The passing of Seamus, aged 79, of Manor Lawn in the City, who is survived by his loving wife Betty, daughters Aine and Miriam, brother Noel, grandchildren and extended family, closes a chapter of unparalleled devotion to Cumann Luthchleas Gael over almost six decades.
When he stepped down in December 2007, Seamus was the longest-serving county secretary in the country; his 37-year stint surpassing by four years the previous record set by his immediate predecessor, the late Declan Goode, Dungarvan.
Though Mount Sion to the core (after starting his hurling life with the Erins Own club) his love of Gaelic Games was inherited from his late father and nurtured by the Christian Brothers.
When appointed to the position of Rúnaí in January 1971 he’d already spent a decade in the same role at Eastern Divisional Board level, and 10 years before that as City Juvenile Board secretary.
In discharging that initial task, Seamus was one of the driving forces behind the hugely successful Sraith na Cathrach (City Street League) competition back in the 1950s and ’60s. In his early days he was also on the Walsh Park Committee, for a time as secretary, and was the very first secretary of the old and much lamented factory league.
GAA President Nickey Brennan led the tributes to “a great Gael”, saying Seamus’s sterling service over so many years, which included his sitting on a number of national committees, was “remarkable and invaluable.”
He extended his condolences to the Grant family, as of course did Waterford County Chairman Pat Flynn, who said Seamus had had made an estimable contribution to the GAA in Waterford. “His commitment and loyalty to the association was total. He will be greatly missed by all of us.”
Mayor of Waterford Jack Walsh, who’d accorded Seamus a civic reception only last December, before he took ill, said he’d been an exemplary official whose capacity for making a hard job seem easy was respected far and wide.
County Mayor, Cllr Tom Higgins, who came to know Seamus well through his role as team doctor to the Waterford hurlers, said the former secretary had always been a fountain of knowledge and friendship.
In a poignant tribute, Seamus’s lifelong friend, former GAA President Pat Fanning, said Mr Grant’s contribution to the association was incalculable, starting from a young age.
Having played minor hurling for Waterford, Mr Fanning attributed Seamus’s stewardship of the Street Leagues as being largely instrumental in the renaissance of hurling in the city, leading to the county’s golden era.
“He was born into the GAA and lived its ideals,” said Mr Fanning, who as well as being President from 1970 to ’73, served the association himself with loving devotion throughout his life, as a player, administrator, team trainer and enthusiastic supporter of the games, particularly hurling.
“Seamus,” he added, “was a man who gave his life to the GAA, which would have been far poorer without his unselfish service and his leadership qualities”.
It goes without saying that Seamus’s death is keenly felt in these quarters. For, as well as his myriad administrative functions, he was the GAA contributor to The Munster Express for the best part of half-a-century, previewing and covering matches, big and small, the length and breadth of, not just the county and province, but the entire island. He also wrote extensively about all the hot topics of the day, and while always generous in his praise of the GAA’s army of volunteers, who assisted him, he could be candid when the occasion demanded.
Having been a key mover behind the appointments of Gerald and Justin McCarthy, the deceased took great delight in Waterford’s emergence over the past decade – not just the Munster and National League titles, but the breakthrough at Tony Forristal and Colleges level too. He always had a soft spot for the county’s footballers as well, never neglecting their cause in favour of their more illustrious hurling brethren.
His encyclopaedic knowledge of Gaelic games and its personalities was fostered through mutually-beneficial links with almost every club in the city and county, plus many more besides. The Munster Council honoured him with an award for distinguished service in administration in 2003. Two years later he received a President’s award from then Uachtarán Cumann Luthchleas Gael, Sean Kelly.
Fondly recalling Waterford’s All-Ireland successes of 1948 and ’59, in the last of his famously comprehensive reports to convention in December 2007, he predicted: “While the Holy Grail still remains a burning ambition, it is my firm conviction, that it also will be attained sooner rather than later.”
As Seamus stepped down as secretary that night in Dungarvan to a standing ovation, the aforementioned Pat Flynn paid a glowing tribute to a man who had given a lifetime of service to the GAA.
“Seamus had a deep-rooted love of the games and the Association and had been a guiding influence in the Déise for each and every one of those years in office. He was always available to help with issues regarding the association and his advice was sought not only here but further afield. This county owes a deep debt of gratitude and appreciation to Seamus Mac Grainne.”
In all he spent 57 uninterrupted years inextricably linked to the Association, whose work – which he combined with his job in the Dept of Post & Telegraphs, and his burning passion for Bridge – he always regarded as a labour of love.
During that remarkable span of time he formed great friendships, as will be measured, no doubt, by the huge congregation – numbering several former county chairman and countless other high-ranking GAA officials (including the current President), managers and players, past and present – that will attend Seamus’s funeral.
Removal of his remains will take Wednesday at 8pm from Thompsons Funeral Home, Barrack Street, to St Pauls Church, with burial after 12 noon Requiem Mass on Thursday in Butlerstown Cemetery.