Liam Kealy in action for St Joseph's GAA in Laois GAA HQ, O'Moore Park, Portlaoise. Pic: Denis Byrne
A Laois family, community and GAA club was brokenhearted as Liam ‘Squeaks’ Kealy was laid to rest after his tragic death in Cork last weekend.
A devoted husband, father, club member and friend is how Liam was remembered at his funeral Mass in St Joseph’s Church Ballyadams in east Laois on Thursday, January 25.
The young plumber tragically lost his life when he fell into the River Lee in Cork during a stag weekend away with friends.
At the funeral Mass, his brother Denis, wife Ashling and daughter Shauna, 13, brought up the symbols of his life to the altar, all related to his beloved GAA club St Joseph’s. The gifts were his boots, jersey, a gaelic football and a photo of him in action.
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Most of the huge crowd who came to the Mass stood outside the small rural church, in respectful silence. Both juvenile and senior St Joseph’s club members kept a constant guard of honour at the doors of the church.
Liam's wife Ashling spoke from the altar.
“Liam was mine and Shauna’s world, and always will be, we love you dude, forever,” she said.
She recalled dropping Liam to Portlaoise to head off last Saturday.
“He was full of excitement heading off on the stag with the boys. A day full of drinking and craic ahead. Unfortunately a tragic accident meant Liam could not come home to us,” she said.
She thanked everybody who came to assist the family in their tragedy.
“We would like to thank sincerely the Mallow search and rescue team, the dive club, the Cork city fire brigade, and all who travelled from Laois down to Cork to help in the search for Liam. We would like to thank all the guards at Pierce Street, who assisted us greatly during the events of the weekend.
"We would also like to thank the Jury’s Inn hotel for their help, all our neighbours and friends for helping at the house, to everyone who travelled home from abroad, and for everyone who provided prayers and support to us in this difficult time,” Mrs Kealy said.
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The Mass was con-celebrated by Fr Dan Dunne, Fr Padraig Shelley and Fr Thomas O’Shea and Fr Tom Dooley from Portarlington. Fr Dooley had married Liam’s parents Tom and Margaret.
Fr Dunne offered heartfelt sympathies to all of Liam’s family, on behalf of the “shocked and saddened” parish.
“In the face of such a tragic accident, of course we all ask why. And there isn’t an answer to that why, in this world. Liam, as we know, was away with a group of friends on a very happy occasion. And it is so terrible that such a happy event turned to such tragedy in an instant.
"And that group of friends is a group whose friendship Liam cherished and loved so much. I say today to you, continue now to support, to look out for one another, and to help one another,” he said.
Some of Liam’s many friends had travelled home from as far as Australia to attend his funeral.
Fr Dunne thanked them all, and noted Liam’s devotion to St Joseph’s GAA.
“We all know so well what that club meant to Liam. For so many years he has been an outstanding player for St Joseph’s. I often admired his total dedication, his never ending enthusiasm, and above all his great will and determination to win.
"He wore that jersey with great pride and distinction always, and St Joseph’s club is broken hearted with his great loss. Liam had a huge interest in all sport, but pride of place was given to St Joseph’s, Laois and Liverpool.
“In our great sorrow sadness and grief at the death of Liam, let us pray for that light of Christ in our hearts and in our lives, in the weeks, months and years ahead. May Liam’s kind and gentle soul rest now with God for all eternity,” he said.
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Laois GAA footballing legend Tom Kelly read a touching and sometimes humorous tribute to Liam.
“A man who was always happy when he was in the yellow and blue, a pure St Joseph’s man at heart. When he was younger, he was always one for going out, off to Pedigree he would usually go, with Mags at home waiting, with the hot water bottle called chilly toes. Sports mad always, from the time he went to school, whether it be St Joseph’s, Laois or his beloved Liverpool.
“Whether on the pitch or on the line, as a player or a trainer, he always gave his everything, a 100 percent all round entertainer. And in all his 17 years playing senior, he picked up an old card or two, throwing himself head first into tackles, sure he was always black and blue.
“You and Ash were definitely quite a pair, made for one another, sure didn’t she look after you just as good as your own mother. Shauna and yourself were as close as a dad and a little girl could be, up you would go to each match together, for that you were always free,” he said.
“Joe's club and community will have an emptiness now, one that will be hard to fill. We need to think of the good times now, and all the good memories we have to keep," he said.
He referred to Liam’s uncle Dan Lalor, and friend David Crosby who both passed away in the recent years.
”A solid gent of a man, the best son, husband, father and brother, a one of a kind, if ever there was, and could never ask for another. No worries anymore 'Squeaks', for Dan and Crosby will look after you. 'Squeaks' we will never forget you,” he said.
Music played a big part in the Mass, by singer and musician Rhona and Aishling, including ‘The Voyage’, ‘Take my Hand’, and ending with ‘You’ll never Walk Alone”.
Liam Kealy was laid to rest afterwards at St Joseph’s Cemetery.