MICHAEL MOYNIHAN: Shamrocks missing the quiet man

IT DOESN’T take as long as it used to do when Shamrocks GAA club members lock up their dressing room after training sessions.

There’s a simple reason for that. The club recently lost the player who was regularly last to head in for his shower after training and matches.

However, Kieran Hegarty wasn’t lost to the sites of the United States or Australia, or the office blocks in London. He died suddenly after a training session with the club in Cork’s Lower Harbour. He was just 31.

On the evening he passed away, about 15 members of his club attended a refresher course on defibrillation, CPR and associated matters, so there were plenty on hand to try to help. When the medics arrived they commended the Shamrocks men on their efforts, but nothing could be done.

Kieran Hegarty was the kind of player who becomes a building block for any GAA club. He mightn’t have featured on Cork teams but nonetheless he was a vital part of the club’s steady progress in recent years.

Clubmates paint a picture of a dogged defender who usually wore the number 2 or 4 jersey, and in keeping with our generalised view of corner-backs, was a tidy, committed defender.

He wasn’t given to the verbals in combat and was usually able to complete the hour without attracting the referee’s attention (“if he ever got a card, it was for an auld tug on a jersey rather than anything major,” as one says).

Having learned the fundamentals as a youngster with the club, he then repaid the debt by falling in to help out with the underage in later years, training kids on a Saturday morning.

Hegarty was fond of his particular corner of the dressing room when it came time to tog out, but he didn’t make an issue if there was someone sitting there ahead of him — he’d slip in as close to his spot as he could. The legendary tardiness after games and training was part of his personality: while others raced to the showers, he was content to soak up the atmosphere and cool down until he was right.

The only complication to the post-game protocol was the occasional provision of sandwiches after training: “Ham and cheese on offer and he was the quickest man in and out of those showers.”

All in all, you get an image from his clubmates of a typical GAA member in many ways, but Hegarty was his own man as well. After Shamrocks won a junior title a few years ago, the celebrations were in the embryonic stage — teatime, say — when one of his teammates saw the corner-back heading for the door.

Hegarty explained that he was getting a taxi up to his mum’s to watch Coronation Street with her and that he’d be back afterwards.

The point, said the Shamrocks man who relayed that story, wasn’t so much that Hegarty was slipping away to keep his mother company; it was that he had no problem saying that was where he was going.

The club was glad to see GAA President Christy Cooney at Hegarty’s funeral, and representatives of the Cork County Board. They’d been surprised when, having rung Croke Park for some help with counselling players, GAA HQ told them there wasn’t much they could do.

Shamrocks aren’t in the mood for a crusade on the matter, but they make the valid point that with male suicide such an issue in modern Ireland, for instance, it might be an idea if the GAA had an action plan to deal with this type of event. Something they could give to clubs visited by similar tragedies.

Croke Park pointed them towards the GPA, who belied their elitist charge by arranging a counsellor to visit Shamrocks as often as it takes. The counsellor was on hand for their first training session after Hegarty’s death and will visit again soon.

For this corner of the newspaper, the summer doesn’t really start until Cork-Tipperary in a couple of weeks and unless we miss our guess a good many of you probably feel the same way.

Already you can feel the gathering storm of verbiage and cliche, a blizzard of largely forgettable white noise about the minutiae of the coming games.

It was with that in mind that we wanted to write about Kieran Hegarty today just to remind readers of him as they prepare their own championship outings. The Shamrocks lads tell stories of his ability to pop up when least expected at Cork games — on the Town End terrace in Thurles, or walking down O’Connell Street in Dublin after an All-Ireland.

“You’d be just wondering about him, and then you’d hear ‘hello lads,’ and Kieran would be there,” says one.

He won’t appear on Sunday week in Thurles and they’ll notice. Even with 50,000 people around, you can still miss someone.

* Contact: michael.moynihan@examiner.ie; Twitter: MikeMoynihanEx


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