In the run up to this weekend’s senior county final, we decided to take a look at not only the players involved in the meeting of Portlaoise and O’Dempseys, but also those behind the scenes.
James ‘Jazz’ O’Reilly has achieved legendary status within Portlaoise GAA, and rightly so. Jazz is described as being one of the, ‘most colourful and distinguished’ characters within Portlaoise GAA club.
Jazz, who is now is his late 70s, has been involved in every role in the club he grew up with – from player, to official and then to mentor – and this year he stepped in and took over the reins of chairperson for the second time in his life.
As a player, Jazz holds honours in both juvenile and senior codes and has tasted the heights of success.
Jazz, a dual star, began his senior career in 1959 and was corner-forward on the Portlaoise hurling side who reached the county final in 1960, only to be beaten by a point by Borris-in-Ossory.
A year later, attentions switched to football and Jazz scored the only goal in the first senior final Portlaoise had won in 53 years in 1960.
Here, they defeated Graiguecullen by a point, on a scoreline of 1-5 to 0-7 and earned their first senior title since 1907.
Involved in one of Portlaoise’s greatest achievements
After Jazz’s playing career ended, he became involved in the administrative side of the club.
He became chairman in 1982 and served in the role for three years, during one of the most successful times in Portlaoise GAA history.
In 1982, they received the AIB ‘Club of the Year’ award, but the top accolade would come a year later. 1983 would be the year that Portlaoise won the senior All-Ireland club championship, beating Clann na nGael of Roscommon, 0-12 to 2-0.
Jazz was a selector on that team and they had won the championship in Laois back in 1982 – defeating Annanough in the final.
Jazz went on to serve as one of the chief fundraisers of Portlaoise GAA – most notably for his role in Golf Classics in aid of the club.
Now Jazz will be watching from the stands, in hopes of seeing Portlaoise lift their eleventh senior trophy in twelve years.
Thirty-three years on, Jazz is still intrinsically intertwined in the town he loves so well.