LEGENDARY FAI kitman Charlie O’Leary celebrated his 100th birthday in style with 350 guests in attendance in the Great Hall at Clontarf Castle last Friday evening.
O’Leary was joined by family and friends as well as many well known faces from the world of football.
FAI CEO Jonathan Hill presented O’Leary with an especially commissioned 100 jersey while RTE’s Darragh Moloney and FAI’s Cathal Dervan hosted a Q&A session with the centenarian and Mick McCarthy while the likes of Paddy Mulligan, Davy Keogh ‘Says Hello’, Stephen McGuinness and Paddy Daly weighed in with nuggets of praise for O’Leary who, in his refereeing days, had the distinction of officiating the FAI Minor, Youth, FAI Junior, FAI Intermediate and FAI Senior cup finals.
His own domestic league, the Leinster Football League, also presented their vice president with a retro style jersey which had been supplied by O’Neills Sportswear.
It was presented by league president Tony O’Dowd along with Honorary Secretary Paul Henderson and LFE Executive member and great friend of Charlie, Patsy Brown.
The Birthday Boy regaled the invited audience with some brilliant anecdotes from his time with Jack Charlton and Mick McCarthy while sidekick and ‘brother-in-arms’ Mick Byrne was seated alongside Charlie for the sit down meal.
Former Republic of Ireland players like Roy Keane, Liam Brady, Phil Babb, Terry Phelan, John Aldridge and Mark Kennedy recorded videos extolling Charlie’s wonderful attributes and life skills which were all met with universal applause from the enthralled gathering who then joined in singing a heartfelt version of Happy Birthday to the 100 year-old.
O’Leary was fulsome in his praise for the efforts of his family who had helped make the occasion a night to remember for everyone in attendance and also his late wife Kathleen who was so central to all his success.
A loop of photographs covering a Golden Age of Irish soccer helped chronicle O’Leary’s football career but also that of his family who were in attendance on the night.
In the absence of presents Charlie asked that the Professional Footballers Benevolent Association benefit via contributions. The association was formed in 2023 and aims to provide support for the welfare of male and female ex-professional football players. You can donate to the cause through their Go Fund Me page.
VIDEO footage of the event can be viewed on Strikeronline Meta Page.
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