The late JJ Kenneally, a massive Limerick GAA supporter and someone whom the GAA community will sadly miss
On walls, in biscuit tins and in attics around Limerick, Munster and Ireland there are medals, trophies and cups that the late JJ Kenneally supplied.
The renowned Limerick jeweller was regarded by clubs, associations and people in general as the leading figure in this area.
JJ Kenneally had that special way with people, he had a word for everyone and in his eyes the same value was placed on them all. The medal, trophy or cup is the desire of most players and teams and for the vast majority of them they had little idea where it came from.
For well over fifty years JJ Kenneally ran his business at Wickham Street in Limerick. It was an unique business where personal service was guaranteed. It was his hallmark. Family was everything to him but his business was the engine room and nothing came in the way of ensuring customer satisfaction.
JJ was associated with many sports but deep down his love of hurling and indeed the GAA at large meant a great deal to him. He gave outstanding service as a volunteer steward at the Gaelic Grounds. He took his job seriously but it was always done in a professional manner. JJ Kenneally always believed in showing respect to people and it was fitting that people stood for almost five hours to pay respects to him last week.
In every corner of Limerick there are medals hand crafted and inscribed by JJ Keneally. To players those medals mean a great deal. Every team starts off the year with the goal of winning the championship and for JJ Keneally when all the playing action was done his work began.
For over thirty years I knew JJ Keneally. He was an infectious type of man. He knew people in every parish and town and moreover he knew the people that drove the community. He was born in Clare. Of course he liked to see his own county doing well but there was no denying his love of Limerick GAA teams and indeed his love of the City. Limerick City was important to him. He wanted to see people doing well in business and he once told me, “A rising tide lifts all boats and that applies to business and sport. When Limerick are doing well people are happy.”
Former players from many counties and administrators of many leading sport bodies were in attendance. JJ Keneally had met and helped many of them. One man that worked very closely with JJ was former Tipperary hurler and Munster Council secretary Donie Nealon. “I can say it was a pleasure dealing with him. He was a perfectionist that took his job very seriously. He took pride in every medal and so many great players have such value in the medals supplied by JJ Keneally. For over forty years I had so many dealings with him and during all of that time he never once got a medal, cup or trophy wrong. When it came to Irish on medals or cups he was extra careful and he would ask me many times to make sure all was right. JJ helped a lot of people but very few knew about it. He would help people in a quiet way and that was his style. From my point of view it helped greatly that JJ had a great interest in the GAA. He had a passion for it and that same passion applied to his work.” According to Nealon JJ Keneally had many qualities but his respect of people was quite special, “ One of his finest qualities was that he made time for people. He valued them and always left them better than he found them and that is a unique quality.”
Of the many thousands that attended JJ Keneally’s funeral few had a better understanding of the GAA and Keneally’s involvement than former Limerick County Board Chairman Rory Kiely. In many respects he is the godfather of Limerick GAA, “I remember well when JJ took over as supplier to the Munster Council. He had been suppling Limerick for many years and took over supplying the Munster Council in 1977. Sean McCarthy from Tralee passed away and JJ took over from this point on. I can remember that matter been discussed at the time but in reality JJ was the person best placed to do the business. There is quite a bit to doing it well and in fairness to JJ he always did an outstanding job.”
One man that has given outstanding contribution to his club and Limerick GAA is Jack Sheehan. Only last year he took over from JJ Keneally as President of the St Patrick’s GAA club. “We were friends for so long, he had a great love of our club and he helped us in may ways over such a long time. He loved coming up to see the lads training and was always encouraging to keep the young lads playing. He had a special art with people and we will miss him in our club.”
JJ Keneally’s funeral saw some of the leading people in business and sport mingle in support of the family. Over a thousand people attended the funeral mass that was concelebrated by Fr. Sean Harmon.
At the back of the church I overheard a man say he had traveled from Clonmel, “I bought many medals and trophies from him. The watch on my hand came from him over forty years ago.”
There were many stories like that from friends, customers and family shared stories.
Robbie Keneally, JJ’s son, delivered the eulogy and while very difficult for him he did his father proud.
He told us of his honesty and hard work and how the shop meant so much to him. “He has left us a great legacy and a huge amount of good will and it’s our challenge now to carry it on. He was simple and hard working. He loved his family, the shop and his garden and in so many ways that summed up his life.”
Wickham Street has lost its greatest advocate in JJ Keneally. This deeply religious man that knelt each day to thank god for all that he had, gave a great deal to many and I am sure just like the many cups that he supplied he will shine in heaven.
Edel O’ Brien RIP
The entire community of Ballyhahill and West Limerick were shocked to hear of the passing of Edel O’Brien. An outstanding young girl that passed away with so much more to give. Her father Den is known to so many in all sports and her passing is a huge loss to her parents Den and Gertie. To them and her extended family I offer my sincere sympathy.
Mary Keogh RIP
Having shown great courage for so long Mary Keogh passed away last weekend. She was the wife of Michael who gave outstanding service to the GAA in Limerick City. Mary was the mother of John who is well known to readers of the Limerick Leader for his coverage of gaelic games. To the entire Keogh family I also offer my sincere sympathy.