The anti-Ozymandias

In his history of the first 100 years of the GAA, the late Marcus de Búrca had only one thing of note to say about Tramore and its place in GAA lore: Tramore had the honour of staging the first national championship. It’s no disrespect to the people beavering away with Mícheal MacCraith that that’s about the limit of Tramore’s place in overarching history of the GAA. In fact, I was so complacent about Tramore not turning up anywhere important in the GAA’s story that I almost missed the significance of a line on the second last page of The Unconquerable Keane where David Smith mentions  John Keane’s final resting place “overlooking the broad sands of Tramore”. Could it be possible that I have been paying my respects at my family plot all these years, unaware of the giant of the game so close by? I took the five minute stroll to the graveyard and after a systematic search found this:

And there he was. Where were the cherubim and seraphim? The Ionic columns? The pompous acclamation of the man of whom Mick Mackey said “there never was, nor never will be, a greater hurler”? The sheer modesty of the headstone was in itself moving. This was the spot where the following exchange took place on the 4th of October 1975:

Pat Fanning noticed a lone figure still standing at the graveside. He was a giant of a man but his head was bowed and his great frame was racked with tears as he struggled to control his emotions. Pat recognised the great Nicky Rackard and, approaching him, told him of the reception and that he was welcome to join the other hurlers. Rackard, his face streaked with tears, declined the invitation and said, ‘Pat, I came to bury John Keane, and all I want to do now is go home.’

It seems a shame that not enough is made of this location. Then again, that would run counter to the minimalist nature of the final resting place of John Keane.

One final personal observation. Speaking of this discovery to my father I mischievously noted that it was strange that my grandmother, who had a seam running through her consisting of pure antipathy towards Mount Sion, would thirty-three years later consent to be interred in the same ground as their greatest legend. “Sure, she liked him,” said my father. Truly a man like none other.

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