By David Raleigh
Organisers of an annual charity rugby match held each year in memory of “fallen” rugby stars, are to dedicate this year’s event to two young rugby players who lost their lives in a double drowning tragedy.
Shay Moloney and Jack Keneally, who both played for Ennis RFC, died last May while swimming at a lake at a disused quarry at Knockanean outside Ennis.
Shay drowned when attempting to save friend Jack after he had got into difficulty while swimming in the water.
The 25th annual Limerick Leprechauns RFC v Kilkee Fallen Stars charity match, played on Kilkee Beach, Co Clare every year, is to take place on August 11, in memory of the two young rugby stars.
Proceeds from the game will go towards charities chosen by the Moloney and Keneally families.
The Moloney family have nominated the children’s ambulance service BUMBLEance as their nominated charity.
The Keneally family nominated Irish Water Safety (IWS), as well as asking that proceeds also go towards a fundraising appeal to help ten-year-old Co Clare girl Zara Cronin, who suffers with Ehler-Danlos Syndrome, to receive life-saving surgery to keep her head in an upright position.
“It’s very a sensitive time, but I approached both (Moloney and Keneally) families about it, and both of them said ‘yes’ to it,” explained Eamon Connaughton, manager of the under-15s Ennis rugby squad.
Paying tribute to Jack and Shane, he said: “They were two great lads. Shay was previously awarded Player of the Year. Jack was a natural sportsman, quick, strong, and very very focused.”
Both “loved their rugby”, he said.
“Any team that saw those two lads on the pitch knew they were in for a game. We won the North Munster Under-15 League and Cup this year, and we wouldn't have won either of those two competitions without those two lads.”
“They were the backbone of the team; the spine of the team.”
“They were leaders on the pitch. They were the lads that other lads would fall in behind and follow.”
A spokesperson for the boy's two devastated families said they were "fully in support of the tribute to their two sons".
Just five days prior to their tragic deaths, Shay and Jack were presented with medals for winning both the League and Cup double at a presentation ceremony at Ennis RFC. A photograph of the pair sitting side by side along with their teammates is believed to have been the last ever photo taken of them.
Mr Connaughton said hearing the news of their sudden deaths was “just unbelievable”.
“They had their whole lives ahead of them with great futures. They were great individuals and young men and they had a great future in rugby.”
“Both of them had made it into the U-16 Munster trial. They were both going places in rugby…They were first pick (on our team sheet) every time.”
Keith Moore, President of Limerick Leprechauns, and a member of Young Munsters RFC said despite great rivalry between Young Munster and Ennis they were “honoured” to have been part of a guard of honour at the young players' funerals last month.
“They were two fantastic guys on and off the pitch and they were a credit to their parents, their friends and Ennis rugby club,” he added.
Limerick Leprechauns have raised over €100,000 for local charities.
Donations can be made to the Limerick Leprechauns charity fundraiser by quoting Limerick Leprechauns, Bank of Ireland, O’Connell Street, (IBAN IEBOFI90431710763546) (BIC BOFIIE2D)