Liam Kearns remembered as loving husband, dad and football 'powerhouse'

Liam Kearns’ impact and influence on the inter-county football scene was shown in the many, jerseys brought to the altar
Liam Kearns remembered as loving husband, dad and football 'powerhouse'

Liam Kearns, Guard of Honour by Offaly GAA arriving for his Funeral Mass at St Senan's Church, Clonlara

Liam Kearns grabbed the ball and ran with it.

Addressing the large attendance at their father’s funeral mass in St Senan's Church, Clonlara on Thursday morning, Liam Kearns’ daughters, Laura and Rachel, offered this simple and yet poignant analogy to capture the life of the 61-year-old Gaelic football coach and retired Garda.

Laura and Rachel’s moving eulogy was among the many tributes paid to the “loving husband”, "proud son", "amazing" father of three, and “fun grandad” who died suddenly last Sunday.

Liam Kearns’ impact and influence on the inter-county football scene was shown in the many, many jerseys - including those of Kerry, Limerick, Tipperary, and Offaly - that were brought to the altar as gifts during the mass.

The Offaly football team he took charge of only last August provided a guard of honour outside the church, while Offaly county board chairman Michael Duignan was among those who shouldered the coffin to the top of the church at the beginning of mass.

Billy Lee and Michael Duignan, attending Liam Kearns Funeral at St Senan's Church Clonlara
Billy Lee and Michael Duignan, attending Liam Kearns Funeral at St Senan's Church Clonlara

Another pallbearer was Billy Lee, the former Limerick manager. Lee had served as selector beside Kearns during the latter’s six years as Treaty manager in the noughties. It was a spell that brought two Munster SFC final appearances and a closing of the gap between the county and pace-setters Kerry and Cork.

So, while his first love was Austin Stacks - his childhood home overlooked the club ground - Kearns would leave an imprint on several dressing-rooms and playing fields far removed from his native Tralee.

“If we were to choose an analogy to describe dad's life, it would be that he took the ball and ran with it. He did nothing by half and enjoyed life to the fullest,” said his daughter Laura.

“Without doubt one of dad's greatest legacies is the impact he has had on the football scene throughout his playing and management career.

“Behind the scenes, he was meticulous in his pre-game planning. As he always said himself, fail to prepare, prepare to fail. We as a family are so proud of what dad achieved in his GAA career, and the outpouring of love and acknowledgement for him over the last number of days has been a great source of comfort.” 

Laura told the congregation how his career path as a member of An Garda Síochána led him to meet the love of his life, his wife Angela.

“Upon answering an alarm call in a jewellers, he first laid eyes on the woman he would marry. We always had an example of what true love looked like through our parents.

“Even after 38 years of marriage, dad would still catch mam's hand as they walked together. Our heartbroken mum has lost not only a loving husband, but her best friend. The most important thing to them as a couple was family, and mam will cherish the memories of the life they built together.” 

Rachel delved further into this theme when continuing on the eulogy from sister Laura. She said her dad was a “powerhouse”, a man who never minced his words. When he spoke, his audience - typically a panel of club or county footballers - gave full and total attention.

There was, however, a softer side to Liam Kearns. It was a side reserved for “his girls”, as he affectionately called his wife Angela and their two daughters.

“Birthday cards written by him will now go on to be some of our greatest treasures. And we never parted ways without dad telling us he loved us,” said Rachel.

“Dad was also a connoisseur of the 99 ice cream. And one of our fondest childhood memories is the anticipation of where he would stop for the very best cone. Dad only ever wanted the best for us and he took great pleasure in celebrating even our smallest achievements. We couldn't have asked for a better father.

“It is fair to say 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.

“As a family, we feel so lucky to have had an amazing husband, father, and grandfather. But now dad, it is time for you to be reunited with your beloved son, Seán, and your brother, Peter.

“We love you, we'll miss you terribly, but you'll always be with us in everything we do.” 

Clonlara parish priest and chief celebrant Fr Pat Mulcahy said “sudden death shakes us to the core”.

“We are always too young to die. Liam Kearns was merely 61 years old.” 

In those 61 years, Kearns, as a husband, father, manager, coach, and guardian of the peace, left an indelible mark that will endure for many more years to come.

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