Wednesday 24 April 2019

Tributes paid to GAA icon and sports legend

Peter's friends recall a family man dedicated to community

Martin Coleman with Peter Keogh (right) during a Leinster Minor Hurling League match at Pearse Park in Arklow
Martin Coleman with Peter Keogh (right) during a Leinster Minor Hurling League match at Pearse Park in Arklow

Myles Buchanan

Wicklow GAA remains in mourning after the passing of Wicklow People reporter Peter Keogh, aged 86.

The highly respected veteran was President of Wicklow GAA and was a familiar face around hurling and football grounds across the county.

He was Wicklow GAA's first PRO and also served as County Chairman. He also helped bring hurling to his beloved Kiltegan and witnessed the club win 15 SHC titles, including three-in-a-rows between 1993 and 1995 and 1997 and 1999. The much respected veteran held a number of prominent GAA positions down through the years, including a long period of time as secretary of the now-defunct Western Board.

Wicklow County Board chairman Martin Coleman perhaps summed up the general sense of loss felt throughout the Garden County: 'it's so hard to talk about Peter in the past tense. I was just so blessed to have known the man.'

On behalf of the Keogh family, Peter's daughter Josie said she had lost a friend as well as a father.

'Dad was a family man first and foremost. He was a loyal husband who cared for his wife Mary through her long illness. He was a truly amazing and supportive father, grandfather and great-grandfather. He was a loving brother, uncle and granduncle.

'While family was important to him so was his community. He loved his native Kiltegan and was ever ready to roll up his sleeves and get involved with anything that was going on. He was constantly thinking of ideas and ways he could help and selflessly always put others first. He was kind hearted, funny and a fountain of knowledge - the 'go to' man for all questions.'

'It is safe to say that we were all privileged, honoured and proud to have had him in our lives and we will miss him terribly. He was our hero and is irreplaceable.

'Personally I haven't just lost my father but also my friend. Rest in peace Dad. All my love.'

Reacting to the news, GAA President Aogán Ó Fearghail said: 'On behalf of the wider GAA family I'd like to offer my condolences to the family and friends of Peter Keogh. He served the GAA with distinction in variety of ways for so long and we are all saddened to learn of his passing. We offer our sympathies particularly to his daughters Josie and Breda. Solas síoraí dá anam uasal.'

County Chairman, Mr Coleman, said the passing of Peter will be felt far further afield than just Wicklow.

'I was incredibly fortunate to have spent so much time with Peter attending matches and different events. He was also held in huge respect outside of the county as well. No matter where he was he was always telling the Wicklow story, whether that was about GAA or Wicklow itself.

'He was a true gentleman and very modest person. He put all his achievements down to being in the right place at the right time but to achieve what he managed you needed a lot more than just pure luck.'

Peter's love of hurling emerged when he awaited the results of the 1936 Junior final which Wicklow won.

'He was only seven and this was before radio was covering all the matches. Peter had to wait for the fans to return home to Baltinglass before he found out if Wicklow won or not.'

He went on to play at minor level for Baltinglass and then lined out for both Kiltegan and Rathdangan.

In 1947 he attended his first All-Ireland Hurling Final as Kilkenny beat Cork and retained a great interest in 'The Cats' from that day forward.

'Anytime Peter visited Kilkenny the red carpet was always laid out for him,' recalls Mr Coleman.

A huge attendance is expected at Peter's funeral tomorrow (Thursday), with mourners travelling from all over Ireland to pay their final respects to a true GAA and community man.

'I attended a GAA Congress at the weekend and I would say 50 per cent of the delegates were asking about Peter's well-being. He will be very much missed by us all. He is a big loss to the community and to the youth of the county. He attended an enormous amount of youth matches and would be able to tell you the name of each and every Under-12 player from across the county. The kids loved him as well because Peter was such a friendly and approachable person.

John Timmons of Kiltegan GAA Club describes Peter as a 'friend' who will be sadly missed.

'Peter fitted so much into his life. He wasn't one for sitting still. His record with the county board is second to none. The amount of different positions he held down the years is unreal.'

Mr Timmons also recalls the first time Peter began reporting on matches for the Wicklow People and KCLR 96FM in the early 70s.

'Dennis Kelly from Dunlavin used to cover the matches but he died suddenly and Peter was firstly asked to report on a couple of matches. Once he started it was a position he held right until the end. He used to do stuff for KCLR radio as well. He had to go out to Carlow to collect this huge phone they gave him - it was one of the early mobiles at a time when no one had a mobile. You would see him standing on the sideline at half-time and full-time with this huge phone to his ear as he reported on how the match was going.'

Mr Timmons remembers Peter as an 'easy-going man who wouldn't offend anyone.'

'There has been so much sadness since his passing. I have had all sorts of calls and texts of condolences from neighbouring counties. It just shows the high esteem Peter was held in.'

Jackie Napier of Bray Emmets GAA Club was a close friend of Peter and says many people used to call the Kiltegan club-man Mr Hurling. Jackie was also his co-selector on the Minor team that won the All-Ireland in 1974.

'One time, unbeknownst to either of us, we both travelled to Cavan, to a place called Cornafean, where Down were playing Roscommon in the All-Ireland semi-final. I went to the game and I didn't know that Peter was going up as well.

'So, lo and behold, I got to the ground and who did I spot mingling with the Down and Roscommon supporters only Peter Keogh, posing as an Irish Press reporter. He was looking for the ins and outs of the teams because, and the real reason we were there, Wicklow were playing the winners the following week in the All-Ireland final. When he became West secretary he came in in peculiar circumstances. Another man had been appointed as West secretary but during a game he had been sent off the field and had been suspended so he couldn't sit on the board.

'I was sent over to see Peter with Billy Lawless with a view to Peter taking up the role West secretary for a month or so until the other man was free to resume. Peter's name had came up because someone had said that Peter Keogh was a sound man and would be ideal for the job. He went on to be County Chairman and he was in that position in Centenary Year and I know that was a massive honour for him.'

His reposing takes place in St Tegan's Hall, Kiltegan, today (Wednesday, March 2) from 12 noon to 8 p.m.. His funeral arrives at St Brigid's Church, Talbotstown for 12 noon requiem mass on Thursday.

Wicklow People