Fr Niall O’Meara
(1920 – 1975)
Niall attended Kilruane N.S., where he was taught by his aunt Frances O’Meara and his uncle Denis O’Meara. He won a county council scholarship to St. Flannan’s College, Ennis, in 1933. Having completed his secondary education there, he studied for the priesthood in Maynooth College.
Niall was ordained in June 1945, after studying Latin, Irish and English. A contemporary of his in St. Flannan’s was Edward Whyte who was later to become parish priest in Cloughjordan and author of “Kilruane MacDonaghs and Lahorna De Wets”, the story of the G.A.A. in the parish.
Fr. Niall’s first appointment as a curate was in the parish of Portroe. He was then appointed a member of the teaching staff in St. Flannan’s College. He moved from his teaching post to become Diocesan Examiner, where his gentle manner is fondly remembered by both pupils and teachers. Fr. Niall also served in the parishes of Kilmihill, Corofin and Killaloe. He returned to Tipperary in 1970 when he was appointed curate of Silvermines.
From Silvermines he went on to become Administrator in Clonakenny in 1973, where he served his final two years. After the local elections in June 1974, Fr. Niall was the nominee of Bishop Harty for a seat on the North Tipperary Vocational Educational Committee.
Fr. Niall was an avid follower of the G.A.A. and promoted the games, wherever he ministered. He came from a family steeped in G.A.A. tradition. His father, John O’Meara, played with the legendary Lahorna De Wets side, which won seven North titles at the beginning of the century. In 1902 that team had its finest hour when it brought the first county senior hurling title to Cloughjordan parish, by defeating Carrick. Fr. Niall’s uncle, Bill Cleary, also played with De Wets. Fr. Niall played junior hurling with Kilruane MacDonaghs, while his brother Mick played senior hurling for the club for nineteen years, winning two North championship medals. Mick also served as a selector with Kilruane MacDonaghs senior team, which won three in a row North and County titles in 1977, ’78 and ’79.
Fr. Niall had a passionate love for his native parish and rarely if ever missed a game when Kilruane MacDonaghs were in action. In 1956 he became the third person from the parish to become chairman of the North Board. He was following in the footsteps of James O’Meara 1905 – 1907 and William Flannery 1915 – 1921. Fr. Niall also served as vice-chairman from 1972 to ’75. He also served as vice-chairman of North Tipperary Bord na nOg. In late 1974 he performed one of his last official duties when he presented the county u/21 hurling trophy, The Dwan Cup, to Tom Killackey, captain of the Kilruane MacDonaghs team which defeated Thurles Sarsfields in the final.
Fr. Niall died in March 1975. It is eloquent testimony to his popularity in his native parish that within eight months of his death, the Kilruane MacDonaghs club had bought, renovated and refurbished the old hall in Kilruane, and renamed it the Fr. Niall O’Meara Memorial Centre, in his memory.
In the homily at Fr. Niall’s funeral, His Lordship, Dr. Michael Harty paid this tribute: “Fr. Niall was all priest. He had put his hand to the plough; there was no looking back, no reservations, no half-hearted efforts. Those of us who were contemporaries in St. Flannan’s and Maynooth will remember his splendid talents, his good humour and humanity, his undying love for his native Kilruane and his delight in all the skills and thrills associated with our Gaelic games. He placed all his qualities of mind and heart at the service of God and his fellow man. He would never think of doing anything else; he would even be surprised that anyone should pay tribute to him for his dedication. He couldn’t visualise anything but wholehearted service in the vocation to which he was called”