p. 143
  23. ^ Complete Handbook of Gaelic Games p. 143
  24. ^ Complete Handbook of Gaelic Games p. 123
  25. ^ Complete Handbook of Gaelic Games p. 143
  26. ^ Complete Handbook of Gaelic Games p. 123
  27. ^ Complete Handbook of Gaelic Games p. 143
  28. ^ Complete Handbook of Gaelic Games p. 123
  29. ^ Complete Handbook of Gaelic Games p. 143
  30. ^ Corry, Eoghan (2005). The GAA Book of Lists. Hodder Headline Ireland. p. 405. 
  31. ^ Breheny, Martin &, Keyes, Colm (2004). The Chosen Ones: Celebrating 1000 GAA All-Stars. Blackwater Press. p. 155. 
Sporting positions
Preceded by
Roscommon Senior Football Manager
Succeeded by
Donie Shine
Preceded by
Mick O'Dwyer
Kildare Senior Football Manager
Succeeded by
Mick O'Dwyer
Military offices
Preceded by
James Sreenan
Chief of Staff of the Irish Defence Forces
Succeeded by
Sean McCann