*Paddy McDonnell. 

KILKEE’S Paddy McDonnell has been remembered as a fantastic storyteller who possessed a strong passion for his native place and county.

Close to 100 people were in St Senan’s Church in Kilkee on Friday morning for Paddy’s funeral mass, the coastal spot busy but tinged with a sense of sadness at losing one of its most familiar faces.

‘Clare My Heart My Home’ was played aloud as Paddy’s coffin was carried from the church, two of the area’s greatest sportspeople Willie Keane and his son Ger were among those carrying the coffin which was draped in three jerseys, Clare, St Senan’s Kilkee and Kilkee/Bealaha.

St Senan’s GAA club provided a guard of honour with 2005 Clare SFC winner and ex county footballer Denis Russell among those leading the way. Former Clare GAA secretary, Pat Fitzgerald and current Chairman, Kieran Keating were among those seated in the congregation plus ex officials Sean O’Halloran and John O’Sullivan.

A guard of honour was provided by St Senan’s Kilkee.

A driving force of the GAA in Kilkee, Paddy died suddenly at the age of 83 on Sunday on his way back to his car having attended the Clare SFC final between Cratloe and St Breckan’s in Cusack Park.

As a spokesperson for St Senan’s Kilkee GAA club noted, “For a man who dedicated his life to sport in Clare, he wouldn’t have wanted to go any other way”.

This was the interpretation shared by Fr Gerry Kenny, “when I heard the news of Paddy’s sudden passing on Sunday after the game, it struck me that perhaps Paddy’s wish was granted. This is perhaps how he would like to have left us with no fuss and at something he enjoyed right up until the very end”.

Fr Kenny continued, “In all of the tributes made over the last few days, the one I want to make is simply that I knew a gentleman whenever I engaged with Paddy. My last conversation with him was around the funeral of Billy Kennelly, he came to do the eulogy at the beginning of Billy’s mass, when he had the task which he often did, he would come to me and outline what he was doing, you could always depend on him to have the notes right”. Knowing Paddy “a true Kilkee man” was “a real pleasure,” Fr Kenny stated.

Born in England, he came to Moveen and later Kilkee before starting school in Kilrush CBS. He described his Leaving Certificate results as “reasonable”, in the years after he went to England and later returned to Dublin working as a psychiatric nurse and a concierge in Croke Park before returning to his beloved Kilkee.

His passions were represented in the symbols brought before the altar on Friday. Ex long-serving secretary of St Senan’s, John Lynch carried a football, current hurler Colm Clohessy had a hurley and sliotar, a programme of the plays Paddy starred in was brought forward by Michael McGrath.

Paddy’s literary work was acknowledged with an old edition of the County Express carried by founder Seamus O’Reilly while retired councillor Patrick Keane who was part of the committee working on ‘A Sporting Odyssey’ with Paddy left a copy of the book at the foot of the altar.

Jerseys of St Senan’s Kilkee and Kilkee/Bealaha clubs were brought forward by Diarmuid Keane and Michael O’Neill while his neighbour and friend Anthony Guerin carried a Clare flag.

When it comes to Clare GAA’s most loyal supporters, Paddy was certainly among them, he travelled to games across the country be it hurling or football.

As a keen sportsman, Paddy gave most of his life to GAA, and sport in general. He played football for St. Senan’s Kilkee as a young man whilst also serving as a committee member in the club in his younger years. He also played basketball for Kilkee.

West Clare may be traditionally viewed as more football than hurling territory but Paddy was an instrumental force in Kilkee/Bealaha hurling club, remaining a driving force in the club from when it contested the national Féile na nGael hurling final in 1987 right until the present day serving as the club’s President. He previously flagged that hurling in Kilkee goes all the way back to 1830. He won four medals on the hurling field with the club.

Michael O’Neill first got to know Paddy in 1984 when Paddy was involved with the Clare Supporters Club. When he moved back to Querrin a decade and a half ago McDonnell became his travelling companion for Clare hurling matches all over the country. “He was man full of life,” Mick told The Clare Echo. “He was a great man, he got the hurling going here in the 1980s, it died but he got it going and then when I got it going again in 2014 he was the first man I went to, he was at our semi-final a fortnight ago, he would always ring me after games and I’d ring him, we were very close. It might not go down well with people back here but hurling was his first game, he’d go anywhere if there was a game”.

Attending Clare games won’t be the same for Mick next year, “It will be different going to matches, physically he won’t be there but spiritually he will be, I’ll miss him, I got to know him very well over the last fourteen to fifteen years”.

Supporters in saffron and blue would often spot Paddy at games but his voice was well known to GAA followers across the county. For many years, he was a sports reporter for Clare FM up until 2014. He was also a regular contributor to The Clare County Express, providing notes from Kilkee and West Clare. Paddy was also ever-available to assist Raidió Corca Baiscinn with their sports output, appearing as a regular guest while also featuring in a 2010 documentary looking back on the Kilkee Strand Races.

During his 44 years as Editor of The County Express, Seamus O’Reilly built up a friendship with Paddy. He recalled, “We’ve known each other over the last 25 years, we were great old buddies, we were different in ways, we’d sit down in Kilrush and talk about anything”.

O’Reilly added, “He had great stories, he was a proud Kilkee men, he loved looking out from the Strand, he enjoyed his lot in life”.

His ability on the air came as no surprise to those who knew him as Paddy was a great storyteller who loved nothing better than regaling an audience with stories of past events, such tales made memorable due to way with words.

This view was echoed by O’Neill, “he was heavily involved in the drama back here, he took part in the drama and he was very good at, the last play I remember him in was as the Bishop in John B Keane’s The Field. He was very good at that and on the local radio, he wrote with The County Express for years, if there wasn’t a story he’d always find one, he gave us great coverage in Kilkee while the paper was there. He always told a great story of being involved when Kilkee won the Gardiner Cup, there was an objection after they played Doonaha in the 1970s, they objected but the County Board never got the Cup back, he reckoned it was somewhere by the Blackweir Bridge”.

In 2009, Paddy was part of a group of five Kilkee men who were involved in the publication of ‘Kilkee, A Sporting Odyssey’ which chronicled the history of the GAA and other sports in the coastal West Clare town. Ger Keane, Jimmy Fitzpatrick, Paul Costelloe (RIP) and Patrick Keane formed the committee alongside McDonnell. Paddy’s deep knowledge was one of the biggest sources of material for the book and this will serve as one of his biggest legacies in the area.

Former Clare footballer Keane who worked alongside McDonnell on the project paid tribute to him this week. He told The Clare Echo, “Paddy McDonnell was a Kilkee man and a Clare man to the core but beyond that he was a gentleman. He loved Gaelic Games and was a passionate supporter of Clare hurling and football teams along with St Senan’s Kilkee. He was a founder member of his beloved Kilkee/Bealaha hurling club and kept the club alive through good and bad times along with his good friend Michael O Neill. Paddy never had a bad word to say about anyone and he was a popular member of the West Clare community for his wit and good humour. He was a fountain of knowledge and this was evidenced in his popular segment in the Kilkee notes section of The County Express, something that Seamus O’Reilly will testify to, Paddy was a noted Basketball player in his youth and he loved to talk about the games that were played in the old Olympia Hall. The town of Kilkee is a lesser place due to Paddy’s passing but his spirit, passion and attitude will live on in all those who knew, respected and admired him”.

Speaking at Friday’s mass, Martin Gleeson of the Kilkee Amphitheatre Company admitted, “I find it very odd to be talking about Paddy McDonnell when I should be talking to Paddy McDonell”. He recalled the many conversations they had on a regular basis about a variety of topics. He noted the many different roles Paddy had on the drama scene, the first as a blind man and the last as a Bishop, “in between he played tinkers, business man, trumpet player and he was always the narrator for socials”.

Though a late addition to the local drama scene, he was certainly a welcome one, Martin said. “He came late to acting, he was in his sixties at an age when a lot of people are relaxing but he embraced it with enthusiasm”. His “meticulous” approach to sourcing costumes and props strengthened their group while they were kept on their toes by Paddy’s disdain for adjudicators on the drama circuit.

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

Subscribe for just €3 per month

If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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