Tribute to popular Gael, who never lost his passion for his native area
THE sudden and untimely death of former Kildare hurler and county senior team manager of the Lilywhites, John Reidy, on August 16th came as a great shock to his family and numerous friends in that county and in his native Tipperary.
John, or Johnny as he was called by his multitude of friends, grew up in Rosemount, Carrigatoher, Nenagh, the eldest son of Pat and Emma Reidy's family of three boys and two girls.
Born on August 29th 1958, Johnny attended Burgess National School – the five-mile round walking trip to and from school proving to be a daily adventure for him, his siblings and any other children who happened to accompany them.
From a very young age Johnny was possessed with an adventurous streak. He would climb to the highest point of Chestnut trees to get the best conkers; engaged in water drinking competitions from jam jars against other children at the local spout; feasted on wild blackberries and peas that grew on the roadside brambles and was not averse to helping himself to an apple or two pilfered from the local orchard en route to school.
He engaged in all the usual chores of a young boy growing up in a farming family in the 1960s and 1970s - saving hay, thinning mangolds and turnips, picking potatoes, foddering livestock and cleaning out cattle sheds.
While in Sixth Class in national school Johnny got his first summer job in Ballywilliam Creamery, where his father worked for 44 years. The creamery was a hub of activity at the time and Johnny, as a budding character himself, got to know all the ways of the great wits and wise men of the parish. He saved all his wages to buy a big black Raleigh bike before heading in to Nenagh for his secondary school education in the Christian Brothers school.
Being the son of hard working parents and growing up close to nature, Johnny's upbringing gave him a great grounding for his future life. Yet, despite growing into a very tall man, he never lost the childhood wonderment he had for the magnificence of his native landscape, which, to the time of his death, kept calling him back. Like his father before him, he liked nothing better than setting off with his friends from boyhood and a pack of dogs, to hunt in the fields and mountains where he grew up.
After leaving school he did a business course in Limerick, but the staid and sober world of office work would never contain a man of such charisma and wit. Johnny's wonderful way with people was recognised by his fellow parishioner John Joe Slattery who asked him to work part time in his pub in Nenagh. Johnny's winning ways with people brought a new injection of life to the premises and John Joe often later recalled how custom dropped when his right hand man left for a new job in the local Chadwick's hardware store.
Johnny was also mad into sport and won hurling and football titles with his local club, Burgess. In 1971 he was part of an Under 13 squad that brought a first ever juvenile hurling title to Burgess. He was a member of the team that beat Kiladangan in a replay of the North Intermediate Hurling Final in 1976, though only 18 at the time.
Although he eventually left to work in the Chadwick's hardware branch in Naas, Johnny never lost his passion for his native area. He was a keen follower of his club and Tipperary hurlers and hardly ever missed an inter-county game involving the Premier County.
But Tipperary's loss was Kildare's gain. After moving to Clane, he was selected to play on the county senior hurling team, winning an All Ireland B title with the squad in 1989. He later went on to become manager of the team in 1994 and 1995 and he served as a county selector from 2006 to 2011.
One of his proudest moments was donning the Clane jersey with his son Paudie to win the Kildare County Intermediate Hurling Championship in 2001.
The timing of Johnny's sudden death in Naas Hospital, at just 60, could not have happened at a more poignant time, just two days before his beloved Tipperary won the All Ireland senior hurling final – a victory he would have rejoiced in.
The esteem in which he was held was underlined by the huge crowds – including the many who travelled from Tipperary to Kildare – for his funeral and the minute's silence observed in his memory prior to the recent All Ireland Under 20 hurling final.
He will also be remembered as a great family man who was closest of all to his nearest, and his dearest.
Among those surviving Johnny are his wife Catherine, a native of Clonoulty Rossmore. They met at a dance in the Premier Hall in Thurles and both of them remained loyal Tipperary people despite living in Kildare for almost 40 years.
John and Catherine had a truly marvellous marriage. They were always so united and unbelievably close. They were together every weekend, travelling to hurling matches to the Premier County and following the blue and gold jersey where ever a match was played. Indeed, their companionship, closeness and mutual respect and love were the epitome of true team work.
Johnny is also survived by son Paudie, daughter Emma, mother Emma, grandchildren Lauren-Beth, Claudine, Tess and Billy, brothers Paddy and Michael, sisters Josephine and Una, in-laws and a host of other relatives and many friends.