'Rory Kiely was a Limerick GAA icon' - Martin Kiely

'Rory Kiely was a Limerick GAA icon' - Martin Kiely

Limerick GAA President - Rory Kiely RIP

The Godfather of Limerick GAA departed last week. After a life time of engagement in GAA, politics, farming and horse racing, Rory Kiely slipped quietly away.

His impact on Limerick GAA and beyond was immense and for longevity alone his record of involvement was pretty impressive.

His record in elections of various sorts both political and GAA was legendary. Rory Kiely was sharp, he knew how to gauge things better than most people and throughout his career he managed to keep a low profile but still have a major influence particularly on all matters Limerick GAA.

At every level Rory Kiely knew how business was done. It often required a nod and wink to get business done and Rory had the craft and knowledge to get the outcome he wanted. Every club in Limerick would have called upon Rory Kiely at some stage. It might have been to use his influence or knowledge of the rule book but most likely about a Munster council grant.

His club meant a great deal to him and there was little doubt that where ever possible he did his best for Limerick at Munster and national level. I could never say that I knew the real Rory Kiely but over the last twenty or more years we did have the odd conversation. Ironically our last meeting was at the funeral of JJ Kenneally. He was relaxed and full of conversation and happy to engage.

Great respect

Rory Kiely was a great connector of people and he knew how to build relationships with them.

Of course he used those relationships to good effect over many elections both locally and nationally in politics but it is a special craft and few had skills as honed as Rory Kiely. It takes a person of some quality to survive as long as Rory did.

For sure he had stepped on toes along the way but despite that he always kept his cool. He understood that there would always be another day.

If someone or a club had left his side he found ways to get them back on side. In his eyes, the road ahead always had a turn and few had the knack of reading the landscape better than Rory Kiely. He was held with great respect and I think that grew for him as the years moved on. His long involvement with the Munster council and later in Croke Park suited him much better than the role as Chairman of the County Board. He had more freedom to do what he did best and on most occasions got the result he wanted.

Huge crowds

From when his death was announced to the time of he was laid to rest in Kilmeedy, thousands turned up to pay their respects. He used his magic to win votes for the senate and it showed his stamina to hold office for thirty years. That wasn’t easily achieved and some in his own party in Limerick tried their best to stand in his way at national level. They made the mistake of underestimating Rory Kiely. He forged his own path and bit by bit he built a foundation that took him to the top job in lower house.

Every part of society converged on Ballingarry and Feenagh - Kilmeedy over the two days. The GAA and his political family took centre stage. They had come to pay respects but also to honour his commitment at many levels.

Feenagh Kilmeedy is a small parish in West Limerick and most people outside of Limerick would know little about it. I have broadcast from every county ground in Ireland and when I’d mention Limerick the reply would be, “are you anything to Rory.” From Donegal to Fermanagh, from Tullamore to Killarney they all had come across Rory Kiely.

County Board

It was at County Board level that Rory Kiely had real influence. There were many people elected, both past and present, that can thank Rory. For a great deal of cases, you needed to have Rory Kiely on side to be assured of election. He had serious power within the board and not having him on side made the task all the more difficult.

He came close to losing his seat to John Naughton in the early eighties. Only one vote separated them in the finish.

Those votes proved crucial because after that Rory Kiely was secure till he decided to call it a day.

Some held the view that he had too much power and control over the County Board but clubs returned him time after time to various positions.


Over the course of a few days many tributes were paid to Rory Kiely. He had built a relationship with countless numbers of people. Former Chairman of Clare and Munster Council Robert Frost said,

“I was friends with him for more than thirty years. He had a great knack of reading a situation long before anyone else. He had vast experience and used it to good effect.”

Donie Flynn travelled many a road with Rory and valued his friendship.

“I was the driver on so many occasions and it was not bother going to meetings but coming home was an entirely different story. His ability to recall people, places and facts was breathtaking. He kept a low profile but he was very intelligent and could read the landscape better than most people”

Jim Dooley of Garryspillane and Rory had the love of the GAA and horses in common,

“I suppose I worked with him at many levels and from a club point of view he was good to us and others. We also enjoyed going to the odd race meeting. This he really enjoyed and his knowledge of the racing industry was outstanding.”

Rory was a bit of rogue and could adopt to any situation, he was legendary when it came to tickets for All Ireland finals and with note book in hand the calls would be made.

To his family, club and friends I offer my sincere sympathy. His family meant a great deal to him and they bond they had was very visible over such a sad time.


Recalculating might be a word to describe how matters went in Ennis last Sunday. Not too many saw that coming and it will take a bit to get the wagon back on track.

That will be achieved but many lessons will be learned from this experience. I mentioned last week how Limerick lacked cover from a defence point of view and that was very evident in this game with Clare.

Some of the decisions made were hard to understand and playing with seven defenders while having the wind in the second half left a lot to be desired.

Limerick have made good progress and I have acknowledged that many times in recent weeks but I have stressed many times that we have to build a better backline and supports.

Fatigue was an element deep into the second half but it should not be used as an excuse. So much up to now was about the future but many things last Sunday were about the past.

Limerick have some gaps to fill and a couple of big calls need to be made. They will get back on the road, they will get to a quarter final and then we will know what lessons were learned. Expectations are always high in Limerick and this dose of reality might not be a bad thing. This team have a future and they will recover but now is the time to build the defence because more questions will be asked in a few weeks time.

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