In the death of Mgr Tommy Maher St Kieran’s College has lost one of our great past pupils, a legendary former staff member and former President. Mgr Tommy served here from 1964 until 1983 and was President of St Kieran’s College from 1973 to 1983. Conscious of his contribution to St Kieran’s College and in particular his love of, and dedication to, the game of hurling we invited the Chairman of Kilkenny County Board, Ned Quinn to prepare a piece on Tommy. We are honoured to have it to mark this sad occasion.
Rev Dr Dermot Ryan,
It is both a great privilege and deeply humbling for me as the current Chairman of Kilkenny GAA County Board to have been invited by St Kieran’s College to pay tribute today to Monsignor Tommy Maher who during his life has made such a enormous contribution to the College, to the Parish of Mullinavat and to Kilkenny Hurling.
All will have their own particular memories of Fr Tommy and the positive influence that he was as a teacher and subsequently as President of St Kieran’s College and of his time as Parish Priest of Mullinavat where his footprint continues to be visible every day. I should say that the care, loyalty and support shown to him during his latter time in that parish spoke far more eloquently of the regard people had for him than any words could possibly do.
Hurling was a major part of Fr Tommy’s life. He was an outstanding hurler himself and was a member of the 1946 Kilkenny All-Ireland Senior hurling final panel and but for his vocation to the priesthood he would have been part of Kilkenny All-Ireland winning team of 1947.
Despite having to call time on his playing career at a relatively young age the then young priest continued his involvement in the game and went on to become one of the most visionary and successful coaches of all time. He was instrumental along with Donie Nealon, Tipperary; Dessie Ferguson, Dublin; John Hanly, Clare; and Ned Power, Waterford in setting up the first ever Hurling Coaches courses initially in Gormanstown and subsequently in St Kieran’s College. These were the forerunners to the Coaching Courses that are available today and that continue to offer so much to our game.
His achievements with St Kieran’s College, with Kilkenny and the Mullinavat team, whom he coached to Junior Co-Championship honours in 1984 (their first such title in almost 40 years) are legendary.
With St Kieran’s he reestablished the College amongst hurling’s elite and his legacy there is that they are now top of the second level schools National Roll of Honour and will be hoping to stretch that lead when the contest this year’s All-Ireland Final on Saturday next (4th April).
Of course, it was his role as coach to the Kilkenny team that brought him to National Prominence. It is difficult now to realise the fallow period that Kilkenny hurling was experiencing when the then Co Secretary, the late Paddy Grace, invited him to take on the role in 1957. Suffice to say only one All-Ireland, that of 1947, had been won in the previous 16 years. What was to follow then, and what has followed since, could not have been foreseen but there can be no doubt but that the All-Ireland victory achieved in 1957, his first year in charge was seminal in changing the course of our County’s hurling history. Further All-Ireland successes followed in ’63, ’67, ’69, ’72, ’74 and ’75 before Fr Tommy relinquished his position.
What has followed since in Kilkenny GAA owes much to his work as Coach over that period of time. He revolutionised the approach to coaching and training teams and it can hardly be a coincidence that each of our successful County Team Managers in the intervening years – Pat Henderson, Eddie Keher, Ollie Walsh and now Brian Cody – all played on teams that he coached.
So as we say our final farewell to someone who has contributed so much to hurling, to St Kieran’s College, to the parish of Mullinavat and to Kilkenny hurling in particular, we express our sympathy to the members of the Maher family, to the College community, to his brother Priests and to those in the hurling family of Kilkenny all who owe this man so much.
Chairman Kilkenny County Board