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'A hugely popular guy. You'd miss him, especially when you're in the middle of doing something like this'

The late Michael O’Shea continues to be remembered in Clare football circles.

Michael O'Shea pictured after Clare's 2012 Munster semi-final win over Limerick.
Michael O'Shea pictured after Clare's 2012 Munster semi-final win over Limerick.
Image: INPHO

THE PLAN IN late April was to remember a beloved Clare football figure, in his homeplace on the west coast of the county and on the pitch in Kilkee which he had graced with regularity.

Michael O’Shea had been devoted to the Banner cause for plenty years, largely as a senior player and after retirement came in 2014, there was the role of supporter and a spell overseeing the fortunes of the county U21 team.

He passed away in August 2018 after a cancer illness at the age of 38, sadly missed by his wife Orlaith, daughter Éirinn and wider family.

A few months ago a group from St Senan’s, the local club in Kilkee, and former Clare stalwarts came together to plot and plan for an occasion in 2020 where O’Shea’s sporting contribution would be recognised.

“We wanted to do something football related,” outlines Joe Hayes.

“A few of the lads from Kilkee, Dave Russell and John Hickey are joint chairmen there, Diarmuid Keane the secretary, Darragh Kelly who would have been one of Mike’s great friends, myself and Enda Coughlan, just got together.

“We looked to organise a match. So I was liaising with Padraic Joyce during January. I’d two Galway footballers on my Sigerson panel in the Garda College. I just picked up the phone and rang Padraic and told him the idea, in fairness he jumped on board straight away.

“Colm (Collins) did as well so that’s where we got the Galway-Clare match on. April 25th fell perfectly because there were no club games scheduled for either county, two weeks before both teams played championship.”

It looked an ideal fixture fit, a warm-up to the serious stuff in the summer but a complete shutdown of sporting activity could never have been envisaged.

The preparatory work had gone on for a while before Covid-19 scuppered plans for any GAA game around the country.

“In Kilkee they’re hugely proud people,” says Hayes.

“Back in January and February, we were a bit worried about the field because we were having bad weather at the time and Kilkee wouldn’t be the driest field. But the lads, the amount of work they put in.

“The chairman sent me on a picture the day the game was supposed to be on, it was just looking immaculate. All the work was to make sure it was right on the day for Mike and his family.”

They remain hopeful of playing the game, it’s a matter of when they’ll find a suitable date down the line rather than if. Hayes spent several seasons sharing a Clare dressing-room with O’Shea, their work together off the pitch meant his links ran deeper than just team-mates.

michael-oshea Michael O'Shea in action for Clare Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“I was one group ahead of him in the Garda college, Enda came in then in the group behind Mike so the three of us were in the college together for a while. Then myself and Mike got stationed in Limerick together before he went out to Ennistymon. We’d have been hanging around a good bit between work and playing for Clare at the same time.

“A hugely popular guy. You’d miss him, especially when you’re in the middle of doing something for him. Always at the height of mischief, always good craic on a night out, on the bus to games and at training. At the moment you’d miss him more.”

O’Shea started out in Clare senior colours in 1999, his involvement stretching all the way to 2014. It was not the most glamorous posting at times in the GAA but his commitment never wavered.

On the club fields he shone brightly, a couple of Clare senior medals collected and a couple of Munster club final appearances made. In 2005 he excelled as St Senan’s took down An Ghaeltacht, a team studded with Kerry stars.

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michael-oshea-of-st-senans-beats-rob-mac-gearailt-of-an-ghaeltacht-to-the-ball Michael O'Shea (left) in action for St Senan's in the Munster club football championship. Source: ©INPHO

“He gave a phenomenal amount of time to it. He had his injuries down through the years but when he was free from them, there wasn’t many lads who could mark him well. He was very good in the Munster final of 2012 and put some unbelievable games together around that period.

“St Senan’s won the championship in ’03 and ’05. He was instrumental in both of them. In his last few years with Kilkee, they were at the other end of senior but he was battling away, kicking some huge scores in vital games. A phenomenal club man.

“In the ’14 league final he was just after getting back on the Clare squad from a hamstring injury and as he was warming up he did it again. He probably forced himself back early trying to get on the field in a league final for Clare because he’d been there for so many years. He made the decision there and then, he was 34 at that stage, he probably knew he couldn’t make another burst again with the championship on the way.

“He would have been hugely well known around Clare and around Munster as well I’d say.”

Hayes retired from Clare duty at the close of the 2017 campaign and this year has been part of the Tipperary coaching setup.

The Banner connection continues and he got a call from Clare captain Eoin Cleary recently. If there couldn’t be a game, then the thinking was that something else could still be done as a memorial and to benefit the two charities – the West Clare Cancer Centre in Kilkee and Regina House Palliative Care in Kilrush.

Source: Clare Senior Footballers/YouTube

“Eoin contacted me about a week and a half ago, and said that Cillian Brennan, the Clare full-back, had come up with a plan to play their part. They asked would it be okay to drive on with something. So the whole panel have made a push to donate training gear, Clare jerseys or jerseys from other counties.

“There’s been phenomenal feedback from it and a phenomenal push on the GoFundMe page. Just before we put it up, it was short of €2,000 and now it’s over €19,000.

“The fundraiser is open to Thursday night. Anyone who enters €15 or me is put in the draw for the gear on Saturday. The significance of 15 is that Mike predominantly wore 15 for club or county. There’s 42, 43 pieces of gear in the draw.

“The game, we’re all hopeful will be played at some stage. When is out of our hands but we’ve been liaising with both managements and there’s no bother, they know we can’t pick any day yet.

“It’s a lovely touch by the boys. This is totally driven by the Clare footballers. David Tubridy would have been very good friends with Mike, there’s still a few that would have played with Mike. A lot of them wouldn’t have played with him but they’re putting in a huge effort in his memory.

“For his family, his parents, brother and sister, wife and daughter, they’ll miss Mike and they’ll never forget him. If this little fundraiser brings a small bit of joy to his family, then that has to be a plus.

“I can only imagine how they feel but I suppose they’re proud that his memory is living on and a lot of lads are doing their bit for him.”

Donations for the Michael O’Shea memorial fundraiser can be made here.

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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