By Michael McMullan
IRREPLACEABLE. It’s just one word, but I heard it repeatedly by a handful of Claudy officials at Liam’s wake.
That’s how they describe him.
It was a community in a state of shock when the news broke last weekend.
As a goalkeeper in Derry’s team that reached the 1981 All-Ireland minor final, Liam’s fascination with the GAA was only beginning.
He went on to be one of the finest administrators at club, county and provincial level.
After stepping down from his role with Derry, he ploughed even more time and energy into Claudy. So much so that mowing the pitch was part of his role. He saw it as therapy and a place to chill.
“It is with a heavy heart, disbelief and great sadness that we must tell you of the sudden passing of our esteemed committee member, club secretary and friend, Liam Peoples,” a club statement read.
Liam served as Derry secretary, vice-chairman, cultural officer, treasurer and Ulster council delegate.
“Liam Peoples was not only one of the longest serving officers in Derry GAA, he was one of the most dedicated, the most hard working and the most generous with his time,” Derry GAA stated.
“A proud Claudy, Derry and Ulster Gael, Liam Peoples was one of the GAA’s finest volunteers. Liam Peoples was a good man and a Gael. He will be sorely missed. Ar dheis Dé go Raibh a Anam.”
Today is county final day in Derry and Liam would’ve been one of the many you’d bump into. He’d be asking about the how the game would go.
In the programme, Michael Crilly has penned a heartfelt tribute to Liam, a man he had “no hesitation” in saying was his best friend.
“I was so lucky to meet him many years ago when I was asked by our great mentor Jim McGuigan to join his team,” Crilly said, referring to the days they’d travel the road of Ireland to man the turnstiles at games.
“Jim referred to us as his 12 apostles or dirty dozen, depending on what sort of day we had.
“We worked for many years behind the scenes at matches for the Derry County Board, the Ulster Council and sometimes for Croke Park too.
“Liam and I clicked straight away. We were the closest in age, plus, we shared similar views and, of course, the same dry sense of humour.”
Liam was a gaeilgeoir, played golf, went bowling and was well known from the family bar in Claudy.
Even last weekend, he was chatting at length in the bar on a range of sports, events, news and his recent trip to America.
“For a man that didn’t drive Liam was always able to get to where he needed to be. There were plenty only too glad of his company,” Crilly continued.
“I remember one time we drove to Kerry and back in one day for a National League match. Liam knew all the best places to eat along the way too, no doubt learned well from Jim McGuigan, who we nicknamed the ‘good food guide’.
“At one stage we got mad into golf, playing sometimes two or three times a week. Liam was a natural at it and he had a fierce drive. I, on the other hand, was a bit more erratic.
“On the one occasion I actually beat him, all he said was: “it’s about time.”
“There was always plenty of football chat those days too, but the conversations could be about any subject you could think of. Liam had a wide range of interests.
“His family Declan, Jarlath and Siobhan should have the comfort at this sad time to know how much Liam meant to so many people.”