Remembering Kildare GAA’s greatest fan

John Kelly, Nurney, with his grandson
On Wednesday 14th of August 2013 the population of Nurney and surrounding area was saddened with the news of John Kelly’s passing.

On Wednesday 14th of August 2013 the population of Nurney and surrounding area was saddened with the news of John Kelly’s passing.

John was a great family man and supporter of the GAA. He was able to combine these two loves in his life without either of them suffering at the expense of the other.

What made this all the more remarkable was the fact that over the past 20 years, John lived to battle serious medical conditions. John and his wife Josie were together over 40 years and no family could have done more to facilitate John in every way possible over the last few difficult years.

John came to national notice in the GAA 3 years ago, when he won ‘Ireland most dedicated GAA Supporter’ in a national competition. His reward for winning first prize was €15,000 which was donated to Nurney GAA Club. This money in no small way enabled Nurney to purchase the new pitches. They will be a permanent memorial to John’s involvement and commitment to his beloved Nurney Gaa Club.

John’s involvement with Nurney goes back to the formation of the club 50 years ago. He played on the clubs minor team that year. He continued to play for the club over the next 20 years. Playing days over, he served as a selector for a number of years, It was a however as a committee member that he came into his own. Selling tickets acting as a gate man, working at club functions. John always gave 100% as a supporter; He rarely missed a match at any grade from under 10’s up to intermediate. John would be there roaring in support and defending his team to the last.

His love for everything ‘Nurney’ was matched by his support to the county teams. He followed Kildare all over Ireland distance no object was his mantra.

With his medical problems John often juggled hospital appointments to slot in with the GAA fixture list. It was well documented that while a patient in Beaumont hospital, John left the hospital several times, went to Croke Park to see Kildare play and return to Beaumont that evening.

John was an unassuming man and would have no wish to be sanctified even in death. However in order to give hope to others in adversity, I have to mention what he overcame and got to live a full life. He had two heart bypasses, a leg amputated, kidney failure in 2003, in 2005 a kidney transplant, in 2009 his kidneys failed again and he was back on dialysis three times a week until his passing.

I knew John very well, and he got over is long and many medical problems, I never heard him say ‘Why me’.

Many people believe that you have to have high media presence in order to make an impression in life. John by his love and commitment to his family, Nurney GAA and his beloved Kildare has proved this enormous.

When you throw in John’s serious medical conditions it was super human. He was a great example to all of us, of commitment to his family assistance to club and love of one’s county teams.

People like John Kelly are an inspiration to all of us his ability to face adversity and get a full life in such difficult circumstances is an inspiration.

In the future when I go to a Nurney or Kildare match there will be a sense of sadness and loss not having John there to give his opinion on the game and taking the positives for the next one.

Pat Deering

(Friend & Club Man)