A day that started in celebration for Allen Gaels GAA club as they gathered to celebrate the memory of Tony McGowan ended in shock for the town of Drumshanbo with the sudden passing of Gerry Keane, described as “larger than life” figue by Club Chairman Sean Wynne.
Leitrim Club Player of the Year in 1991, Gerry Keane was one of those legendary players who come to symbolise their clubs, their dedication legendary and committment to the club marking him out as one of those unsung local heroes who do so much for their communities.
Gerry won three Leitrim Senior Championship medals as a player in 1991, 1996 and 1997 and was part of the Allen Gaels management team who won two further titles in 2001 and 2002
An indefatigible corner-back, the image that most springs to mind of Gerry is a picture from the 1996 County Final against St. Mary’s when, going up against much taller players for a high ball, it was Gerry who emerged with the ball in a typically inspiring cameo.
50-year-old Gerry collapsed just outside his home place as he participated in last Sunday’s Tony McGowan Memorial 10Km road race and despite frantic efforts by doctors and medical personnel to revive him, Gerry sadly passed away, sending the town of Drumshanbo and GAA circles around the county into deep shock.
Allen Gaels GAA Club Chairman Sean Wynne told the Observer “The fact that Gerry was taking part in a race in memory of Tony McGowan, organised by the club, shows what sort of a man Gerry was. Gerry was a part of the building blocks of the Allen Gaels club.
“From our humble beginnings after Ballinaglera leaving us and through a period in the early eighties, Gerry was an integral part of the club. Gerry went on to win a Junior Championship in 1987 and was a selector and a player when we won the inaugural Intermediate Championship in 1989.
“Gerry was involved in all five of our five Senior Championship triumphs, three as a player and two as a selector and right up to two years ago, he was involved with teams and all aspects of our club. It was a lifetime commitment from Gerry.”
Sean recounted that even last weekend he had asked Gerry if he was interested in refereeing but Gerry was still too keen on participating in sports himself – “Gerry togged out much larger than he was in life.
“When he was in his playing gear, he seemed much bigger than he actually was and his leap was like Mickey Quinn, he could just launch himself into the air.
“In the drawn County Final game against St. Mary’s in 1996, when the game was in the balance, the ball went in and Kevin O’Rourke, Liam Moran and Donal Smith went up for the ball but it was Gerry who came out with the ball.
“If there was a job to be done, Gerry was always available for the club, little or large and his passing is such a shock to the area. Gerry was a leader to all the young people in the area, Gerry’s advice was often sought and it was very seldom that any observations Gerry made were disproved.
“Gerry may have been small in stature but he had a big heart and he always gave it 100% even if it was only five-a-side soccer.”
Gerry’s remains will be brought from his house to St. Patrick’s Church Drumshanbo tonight (Wednesday, February 20) at 7 pm and he will be carried from where he fell during Sunday’s race to the church. The house will remain open today (Wednesday) until 4 pm for those wishing to sympathise.
Funeral mass will take place on Thursday at 11 am with burial afterwards in the new cemetary in Drumshanbo.
Gerry, who worked on the outdoor staff with Leitrim County Council, is survived by his wife Jessica, his brother Joe in Chicago, sister Maureen in Boston and eldest sister Margaret in Dublin and a legion of friends in Drumshanbo and Leitrim.
The staff of the Leitrim Observer would like to offer Gerry’s family, his many friends and the Allen Gaels club their deepest sympathies on their terrible loss. May Gerry Rest In Peace.