THREE years ago, Ray Kiernan made a promise. Standing by his friend's James Comiskey's grave, he pledged not to let down James's son – and to take over from him as football coach to the boys and girls of the parish of Clane, Co Kildare.
Yesterday Ray watched on as his godson, nine-year-old Dean Comiskey, captained and kicked his team to victory in the Mixed U10 football final at the HSE Community Games.
"His dad should have been here, not me. He was the manager. I just took over because (Dean) was my godson," Ray said above the din of celebrating youngsters after Clane-Rathcoffey won out over St Mary's of Leitrim.
Dean's mother Catherine smiled but with a lingering hint of sadness, "he made a promise to my husband over the coffin that he'd take them on and get them to where they are now", she said of Ray.
She added that her husband James would have been proud to see his family today: "It's his jersey I am wearing. That's the one they laid on the coffin the day of his funeral."
James was just 38 when, in August 2010, after bringing Dean and his older brother Conor to Croke Park to watch Kildare narrowly lose out to Down in the All Ireland Football Semi-Final, he fell down the stairs of his home, suffering fatal injuries.
One year after their father's death, Conor and a then seven-year-old Dean played on an U10 team that reached the Community Games final.
"He's really good," Dean's older brother Conor said, "but he got a step further than we did today by winning."
The Community Games were held over three days at Athlone Institute of Technology in Co Westmeath over the weekend.