Spink Comhaltas

From the blog

Stella Lynch Award – 2021 – Cathal Clooney – An Appreciation

In 2015, Spink branch was presented with a perpetual trophy by Michael Lynch in memory of his late wife Stella. The ‘Stella Lynch’ trophy is intended to recognise an U18 member of Spink who has made an outstanding contribution to the branch, and who contributes to the overall spirit of Spink Comhaltas. The contribution is not necessarily excellence in competitions, although this may be a factor. Primarily, it is intended to recognise participation in Spink events, supporting others (either by encouragement or coaching), taking initiative, putting forward ideas, being a good role model for younger members, and making a positive contribution to an overall healthy and enjoyable atmosphere which we try to promote in Spink branch. Previous winners have been nominated for the following reasons:
  • demonstrating commitment and passion, not being afraid to take on new challenges
  • demonstrating personal development over a number of years in terms of music
  • 100% reliability, and participation and commitment to supporting Spink events – from the least glamorous to the most prestigious
  • support and commitment to others – either in a quiet way by supporting and celebrating the achievements of individuals and groups, or sharing their own experience with others in terms of coaching, tips and general encouragement
  • being excellent role models for other Spink members and reminding us that what makes Spink successful is not winning medals in competitions but having a branch where people can learn to love music for life and playing and supporting others through music in a supportive and fun atmosphere.
Cathal Clooney – An Appreciation In April 2021, Spink Comhaltas lost one of our junior members following complications arising from complex surgery for Ehlers Danlos syndrome, which causes severe spinal curvature. Cathal Clooney was 15 years old when he passed away on Sunday 11th April 2021 in Our Lady’s Hospital, Crumlin. Cathal was a beloved member of Spink Comhaltas. He started playing music as part of Irish music classes Spink Comhaltas sponsored in Scoil Mhuire National School, Abbeyleix and was developing into an accomplished musician on accordion, melodeon and tin whistle.  He had also started to learn to play the uileann pipes. He was particularly proud to be able to play the accordion which had previously belonged to his late grandfather. Cathal represented Spink Comhaltas with great distinction in our Grupa Cheoil at Laois Fleadh and Leinster Fleadh. More importantly, he was always available to participate and support us whenever musicians were required for community and charity events and was a member of our trad orchestra in 2019 which helped raised over €9,000 for Laois Multiple Sclerosis. There are a small number of people you meet in life who make a strong positive impression on everyone. Cathal was one of those people. The tributes made about Cathal after his passing had consistent themes – friendliness, kindness, dignity, courage, resilience, good humour, smiling, sharp wit. Though Cathal was not able to play physical sports, he was a complete team player, and was always supportive and encouraging of his team mates on the pitch. It was a privilege for the musicians in Spink that they had the opportunity to have him in the midst of them on stage as part of their team performances.  An indicator of Cathal’s ability to build relationships was shown by the messages he received while in hospital, including one of encouragement from Brendan Begley who dedicated a polka “Tom Mhic’s” to him, sent him a book and looked forward to playing with him. Alas, that duet could not take place. At Cathal’s funeral, made even more difficult by the Covid restrictions in place at the time, the celebrant Fr Byrne compared Cathal’s short life of 15 years to the 15 weeks that daffodils have, and the joy and hope that such daffodils bring to everyone each spring.  The musicians of Spink played a lament for him, and Heywood Community School provided a guard of honour. In 2015, Spink branch was presented with a perpetual trophy by Michael Lynch in memory of his late wife Stella. The ‘Stella Lynch’ trophy recognises an U18 member of Spink who has made an outstanding contribution to the branch, and who contributes to the overall Spirit of Spink Comhaltas. The contribution is not necessarily excellence in competitions, although this may be a factor. Primarily, it recognises participation in Spink events, supporting others (either by encouragement or coaching), taking initiative, putting forward ideas, being a good role model for younger members, and making a positive contribution to an overall healthy and enjoyable atmosphere which we try to promote in Spink branch. This is the highest award we can make as a branch in our own right and Cathal embodied every single one of the positive virtues the award is intended to promote. Accordingly, when it came to deciding on the 2021 candidate to receive the “Stella Lynch” award, the management committee decided unanimously to honour Cathal Clooney posthumously. The trophy was presented to his parents Anne Marie and William in December following our AGM. While a trophy will never fill the void caused by Cathal’s untimely passing, it will make a small contribution to keeping Cathal’s memory alive for the future for those who did not have the privilege of knowing him. Those of us who did get to know him will never forget him. Spink Comhaltas continue to keep Cathal in our memory.  We remember Cathal, his parents, his brother Liam, his grandparents Joe and Lil, and extended family. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam. The winners of the ‘Stella Lynch’ award to date are: 2021 – Cathal Clooney (RIP) 2020 – Niamh Nolan 2019 – Maeve Weston, Éabha Dowling-McDonald 2018 – Rachael Bonham 2017 – Mark Vesey, Ian Rowland 2016 – Maeve Murphy, Dara Clooney 2015 – David Vesey