The steadfast support of Clann na nGael GAA Club and the GAA community in general has been lauded this week, following the death of well-known referee Morgan Keena.
Morgan, who turned 41 on Wednesday, February 5th, suffered cardiac arrest on Saturday, February 8th, minutes before he was due to take charge of his first intercounty match — an U-17 challenge between Roscommon and Dublin in Johnstown.
His tragic passing two weeks later saw the GAA fraternity in Roscommon and further afield unite to show their solidarity with the Keena family, culminating in the popular referee’s removal from the Clann na nGael GAA clubhouse in Johnstown to his Funeral Mass and burial in Drum.
“We’ll be forever indebted to the GAA community, but particularly to Clann na nGael. Our family will never forget what the club did for us,” Mike Keena, Morgan’s brother, told the Herald.
“There are many different organisations up and down the country, and all over the world, but there’s no bigger family than the GAA family,” he continued.
Mike was wholesome in his praise for the Roscommon and Dublin medical staff who attended to Morgan on the day he fell ill. He was also keen to highlight the importance of Automated External Defibrillators (AED) at GAA grounds, emphasising that clubs should regularly check them to ensure they are working properly.
“It’s general practice in Clann na nGael that the AED at the ground is checked every couple of weeks. Everything around Johnstown is geared towards safety.
“You think it will never happen but when it does, it’s crucial that the AED is in proper working order. It could end up saving someone’s life. In Morgan’s case, it didn’t, but it did gave us that extra two weeks to spend with him before he died. If it had happened anywhere else, that would have been the end of the road there and then,” he explained.
Mike went on to express his appreciation to Aiden Brien, Dermot Kelly, P. Brien and the Clann na nGael executive who “went above and beyond the call of duty” during Morgan’s brief illness and subsequent passing.
“Morgan loved Clann na nGael. He represented the club as a player, and even though he lived in Westmeath he was a Clann na nGael referee.
“He refereed last year’s intermediate final championship replay between Oran and Tulsk — the first match in the county to be decided by penalties.
“He wanted to get to the next level, and he was really looking forward to his first intercounty match. The irony is that it was in Johnstown, and what subsequently happened there.
“He was never one for the limelight but he would have been extremely proud of the way Clann na nGael rallied around the family. Our mother Maura will always be indebted to the club for the sensitive and dignified way they handled things.
“Just knowing that your own club will always be there for you. From the car parking stewards to the ladies who made the tea, coffee and refreshments, to the way the dressing rooms were reserved for the family on the day of the removal, the whole set-up was incredible. It was obvious that the club had put a lot of thought into it,” felt Mike.
Mike recalled a number of stories over the past couple of weeks, highlighting the strength of the GAA family in the face of adversity.
“I remember how Clann na nGael senior manager Liam Kearns and his players came in, as a group, to pay their respects to Morgan during the removal. Roscommon manager Anthony Cunningham and some of the county players called in on their way back from Newbridge, as did people like Pat Compton, David O’Connor, Brian Carroll, Valerie Murray, Seamus Sweeney and other officers from Roscommon County Board.
“I recall seeing former Clann manager and Dublin player Paul Curran and Westmeath County Board Chairman Tom Farrell. Some of the Roscommon U-17 footballers and their parents came, as did Dublin U-17 manager Ger Lyons and his selectors.
“We had a special rosary for Morgan in Drum Church over nine nights. The community came out in force to support us.
“Referees from all over the county joined us, as far away as Ballyfarnon. Haulie Beirne and his committee did so much for us. They formed a Guard of Honour, as did Clann na nGael.
“The grave diggers were all club members. Cornafulla NS formed a Guard of Honour as Morgan’s remains passed on his way to Drum Church on Monday morning. The whole community rowed in behind us.
“I really think that Morgan’s passing touched everyone, and I’d say every club in the county was represented at some stage.
“Everyone went out of their way to help us and we can’t thank them enough. Knowing that support is there for us will be some source of comfort in the difficult days, weeks and months ahead,” concluded Mike.