« on: February 25, 2015, 10:08:12 AM »
From the Meath GAA Yearbook, 1977.
The Tragedy Of Colm O'Rourke
"He had the potential to be one of the greatest Meath forwards ever." This high tribute was all the more valuable when it is realised that it was the great Peter McDermott - no slouch in his own playing days - who made it. It becomes all the more ironic when the player to whom he was referring is still only 20 years old, played for the county for only 14 months and, tragically, will never play for them again.
Colm O'Rourke played at full forward for the Meath minors for two years before he graduated to the senior team against Mayo in a national football league game in October, 1975. His last outing in the county colours was in the same competition against Cork in December of the following year, two weeks before he sustained a leg injury in the final of the Navan carpets senior football tournament final at Dunsany.
In trying to finish a penalty which had been parried by the Walterstown 'keeper Sean Reilly, to the net he twisted on his knee and damaged three ligaments and a cartilage. One year and a major operation later he feels that he must begin to reconcile himself to the fact that he will never play again.
Though the doctors were able to repair two of the ligaments and remove the cartilage, it would need a further operation to correct the third ligament, and even then, the chances of success would be slim. "I feel bitter that it should have happened to me, but I don't hold anything against anybody involved," said the genial Colm "but i find it hard to convince myself that I will never play again." I miss it more as time goes on, not being able to play, especially for Skryne and in this year's Leinster final." He felt it most during the Dublin match, because having missing the penalty in the previous year's final against the Metropolitans he had a point to prove.
Despite his injury, O'Rourke keeps himself in fine shape and weighs in at 13st 5lbs, only four pounds heavier than when he was playing. Though he runs and weigh lifts, he is unable to make any sudden movement which involves his left leg.
Even though his playing career is almost certainly over, O'Rourke has already made his mark in another aspect of Gaelic football - that of trainer of the Skryne senior and junior teams. In his first year, the senior side has earned their first major trophy since 1965, by winning the Feis Cup earlier this year. They reached the semi finals of the championship and also the final of the junior competition. He has also played with UCD and will have full responsibility for the first year at the University where he is a third year student in economics and geography.
Even though he is still so young, O'Rourke has clear ideas on why both his own club and the Meath county team has failed to win the major trophies which their talent seems to merit. He said: "We have to adopt a far more professional approach at club and county level, and this depends on the person in charge of the county team." He must decide if he is going to tag along, train the team and hope for the best or if he is going to think a bit more than run a bit less. If it was done at this level, then it would filter back to the club's as the players learned the new approach. It's no use sending our players who don't know what they have to do. They must have one or two plans. We must get the right 15 and put them through their paces until they play with cohesion - something which was completely lacking in this year's Leinster final."
In relation to Skryne, he said that "better administration would give the team a better chance. Communication between the officials and the players leaves a lot to be desired". He pointed out that both at county and club level, "no one thinks it worthwhile to discuss the problems of the team and to work out something with the players. The players should be given a chance to speak their minds and to make their feelings known to the people in charge. It is not good for team spirit otherwise."
This youngster, who once seemed to carry the hopes of the future of Meath football, is undecided as to his future in the game. He said "I'll have to make a clean break. Being so involved, yet not being able to play is getting me down."
Meath and Skryne football suffered a severe loss when that injury ruled O'Rourke out of ever playing again. It would be an even greater tragedy if someone like him, with his love for the game and with his ideas for its improvement, were to be lost completely to it.
- Tom Duffy