‘His passion in life was the GAA’ – Daughters pay emotional funeral tribute to Liam Kearns

Offaly manager was remembered as someone who ‘lived life to the fullest’The ex-garda’s daughters Laura and Rachel told mourners their family is so proud of his legacy‘Entire GAA family is mourning a terrible loss,’ says Liam Sheedy

Liam Kearns was remembered fondly at his funeral in Clonlara

Ralph Riegel

Respected Gaelic football player and manager Liam Kearns was hailed as a man who grabbed the ball of life and ran with it fearlessly for his 61 years.

Moving tributes were paid to Mr Kearns, a retired garda and a father of three, who died suddenly on Sunday just as his new county side, Offaly, were preparing for the 2023 Leinster senior football championship.

Mr Kearns lived at Mount Catherine in Clonlara, Co Clare, but was originally from Tralee, Co Kerry.

The mourners at the requiem mass at St Senan's Church in Clonlara were led by Mr Kearns's widow Angela, daughters Rachel and Laura, daughter-in-law Una, son-in-law John, his grandchildren, Róisin and Clíona, his parents, Eileen and Ollie, and his siblings, Maria, Anne, Joe and David.

Mr Kearns was predeceased by his adored son, Seán, and his brother, Peter.

His daughters Laura and Rachel paid an emotional eulogy to their father as a man whose sporting passions directed his entire life.

“If we were to choose an analogy to describe Dad's life it would be that he took the ball and ran with it,” Laura said.

“He never did anything by halves – he enjoyed his life to the fullest.

“His passion in life was the GAA. Dad’s childhood home overlooked Austin Stacks GAA ground (in Kerry) and his love of (Gaelic) football went from strength to strength.

“Without doubt, one of Dad’s greatest legacies was the impact he had on the football field throughout his playing and management career.

“He was meticulous in his pre-game planning – as he always said: fail to prepare, prepare to fail.

“We as a family are so proud of all that Dad achieved in his GAA career and the outpouring of love and acknowledgement for him over the past number of days has been a great source of comfort to us.”

She said her father's decision to join the gardaí was one of the most important of his life – and led to him meeting the love of his life, his wife Angela, when he responded to an alarm call at a jewellers while on duty and was smitten by the shop assistant.

“Our heartbroken Mam has not only lost a devoted husband but her best friend.”

Rachel said her father was renowned for never mincing his words, particularly in match preparation.

“People listened to him – but for his girls, as he affectionately called Mam, Laura and I, he reserved his softer side. He had a way with words and some of the cards written by him are now amongst our greatest treasures.”

Liam Kearns's funeral at St Senan's Church, Clonlara. Photo: Brendan Gleeson

“We never parted ways without Dad telling us he loved us. We could not have asked for a better father.

“It is fair to say that no-one can doubt but that Dad did indeed grab the ball and run with it throughout his life. Unfortunately, now has come the time for our lovely Dad to drop the ball.”

Mr Kearns's requiem mass attracted a who's who of the world of Gaelic sport.

The funeral cortege arrived at St Senan's Church in Clonlara with a guard of honour provided by the entire Offaly GAA senior football panel, led by captain Declan Hogan.

Offaly County Board officials were led by chairman Michael Duignan and county secretary Colm Cummins.

Offaly football legend Matt Connor also attended.

A guard of honour for Liam Kearns's funeral at St Senan's Church, Clonlara. Photo: Brendan Gleeson

A special honour guard was also provided by Clonlara GAA led by Club Chairman John Murphy.

Officials also attended from Kerry, Limerick, Clare, Cork, Tipperary, Waterford and Laois.

Clonlara parish priest Fr Pat Mulcahy said Mr Kearns was not only a devoted family man but deeply committed to the local community and helped out in any way he could.

Amongst the offertory gifts at the requiem mass were a framed family photograph, a football, Austin Stacks colours and jerseys from the sides close to Mr Kearns's heart including Offaly, Limerick, Tipperary, Kerry and Laois.

In Clonlara, local gardaí including Sgt Mick Gallagher, Niall O'Connor and Brian Begley paid their own tributes to their late colleague.

His natural ability as a trainer, coach and tactician quickly brought him to the attention of various clubs and county boards

After the requiem mass, Mr Kearns's cortege was accorded a special honour by gardaí as it passed Henry Street garda station in Limerick, with officers delivering a roadside tribute, led by Chief Supt Derek Smart.

Mr Kearns won an All-Ireland minor football title in 1980 with his native Kerry before he became a garda.

As a player, he proudly starred for Austin Stacks at club level.

Mr Kearns then worked at the Garda College in Templemore as a gym instructor before taking the helm of the Garda football team.

His natural ability as a trainer, coach and tactician quickly brought him to the attention of various clubs and county boards.

He was a straight talker, he loved football and he knew the game

Over a 20-year period, he took charge of the Gaelic football sides of Limerick, Laois, Tipperary and Offaly.

One of his greatest sporting achievements was guiding Tipperary to an All-Ireland semi-final in 2016.

He assumed the helm of the Offaly senior football side late last year from John Maughan.

Following his retirement as a garda, the GAA became his daily passion.

Poignantly, he only accepted the Offaly managerial post last year on the understanding it would be his last coaching role.

All-Ireland-winning hurler and Offaly County Board Chairman Michael Duignan said the entire county was shattered by Mr Kearns’s unexpected death.

“He was a straight talker, he loved football and he knew the game. He had done such an incredible job with limited resources over his managerial career. It is an absolutely devastating loss."

GAA president Larry McCarthy said the entire Gaelic world mourned the loss of a man whose passion and love for the sport were renowned.

Former All-Ireland-winning Tipperary hurling manager, Liam Sheedy, said “the entire GAA family is mourning a terrible loss”.