Brother Laurence (Larry) Ennis 1933-2021
The school community of Omagh CBS are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Brother Larry Ennis. Brother Ennis left a lasting impression in our school having spent two extended periods in Omagh.
His vocation brought him to Omagh CBS, Glen Road CBS and St Mary’s CBS in Belfast, Armagh CBS later to become St Patrick’s Armagh, and back to Omagh after his ‘retirement’.
Laurence Ennis, a native of Coralstown, Co Westmeath, was born in May 1933, the eighth child of Elizabeth and James Ennis. He attended Knockaville primary school until the age of fourteen and then moved to St. Mary’s Christian Brother’s Secondary School in Mullingar where he quickly distinguished himself as a formidable centre half back on both the hurling and football teams. Larry Ennis left home on August 17, 1948 to join the Congregation of the Christian Brothers in Marino at the age of 15, and having completed his Inter and Leaving Cert examinations, moved to Queen’s University Belfast in 1953 to take a degree in Maths and History. Having completed his degree in 1956, he spent the next year at St Joseph’s Training College, Trench House completing his teaching qualifications.
Br Larry Ennis, middle row, centre with the Mount Street team that won the Street League competition in 1948.
Brother Ennis started his teaching career in Omagh in 1957, spending ten years at the Christian Brothers Primary School teaching the 11+ class. Despite his 11+ class size frequently exceeding 50 students, he managed to produce phenomenal pass rates – 51 passes in a class of 52 students in 1963, followed by 53 out of 55 in 1964! This decade spent in Omagh is also distinguished by another feature of Brother Ennis’ contribution in every location where he was sent to teach, his total immersion in coaching Gaelic Games, not only in the schools but in the local communities.
During that sojourn in Omagh CBS, he coached the primary school to an Ulster title (Rice Cup), and also assisted with coaching teams in the secondary school.
Brother Ennis’ exploits on the football field in Omagh were not confined to coaching. Despite the Religious Orders being forbidden to play representative football, he regularly lined out for Omagh St Enda’s, albeit under the alias of ‘Sean Mulryan’, and helped St Enda’s to win the Tyrone Senior Football Championship in 1963.
In 1967 he was transferred to Glen Road CBS (now All Saints College) in Belfast to teach mathematics. In 1971 he moved to Dublin, spending some years as principal of a transformational school St David’s in Artane, Dublin, where he modernised facilities adding a swimming pool and ancillary sports facilities for students. He returned to Belfast again in 1978. On his return to Belfast, he became manager of the St Theresa’s Senior team who won the senior county championship in 1979, and before that the Junior and Intermediate Championships.
During the turbulent ’70s, Larry also helped to organise the temporary re-settlement in Waterford of Belfast families forced to flee their homes at the height of the Northern conflict of the day.
He served as Antrim GAA Senior Football Manager from 1979 until 1981, in which time Antrim won their most recent Dr McKenna Cup title, beating Tyrone, Down and Armagh in the process. At this stage he was also the Headteacher in St. Mary’s Belfast.
He became Headteacher in Armagh CBS in 1982, later to merge with St Patrick’s Armagh, and was to spend the next 17 years there. He became involved with the local Pearse Óg’s club and led them to Senior Championship success in 1985 and 1988. He was a central figure in procuring the lands which now houses the Callenbridge complex. Meanwhile, he managed the Armagh Minor Football team from 1989 until 1997, winning Ulster titles in 1992 and 1994, and narrowly missing out on an All-Ireland title in 1992.
He ‘officially’ retired from teaching in 1999, and returned to CBS Omagh where his teaching career had started 42 years earlier.
He celebrated his diamond jubilee in Omagh in 2008. However, he did not recognise the concept of retirement, either in the teaching or sporting context. He remained inextricably involved in football in the school, and none of the school’s 6 age-group teams ever went anywhere without Larry Ennis on board. Larry’s name is associated with the schools MacRory Cup in Ulster. His involvement stems from his time in St Mary’s, Belfast, and while in Omagh CBS he managed the teams that won the MacRory in 2001, 2005 and 2007. He was also manager and advisor to the team that won the Schools Hogan Cup in 2007.
Brother Ennis with the winning MacRory Cup team in 2005
Over the years, he played no small part in mentoring players who were to become Senior All Ireland medallists, including the late Cormac McAnallen, Sean Cavanagh, Colin Holmes, Philip Jordan, Ryan Mellon, David Harte, Peter Harte, Joe McMahon, Justin McMahon, Niall Sludden, Conor Meyler, Ronan O’Neill (all Tyrone) and Diarmuid Marsden, Paul McGrane, Ronan Clarke and John Toal (Armagh).
He was actively involved in MacRory Cup success in 2005 and in the historic MacRory/Hogan Cup double in 2007, but was equally content in working with non-representative Development Squads within the school.
A valuable member of the schools 2007 Hogan Cup winning management team
In the midst of this exhausting schedule of academic responsibilities, school teams, and local clubs and counties, Brother Ennis also made time to serve for 25 years as Ulster Colleges Chairperson from 1983 until 2008. In this capacity he also represented Ulster on the All-Ireland Schools Committee.
In truth, his contribution to the schools in which he has taught, to the thousands of students who have benefitted from his mathematical prowess, to the countless players and all the teams which he has coached at school, club, and county level over the years since 1957 has been incalculable.
Rest in Peace
(Thanks to contributions and details from Ulster Colleges GAA and WestMeath Examiner)