Michael Coughlan - RIP
The former President of the GAA Sean Kelly led the tributes this week to Michael Coughlan from Kildimo who passed away suddenly last week.
Michael Coughlan was a lifetime supporter of the GAA and he gave great service to the Kildimo GAA club and the community at large.
He followed Limerick, both in hurling and football, to every part of the country and was looking forward with great hope with the current crop of young players coming through in Limerick.
Speaking this week from the European Parliament Mr. Kelly said, “I first got to know Michael through going to games and I know he also had a great love of Kerry football. Limerick was his first love though and it was a great shock to hear of his death last week. In difficult times he and others worked hard to put the playing field in place in Kildimo and he was very proud of his parish, club and community. The value of the voluntary effort and the volunteer can never be taken for granted and Michael Coughlan gave much to many. I would also meet him at the Ring of Kerry cycle and he raised lots of money for many good causes. We all want to leave things better than we got them and in the case of Michael Coughlan I think he will have few regrets.” Kelly added.
I first met Michael Coughlan more than twenty five years ago and little did I think then that he would travel to games in every part of the country with me.
He loved going to new venues and he loved meeting people. It didn’t take him long to build friendships and when it came to doing live commentary on matches he would have all the stats ready for me.
Anyone that knew him would know that ‘time was time’. He liked to be on time and if you weren’t you were told it.
He became good friends with Michael O’Muircheartaigh and Sean Ban Breathnach from RTE Radio. They would ask him how were Limerick doing and if they were short a pen he always had a spare.
He was involved in Kildimo GAA club for many years, never at the top table but always working on the ground. When the new field was purchased it required a high amount of work and Michael along with many others put his shoulder to the wheel.
When hurling balls and transport were in short supply Mike Coughlan provided both. In his Morris minor car he would make round trips to get young lads to games. Such efforts were increased when he purchased a Ford Capri and more passengers could be accommodated.
Michael was a quiet man that kept to himself and it took a while to get inside the veneer but once you did you could be sure of a loyal friend.
Both in GAA and life in general, Michael Coughlan was at his best helping people. He did much of this unnoticed and discreetly. He was the kind of person that helped people before they asked and left before they noticed. He helped many people in his life and was without doubt one of the finest men that I have ever known.
He longed to be alive to see Limerick win another senior hurling title. He told me many stories of Limerick’s last win in 1973.
Like so many more he took great pleasure in that win. He would say to me, ‘’That meant so much to us. We had so many bad days we didn’t want to leave Croke Park.’’
In latter years he would say, ‘’ I think Eammon Grimes will have the honour for a while longer.’’
It was his way of saying Limerick have a bit to go before they claim another title at this level. In the past few years he took great pleasure in seeing Limerick doing well at minor and U21 level. What made him even more happy was seeing Kyle Hayes on the team and making such progress. Only recently he was delighted to see Barry O’Connell joining Kyle on the senior hurling panel.
Last year Kildimo Pallaskenry won the Intermediate hurling title and Michael Coughlan saw everyone of those games.
He was really pleased to see how this young bunch of players made such great progress. He said, “Those lads have the ability to go all the way to senior”
They might not be aware of the significance of those words because Michael Coughlan didn’t hand out praise unless it was warranted and from him that was a major compliment.
Michael Coughlan saw some of the greats of Limerick hurling play. We spent hours going through them and lets just say we didn’t always agree on the outcome of who the best players were but for him players like, Cregan, Hartigan, Grimes, McKenna and Tynan were to the fore.
He enjoyed Richie Bennis, they would meet through work and Richie would always be having a go at him. Deep down he had great time for Bennis. He would say he had nerves of steel when it mattered most. Referring of course to the coolness of the Patrickswell man who landed the match winning score in the 1973 Munster final.
When Limerick footballers were going well he followed them everywhere. He took great enjoyment from the courage they showed against some of the best teams. He loved how Kerry played and had so much time for Mick O’Dwyer but when Limerick stated to emerge he was so proud of those men who did most of their talking on the pitch.
To me the people that work at volunteer level are the unsung and many times the unseen heroes of the GAA and community life. Mike Coughlan was very much a man of action. He didn’t look for praise and he definitely didn’t look for any rewards. He helped his club and his parish because they both meant a great deal to him.
People like Mike Coughlan made the GAA what it is, yes it has changed a fair bit and he didn’t like the way things are going now particularly in Croke Park but deep down the love of ones parish was very important to him.
Many fine players that were taken to games at underage level by him went onto play hurling for Kildimo for years.
For more than five hours they stood in the street of Pallaskenry to pay respects to him. He never really knew just how popular he was. He would never show his emotions too much but he would have been very happy with such an attendance.
When Michael Coughlan retired from official work, it lasted only a few weeks. Olive O’Brien was the then Principal of the local National school and with some efforts secured his services as caretaker. It was a telling move. His labours far exceeded the rewards.
The young and the old attended his removal and with tears in their eyes they stood in his honour. The National School and the GAA club provided a guard of honour, a way of saying thank you for all he had done.
The former American President Abraham Lincoln once said, “I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives. I like to see a man live that his place will be proud of him.” Those words truly apply to Michael Coughlan.
Michael was a man of great honesty and humility and he will be greatly missed by his parish and community. Most of all he will be missed by his family.
To his wife Kathleen, daughter Mary and son William I offer my sincere sympathy. I am sure his call to God's Kingdom was rapid and I am sure St Peter was there to greet him.
As he passed through the gates it’s fairly certain that Michael Coughlan might have said, “Those gates could do with a rub of paint.”