By Cian O’Connell
Tony Keady’s service to Galway hurling will always be remembered. On Wednesday night Keady, a totemic figure in a glorious era for the maroon and white in the late 1980s, passed away.
Throughout his 53 years Keady served Galway and the game with admirable enthusiasm. A spectator at Croke Park for last Sunday’s All Ireland SHC Semi-Final triumph over Tipperary, Keady’s passion for the Galway cause never wavered.
All Ireland titles were secured by Galway in 1987 and 1988 with Keady earning the Hurler of the Year Award for the latter campaign also.
Noel Lane, one of Galway’s most honourable and decorated GAA, figures acknowledged Keady’s brilliance. “As a hurler, he was a great player, one of the greatest sure,” Lane says admiringly.
“He started off in the forwards and I remember playing Offaly one day in Birr and he was centre forward and didn’t play that well, actually (Cyril) Farrell took him off.
“I’ll never forget in a dressing room, I think it was in 1986 Farrell said if you play along and do what you are supposed to do, commit yourself I will make you Hurler of the Year at centre half back for Galway within 12 months and he did. Farrell could see it in him and he brought it out in him. He was a magnificent player.”
Those with an interest in Gaelic Games out west have been hurt deeply by Keady’s passing. “We are devastated and all the things you can say,” Lane admits.
“He was a great friend, a great team mate, a great character, he was all of those things. It is a sad day in Galway. It is a sad day for everyone that knew him, it is a sad day for hurling.
“First and foremost, everyone that knows him would see that he was a great family man. He was a great husband, there is no doubt about it, himself and Margaret got on like a house on fire.
“He was a great father, he loved his kids, he always had them going with him. He was a great son, a great brother, all of those things you need in a family, he was the rock of it all. He was great company, he was an outstanding character.”
Keady usually craved fun. “Whenever he came into a room, he lit up the room, there is no doubt about it, whether it was a golf club or a pub or a dressing room, he would certainly light it up,” Lane says.
“He would tell great stories and if ever there was a sing song there was no better man than Tony to stand up to sing a song. He had all of those strengths, he had no bother letting everyone know in a nice way too.”
Keady’s All Ireland medals in 1987 and 1988 alongside Pete Finnerty and Gerry McInerney on a Galway half back line that married substance and style ensure his name and exploits continue to matter.
In the intervening decades Keady has been involved with several club outfits in Galway, including his own Killimordaly.
“He was also a great coach at all levels – underage, schools, club, county – he loved coaching,” Lane states. “He was a great man to articulate the skills of the game and to demonstrate them as well which was hugely important. No better man than Tony to demonstrate any skill of the game because he was as fit now as he was 20 years ago. He had all of those things, he is an awful loss to his family and to his club, county, and to hurling.”
The next generation have benefitted enormously for any time spent in the company of Keady according to Lane.
“He has left a mark – even for his own kids as well,” Lane remarks. “Shannon has played at county level in Camogie. Tony and I went down before a football final a couple of years ago to do a gig in Kilkerrin, he came with me and we had a great chat on the way down and way back.
“He spoke so proudly about Anthony, Jake, Shannon, and Harry – his family. He coached them the same as he would a neighbour’s child, he treated everyone well. They loved him of course as well and will miss him seriously.
“He has left his mark with Killimordaly at all levels and any club he was with and he was with the Galway Under 21 team for a few years. Unfortunately they weren’t successful, but he left his mark on a lot of players and some of them are on the senior squad and would have benefitted from Tony’s confidence because he was oozing with it.
“He was full of confidence, full of exuberance, full of life, full of fun, you’d be laughing always more than any other thing when you’d be in Tony’s company.”