The bagpipes had rung out through the Picture Gallery of Kilkenny Castle when hurling hero, Eddie Keher, took to the podium to deliver his acceptance speech.
He had just been granted the Freedom of Kilkenny City in front of family, friends and colleagues; as over 100 people made their way to Kilkenny last Friday evening for the ceremony.
The burgeoning formality of proceedings had reached its crescendo as Eddie, 76, took to his feet to give his address. It was a daunting prospect given the reverence around a Freedom of Kilkenny City conferral and the pride of being nominated. The Rower-Inistioge man began with a disarming and warm admission when he said: “The only experience I had like this, I think, was in a dressing room before an All-Ireland final, so bear with me.” What followed was a brief speech which provided fascinating insights into the man behind the legend and what Kilkenny and its community means to Eddie Keher. His words revealed a humble man receiving the honour of the Freedom of Kilkenny City only because of the people he worked with or played with and he told them that “this is also your honour”. Eddie acknowledged his wife Kay, who is from Gowran, for her “unselfish support” at all times and he also spoke about the Catholic Church being “a great source of support and comfort” to him since childhood.
He described Kilkenny as a “sleeping city” full of rich history waiting to be awoken when he first came to it as a boarder in St Kieran’s College. He said: “Kilkenny was first roused from it’s sleep with the opening of the Kilkenny Design Workshops in 1965. Another milestone in 1967 was the donation of this magnificent building, Kilkenny Castle to the city by Marquess of Ormonde. We’re enjoying its ambiance tonight. Woodstock Gardens when I was a kid had gone into total wilderness but for us at that time, it was a paradise to play in, cowboys and Indians, fox and hounds, hide and seek.”
He said the gardens are now being restored to their former glory and added: “It’s now my favourite place to visit and to walk. I’m so proud of our city and county, which makes this honour really extra special for me.”
Mayor of Kilkenny, Michael Doyle, is also from the Rower-Inistioge and nominated Eddie for the Freeman civic honour. He devoted some time during his speech to the long list of scores Eddie tallied up during his stellar career. To laughs from the congregation at Eddie’s prolific scoring, Mayor Doyle said: “A truly remarkable career with a championship scoring total of 35 goals and 336 points, with an overall scoring tally of 211 goals and 1,426 points with Kilkenny and leading scorer from 1963 to 1976.”
He added: “Eddie has also given something back to Kilkenny and to his local club, Eddie jointly coached Kilkenny to win the 1979 All-Ireland final and has coached numerous teams. Eddie and indeed his wife Kay are hugely active in the local community, Eddie also was co-founder of the No Name Club (in 1979) - which is now a fantastic nationwide club. Eddie Keher is a remarkable man that has given a great deal to Kilkenny on and off the field.” Eddie also sings in the Inistioge Church Choir and is a great golfer.
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