Frank Kearney RIP - Our challenge is to follow his example
Those were the two words which echoed around Derry GAA circles yesterday following the death of Frank Kearney.
There was only one ‘Frankie’ and a surname generally wasn’t required for identification.
He was our back-to-back Ulster winning manager, our sounding board, our fulcrum, our friend.
When you spoke to Frank Kearney, you felt good. You felt proud to be a Derry man.
It’s easy to understand how he led giants of players like Tom McGuinness, Mickey Moran, Gerry McElhinney, Tom Quinn, Peter Stevenson, Anthony McGurk and Mickey Lynch – among many others – with an infectious personality and a razor sharp, and often mischievous, wit. It was an endearing cocktail for a man who was always thinking ahead.
“He phoned me several times during our recent minor campaigns,” said current Derry football manager, Damian McErlain, when informed of Frank’s passing.
“I won’t reveal what the advice was but it was spot on and was heeded.”
Frank Kearney’s short illness brings to an end a life devoted to his family and community.
A loving husband to Philomena, devoted father to Sinéad, Aidan, Olcán and Jarlath, grandfather of 10 and a former school principal at St Paul’s, Kilrea and Holy Trinity, Cookstown.
Frank’s life revolved around his Maghera home and south Derry community, but his influence went much wider.
Frank was instrumental in the Ciste Gael national movement of the late 1970s and early 1980s which raised funds on behalf of every GAA club in Ireland, including his own beloved Glen, of which he was a trustee, and with whom he won an All-Ireland Scór quiz title in 1979.
He was immensely proud of his club and what it has now become. It was only fitting that it was they who announced the sad news yesterday in a statement ending with the words, ‘Onwards and Upwards’ – the words Frank himself used to end almost all of his written communications.
As preparation for the National Football League final in 1976, Frank felt his team needed a symbol of identity. He arranged for new suits for his players with the Oak Leaf crest, which he designed, stitched into the jacket. It was a design he later patented and protected fiercely.
“You see it on the Derry shirts. You see youngsters walking around with it on tracksuits and other bits and pieces. I do take a lot of pride in it,” Frank told the former Irish News journalist Chris McCann in a 2009 interview.
His crest is a symbol which remains with us today, being literally close to the heart of every Derry player each time they take the field of play.
As such, Frank Kearney leaves an indelible mark on the past, present and future of the GAA in the Oak Leaf County.
In Glen and Derry, his legacy is guaranteed. Our challenge is to follow his example.
Onwards and upwards. Always.
Thank you, Frank.