Matt Fitzpatrick R.I.P.


It is with deep regret that we learned of the death of our esteemed member of the Ulster GAA Writers Association, Matt Fitzpatrick earlier today, Tuesday, October 16th following a short illness.

Matt Fitzpatrick embodied all of the qualities of a true member of the GAA and the true spirit of volunteerism that is such an integral part of the Association. A native of Newtownbutler, County Fermanagh whom he represented at all levels Matt also represented Fermanagh at inter county level and Queens University when he was a student there. Following the completion of his third level education Matt moved to Belfast where he worked for the Civil Service but he was always deeply involved in the affairs of Cumann Luthchleas Gael.

He was a founder member of the Carryduff club in Co Down in 1972 and was recently honoured in that capacity at their annual function. As well as his involvement with the Carryduff club Matt also became deeply involved in the affairs of Coiste Chontae an Dún, serving in a number of capacities including manager of the county minor team and treasurer of the East Down board. As well as his involvement in the GAA Matt also worked on the journalistic side on the coverage of GAA affairs with the Down Recorder, working to give as extensive coverage as possible of the activities of Down county teams in both football and hurling as well as the club scene in his adopted county.

When the Ulster GAA Writers Association was formed in 1988 Matt very soon became involved and served as secretary for 11 years, a contribution that was recognised when he was the recipient of the Chairman's Award at their annual Banquet and Awards presentation in November 2010. On his retirement from the Civil Service Matt became even more involved on the journalistic side of the coverage of gaelic games, working diligently to enhance in particular the coverage of the Vocational Schools scene and it was largely his work that brought the coverage of the Vocational Schools competitions to the level that they now enjoy.
As chairman of the Ulster GAA Writers Association I extend our deepest sympathy and condolences to the Fitzpatrick family on their sad loss but they can be greatly consoled by the legacy that the late Matt has left behind him.

Ar dheis De go raibh a anam.

John P Graham,
Chairman, Ulster GAA Writers Association.

Matt Fitzpatrick R.I.P.

Tony McGee, Treasurer of the UGAAWA, was a close friend and was the last member of the Association to speak with him. Tony has this to say:

When the news swept the country yesterday that Matt Fitzpatrick had died, the world of GAA was shocked. Matt had been ill for only a fortnight after suffering a severe stroke but he passed to his Eternal Rest late on Monday night. The Fermanagh-turned-Down man was one of the best known people in the GAA world. He belied his age of 83 and was always the life and soul of the party. Just a fortnight ago yesterday he travelled with me to the launch of the UGAAWA’s Silver Jubilee banquet in Bundoran and was in excellent spirits.

It was the day that Larry Cunningham was buried and some of his songs were on the radio. Matt was singing along with Lovely Leitrim, Among the Wicklow Hills, etc. and reminiscing about playing against Larry in a Fermanagh-Longford match, many years ago.

Matt’s life was steeped in GAA. He came from Wattlebridge and first played with his native Newtownbutler, winning many trophies with the club, including a Fermanagh SFC medal. He played with St Columb’s in Derry while a student there and Sigerson Cup with Queen’s University. He played with Fermanagh at all levels and when he moved to Belfast he had spells with Mitchell’s and Eire Og.

After life at university, Matt tried his hand at a variety of jobs and worked as a primary school teacher at St Tierney’s, Roslea, and actually played with the Shamrock’s GAA team while there. He also had a spell in chemistry in Belfast but settled down in the Civil Service where he climbed the ranks until his retirement.

It was then that he took up journalism on a full-time basis but he had been involved in that aspect of life from his teenage days. In 1947, he was asked by the late Senator Paddy O’Hare, then editor of the Fermanagh Herald, to report on a minor match between Newtown and Lisnaskea, in which he was playing. The journalistic seeds were sown.

Matt has been a regular contributor to the Irish News since the early sixties, covering games all over the country but especially in Down. He had a passion for the Vocational Schools competitions and could be seen at far flung places all over Ulster on wet and wintry days at games.

Matt travelled extensively with Down teams being to the US and England on a number of occasions. He also accompanied Antrim to New York on the Saffrons’ championship missions and reported back on all those games. As well, he went to Australia for the Compromise Rules fixtures.

He began writing snippets in the Down Recorder in 1975 and then wrote his column, ‘Matt’s Chat’, in the paper since 1991. Certainly there was no-one liked to chat more than the late Matt Fitzpatrick.

GAA administration was also a major part of Matt’s life. He was secretary of the now defunct Ballyhackamore club and, when that folded in 1971, he was a founder member of Carryduff and helped with the organisation of youth football in the club. He had been East Down secretary on three occasions and board treasurer since 1979. He was also a member of the Down County Board since 1966 and was deeply involved with Scor in the county.

He carried his passion for administration when he joined the Ulster GAA Writers’ Association, on his retirement from the Civil Service, and was secretary for 11 years before serving as assistant treasurer for the past two years.

Brian McEniff was manager of the Irish Compromise Rules squad the year that Matt travelled to Australia for the games. “We had terrific fun with Matt in Australia. He kept us going with the many stories that he related and I’m very saddened at his death. He was in great form when down here this month” says Brian.

One could go on and on about the late, great Matt Fitzpatrick. He was a gentleman in all ways and he knew so many people and so many knew him. I never heard anybody saying a bad word about him and, as has been stated many times, he was a true GAA man.

When I left him off at his home just two weeks ago I never thought it would be the last time I would speak to him. All I can do is quote Matt’s favourite saying, his mother’s I believe, when he heard that someone had died: “Happy Rest to Him.”

Tony McGee.