Frank Henry - Hall of Fame 2016
Frank Henry Citation
Tonight, ladies and gentlemen, we honour one of Shamrock Gaels’ most famous and favourite footballing sons, Frank Henry.
The youngest of a family of eleven born to the late Anne and Peter Henry (a former Patron of the Club) of Whitehill, Frank hails from a family with a long and proud association with Gaelic football in Sligo and particularly with the Shamrock Gaels club.
Having played under-age football with Knockalassa, Frank first came to prominence in Sligo footballing circles as a member of the Coola team that included his brother, Vincent and which won the 1969 Vocational Schools Senior Football Championship by defeating Easkey in the final. Interestingly, although Frank would go on to excel as a forward and mid-fielder for his club and county, in this game he lined out at full-back and indeed had filled many other positions on the team during this campaign.
Following the formation of Shamrock Gaels in 1972, Frank, still aged only 16, alongside Vincent, had the distinction of being on the very first Shamrock Gaels team to win a county title later that very same year, that being the 1972 Minor title. This team produced a masterful display to defeat Castleconner on a scoreline of 5-5 to 0-10. Frank won a second county Minor title the following year, 1973, when Shamrock Gaels defeated Tourlestrane after a replay, Frank having scored 5 points in the drawn game.
Frank’s displays at Minor level (for club and county) had brought him to the attention of the county Senior management team and his introduction to Senior Inter-County football came as a nineteen year old, during the 1974 League campaign, in which an unbeaten Sligo team reached the League semi-final, where they were drawn against Roscommon. Frank scored a point in this game, which was played in Croke Park and ended in a draw. Despite objections from Sligo, the replay was fixed for Castlebar a week later, which Sligo lost by six points in disappointing circumstances. Sligo great, Mickey Kearins scored eight of Sligo’s ten points in this game, with Frank and the late Jimmy Kilgannon scoring the other two.
At this stage, Frank had become a regular in the Sligo team, who defeated Leitrim in the first round of the 1974 Connacht Championship before again facing Roscommon in the semi-final. They drew with Roscommon, but lost the replay on a scoreline of 0-13 to 0-8.
The following year, 1975, was to prove a momentous year for Sligo football however, when they ended a 47 year drought by winning the Connacht Senior Football Championship, a victory in which Frank Henry was to play a pivotal role at left-half forward. In the first round they faced Galway, whom Sligo hadn’t beaten in the Championship in 28 years, at a sun-drenched Markievicz Park and ran out convincing 10 point winners.
The final was also played in Markievicz Park. Despite leading by six points at one stage, Sligo let Mayo back into the game, which ended up in a draw and consequently a trip to the fortress of Mc Hale Park for the replay. Few who were in attendance that day at a packed Mc Hale Park would ever forget the tension of the final minutes as Sligo held out for a famous one point victory following Des Kerins’ late goal.
The names of the members of this panel of players would go on to be forever etched in the annals of Sligo GAA and we are immensely proud in Shamrock Gaels that the name of Frank Henry is one of those names; names that still so easily trip off the tongues of Sligo Gaels everywhere. To this day, Frank remains the only Gaels player to have won a Connacht Senior Championship medal, an honour I’m sure Frank would gladly relinquish!
Unfortunately the exertions of a replay and the subsequent celebrations were to take their toll on the Sligo team in the All-Ireland semi-final, where they were unfortunate to come up against the embryonic legendary Kerry team of the 1970’s that would go on to win the All-Ireland that year against Dublin.
Back on the club scene, Frank collected his second medal of 1975 when he gave a man of the match performance when scoring 1-4 from midfield in the Gaels’ win over Tourlestrane in the Under 21 County Final.
Frank was to feature again for Sligo in the National League the following year 1976, however they failed to repeat the heroics of the previous year in the Championship, when they bowed out to Roscommon in the first round. He lined out again the following year, 1977, when Sligo again exited the Connacht Championship at the hands of Roscommon.
During these years, as well as playing Senior football for Shamrock Gaels and Sligo, Frank also found time to help out with under-age training in the Club and in fact, partnered with Donie Quinn in managing both the U12 and U14 teams in 1977.
Frank played in Sligo’s 1978 League campaign and came on as substitute to score 1-1 in the 1978 Connacht Senior Championship semi-final loss to Galway, a game that was notable for being Mickey Kearins’ last game in a Sligo jersey. He also featured on the 1979 team that reached the Division 2 League Final, which they lost to Armagh in Breffini Park and came on as a sub in Sligo’s defeat to Leitrim in the first round of the 1979 Connacht Championship at Markievicz Park.
Frank’s first success at adult level for Shamrock Gaels came later that year, when he played at midfield on the Gaels team that won the inaugural Intermediate Championship by defeating Owenmore Gaels in the final.
The 1980’s were lean years for Sligo football and for Shamrock Gaels at Senior level. Frank played on the Sligo team beaten by Mayo in the 1980 Connacht Championship and was to subsequently take a break from inter-county football following his move to Leixlip, where he joined the St. Mary’s club in 1984, having continued to play with Shamrock Gaels up until then. One of Frank’s St. Mary’s teammates at this time was the legendary Kerryman, Jack O’Shea.
However he was to return to play with Sligo in 1986 and lined out in Sligo’s first round defeat to Galway at a rain-soaked Markievicz Park in that year’s Connacht Championship. In the intervening years, Frank had played in a rematch of the 1975 final when the 1975 Sligo team played the 1975 Mayo team at the official opening of Curry’s new complex in the GAA’s Centenary year, 1984. Sligo won again, thus proving a point!
Frank would go on to become an integral member of the St. Mary’s club in Leixlip, both on and off the field and is currently Chairman of the club. At this point, his contribution to the St. Mary’s club would perhaps be more eloquently captured in the words of some of his club colleagues, who have sent the following tributes for tonight’s event:
Alo Brereton – former teammate of Frank’s and a club stalwart.
I met Frank for the first time around September 1985 at a challenge match in Leixlip. Can I just say that we have always called him Frank to this day and “Francis” never came into the equation?
I had just moved into the area and decided to join Leixlip as I had played the previous 8 years with my home club in Offaly and was told that this club was “about to win a county title’’ - it was merely a matter of ‘’when”.
Frank was one of the players and a legend from the Sligo team of ‘75. We of course pretended that we were not aware of his pedigree and I would constantly slag him about the state of Sligo football, as we in Offaly were winning All Irelands every year it seemed. I was in a position of strength - “Do ye play hurling in Sligo, Frank?” How things have changed since!
As a player, apart from being a very skilled scoring forward, Frank also possessed a traditional old style toughness that you don’t always get these days. I seem to recall a particularly challenging championship game against Monasterevin, where he lost a couple of teeth before the ball was thrown in and, in John Wayne fashion, spat out what was left and went on to not only sort out the corner back but also play a blinder. He always slagged me about the quality of ball going into him - "If you can’t keep it within the f... lines please at least try to keep it inside the ditch", he would shout.
Over 30 years later we are still trying to win that elusive county title and now Frank is at the helm as Chairman.
Frank is, and always has been, a very proud club man and has played a crucial role on and off the field in the club. The work he does behind the scenes is frightening and he defends and protects members and players with every ounce of his being. I can think of no better man to lead the club at this stage of the club’s development.
Over all the years I have known him we have all had life challenges thrown at us - some have been more difficult than others. Throughout all that time, Frank and Ann have been great supporters to myself and Mary, and could always be counted on - even if was just to be there.
Sometimes there are more important things in life than winning football matches...
Have a great night Frank (and Ann) - you’re a great man and I’m privileged to have met you
From Brian Vaughan, Club Registrar and County Board Representative
I first met Frank in 1995. For my sins I had charge of our Third Team, or as it was referred to “The Dream Team”. Because I’m a Dub, Frank reckoned what I knew about football you could write on the back of a postage stamp. I think he has since extended it to two stamps! Frank is a True Gael and is hugely loyal to his adopted Club, Leixlip. He has taken on many responsibilities in the club, as a footballer, trainer, development roles, Football Chairman and now Club Chairman. In all these roles he has been an example and role model. If he asks you to do something, don’t say no! I hope Frank that at this stage you are not blushing!
Frank, I hope you Ann and family have a great night. Like Alo, I’m proud to call you a friend,
Saol fáda chugat
Martin “Frosty” Ruane. Club Secretary
Frank is the club man that you will go the extra mile for, for the simple reason that he would and has gone the extra ten for St Mary’s of Leixlip.
He has never asked any club member to do something he would not do himself. He does not have to, because his presence, his acknowledgement, his support and his goals are solely to make our club a better one. Everyone picks up on that - from the young to the old. He does what it says on the tin.
His passion for the club is infectious, he energises all around him and the proof is in what we have succeeded in achieving to date under his leadership.
Whether they be hurlers, under 7’s, camogie players, minors, senior footballers, lady footballers, U8’s, handballers or U12’s, he holds them all in the same esteem. Their win, draw or loss hits him the same way.
As Club Chairman, he is a leader, as a club man, passionate, as a peer he is by your side.
It is an honour to be part of his team, a sentiment that is echoed by every member on the Executive of the St. Mary’s club - we can even put our Mayo \Sligo allegiances aside for the greater good!
Congratulations to you, Frank and to your family. This honour is well deserved.
Throughout his playing career, Frank Henry was noted for his versatility as a player, whether as a stylish forward, a commanding centre-field player or, when the occasion demanded it, as a tough defender. However, in addition to these qualities, he was also renowned for his sportsmanship, his unassuming attitude and his loyalty and commitment to club and county, both on and off the field of play.
Although he moved away from Sligo over 30 years ago, Frank has never forgotten his Riverstown and Sligo roots and to this day still takes a keen interest in the fortunes of Shamrock Gaels and Sligo, regularly travelling back home to attend games and other functions.
We are immensely proud of Frank Henry in Shamrock Gaels, both as a person and for what he has achieved in our game. We are therefore highly honoured tonight to induct him as only the third ever member of the Shamrock Gaels’ Hall of Fame.
Ladies and gentlemen, please be upstanding and salute the great Frank Henry