Updated: November 11th, 2023
by Conor Molloy
In the world of club GAA, there are some people who come and go, leaving their mark for a year or two before passing on the baton, and then there are those rare individuals whose name becomes synonymous with the club.
These rare and faithful servants dedicate their lives and their hearts to their club, embodying loyalty, passion, and unwavering commitment. As a result of that unwavering commitment, John J McKenna’s name has become synonymous with his beloved Watty Graham’s, Glen. John J, or JJ as he’s affectionately known to many, has assumed, and fulfilled most roles within Glen.
Starting out as fleet footed young corner forward, JJ quickly immersed himself in GAA volunteerism and officialdom. Sustaining the Glen flame was not always easy, nor popular. Starting out in the lower ranks of Derry club football and with no permanent facility to call home, John J, together with many great Gaels such as his brother-in-law Chris McGrath, Gerry McEldowney, Mickey McKeefry; departed Gaels such as Mick Lagan, Murty Higgins and Frank Kearney along with many, many others, remained resolute in their determination to see Glen succeed.
Today, Watty Graham’s have unmatched facilities, strong teams across the various codes and are the epicentre of a young, tightknit and vibrant community.
John J has been a constant figure on Glen committees throughout the decades, a role in which he continues to serve. Chairman, trustee, bingo helper, ticket seller, Strictly Irish dancer, Scor Sinsir winner and match day linesman are just some of the experiences listed on John J’s club résumé, however the role of groundsman at Watty Graham Park is what has helped him achieve cult status within Glen, County Derry, Ulster and beyond. His attention to detail and his love of Glen’s green grass ensured the facilities at Watty Graham Park were always pristine, while his friendly and accommodating nature always meant there was a warm welcome for all.
John J recently passed on the groundsman duties but remains a familiar face around Glen. On doctors’ orders John J missed the recent county championship semi-final win (over Slaughtneil), the first Glen championship match he has missed in over forty years! For the hard-fought semi-final win, he had to be content with watching at home on television, bouncing around his living room and kicking every ball! John J didn’t miss the county final, cheering on his heroes and wiling Glen on.
Win, lose or draw John J will remain a faithful Glen servant.