Tributes paid to former champion hurler and well-known Limerick priest Fr Liam Kelly:
By Fintan Walsh Limerick Leader

TRIBUTES have been paid to one of Limerick’s most well-known and respected priests, Fr Liam Kelly, who died peacefully this week.

The former champion hurler, who served on the Limerick panel in 1955, died peacefully at Castletroy Park Nursing Home on New Year’s Eve.

While mainly known for his major contribution to sport and local life in his various parishes, the popular priest made national headlines when he was knifed and robbed in his parish home in the late 1990s.

Fr Kelly sustained stab wounds during the robbery at his home in Parteen, County Clare, in May 1998, which resulted in a successful conviction of the culprits at Limerick Circuit Court in 1999.

His niece Maria Kelly said that he was “remarkable” in how he dealt with the assault.

“He had huge support fro his family at the time,” she said. It was reported that Fr Kelly received 2,500 letters of support from people all over country after the incident.

“They had to move him out of the hospital because he was getting so many visitors. The strength of the man. He was just so unbelievably strong and fought right up until the end.”

The popular priest, 83, was known for his strong sporting connections, having been a Limerick senior hurler. Fr Kelly played under the tutelage of the legendary Mick Mackey when Limerick brought home a Munster championship medal in 1955.

Liam was also pivotal in Ahane’s major senior championship success in 1955 when they beat Geraldine’s 2-5 0-5.

It wasn’t just hurling; Fr Kelly was an ardent golfer and, according to his niece, “played nearly every major course around Europe”.

Fr Kelly also served as president of the Catholic Institute tennis club.

Ordained in 1960, the hurling priest continued to serve the parish until 2006, and was one of Limerick’s longest serving priests.

He celebrated his golden jubilee while on a pilgrimage to Lourdes in 2010.

Maria said every member of his parishes loved him for the way he was embedded in the community.

“Music was a great passion of his. He had a fabulous singing voice, so he always brought music with him to every parish. He was very interested in education coming from a strong teaching family. His parents, grandparents, great-grandparents were all teachers and headmasters of schools around Limerick. He always got involved in schools and struck up a great relationship with the teachers.

“He got involved with the youth in every parish. Where there wasn’t a GAA team, he set up a GAA team. He had an unbelievable energy and zest for life, and then just his charm and sense of fun.”

Fr Kelly spent four years in a coal-mining community near Cardiff before returning to Limerick. He spent two years in Newcastle West, 16 years at St Joseph’s on O’Connell Avenue. He then moved to the Holy Rosary on the Ennis Road.

Croagh-Kilfinny was Fr Kelly’s first rural parish, before he moved again to Tournafulla in 1990 where he spent seven years. He then moved to Parteen where he served the parishioners for 11 years.

Fr Liam also attended every annual pilgrimage in Lourdes.

Maria said that he was under great care at Castletroy Park Nursing Home.

“They were amazing. The care he had, they kept coming in looking after him. They were all very emotional towards the end. They certainly had great affection for him. I think he had that charm that people were drawn to him.”

Fr Kelly is pre-deceased by his parents Seán and Maura and sister Eda (Mulqueen). Very deeply regretted by his sister Marie (Ryan), brother Eoin, nieces and nephews Niamh, John, Mary, Don, Kate, Neil, Johnny, Una, Adrienne, Maria, Hugh, grandnieces and grandnephews. Sadly missed by Bishop Leahy, Bishop Murray & Diocesan Clergy and his many sporting friends and parishioners.

Reposing at Griffin’s Funeral Home, John’s Gate on Wednesday from 5.30pm. Removal at 7.30pm to St Joseph’s Church, O’Connell Avenue. Requiem Mass on Thursday at 2pm. Burial afterwards in Mount St Lawrence Cemetery.

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