Renowned GAA coach Liam Kearns has been remembered as a “powerhouse” football coach who commanded authority but reserved a softer side for family and friends.
Mr Kearns, a native of Tralee, Co Kerry, died suddenly last Sunday. At just 61 years-of-age, his death shocked the GAA community and wider Irish sporting public.
In a joint tribute at his funeral mass in Clonlara, Co Clare, his daughters Rachel and Laura recalled a man whose passion had rested firmly with the GAA, but whose life had touched many others.
“Dad’s childhood home overlooked Austin Stacks club ground where his love of football grew from strength to strength, often hopping the garden wall with his gear in hand to join training sessions,” Laura said.
“We as a family are so proud of all that dad achieved in his GAA career and the outpouring of love and acknowledgment for him over the last number of days has been a great source of comfort.”
One of his most important decisions, the congregation heard, was to join An Garda Síochána, a move that also led him to meet wife Angela, the “love of his life”, while responding to an alarm call at a jewellery shop.
His daughter Rachel said her father had been well known as “a powerhouse of a man” who never minced his words and to whom people listened.
“However, for his girls as he affectionately described Mam, Laura and I, he reserved a softer side,” she said.
“No one can doubt that Dad did indeed grab the ball and run with it throughout his life. Unfortunately now the time has come for our lovely Dad to drop the ball.”
A highly regarded intercounty manager with spells in charge of Limerick, Laois and Tipperary, he was appointed Offaly manager last August.
On Thursday morning, the Offaly football players formed a guard of honour at St Senan’s Church, Clonlara. Hundreds tuned into the live stream.
Parish priest Fr Pat Mulcahy spoke about the untimely death of a young man.
“Sudden deaths shake us to the core. Things will never be the same again but that doesn’t mean that things won’t be okay,” he said. “We are always too young to die. Liam Kearns was merely 61-years-old.”
He had been at peak fitness, he told mourners, having maintained a programme of exercise stretching back to 1980 when he won an All-Ireland minor football medal with Kerry.
“I’m sure that on many occasions while on the beat he would have done his utmost as a guardian of the peace to ensure that our streets are safe and that society is protected. So I know his unexpected death has come as a great shock and sorrow to his comrades in An Garda Síochána; they were after all his second family.”
St Senan’s altar was adorned with tributes including a family picture, a football and a stack of GAA jerseys of the teams he had been involved with, each item representing an aspect of Mr Kearns’s life.
During his time in coaching, Limerick became a force in the Munster championship while he led Tipperary to a first All-Ireland SFC semi-final appearance in 81 years.
Mr Kearns was the father of Rachel, Laura, and the late Seán. He is survived by his daughters, wife Angela and extended family. He was buried at St Nessan’s Cemetery, Mungret.