FAIRWELL MISTER JOHN LOCKES; We are certainly in extremely strange times and with this life has changed beyond anything we could ever imagine. Social events are gone for all of use as are family gatherings. But the saddest part of all is that people are passing from this life and the traditional funeral has changed also. No hand shaking or a gentle hug for those that are mourning. But in the face of adversity those that have made the biggest impression will always be honoured and given a memorable send off. On Sunday last with beautiful blue skies above us, Davy (David) Kelly made his final journey to Kilbride cemetery to placed beside his beloved wife Bridie who sadly passed at a young age in 2001. Bridie and Davy were soul mates and went everywhere together. Their great passion was hurling and watching John Lockes and Kilkenny. When Bridie passed away part of that passion disappeared for Davy until he immersed himself in ‘The Lockes again. Davy and Bridie were never blessed with a family of their own, but when Davy became involved in club activities again in the past near 20 years, Davy gained a warm loving family amongst the John Lockes and in that time saw his John Locke family grow and grow from small numbers to over 500 today. Davy was ‘Mister John Lockes’, he loved everything about the club, the players, John Locke Park and most especially ‘his’ club house, because it was Davy’s club house, he moulded it. He helped to build it, he took care of it, he cleaned it, washed it, marshalled it like a Sergeant Major on match days. If you didn’t have a pass to the dressing rooms, you didn’t get passed Davy no matter who or what you were. He did everything in the gentlest quiet way, without offending, but it was always understood who the boss was. Everyone loved Davy in the club, and he knew all the boys and girls names, from the Under 6’s all the way to the Intermediate and Junior ‘B’ teams, Davy was their friend. He delighted in seeing both pitches and the Astroturf full of children playing hurling and Gaelic football and when summertime came, Davy would spend from early morning to late in the evening working around the grounds and club house. He loved nothing more than stopping to chat about how each of the teams in John Lockes were getting on, or how his beloved Kilkenny were doing. There was devilment and a great sense of fun in that cheeky grin he flashed. But there wasn’t a bad bone in his body and he never spoke ill of anyone and even if there were troubled waters, he always remained diplomatic in adversity. He was a proud Callan man, with the blue and saffron of John Lockes coursing through his veins. He was never happier than when he was in the thick of the action in John Locke Park. As a youngster he played underage hurling with John Lockes and was a nifty corner forward in his day. He won medals at U-16 and Minor level and was corner forward when the Lockes were unfortunately beaten by James Stephens in the Minor County Final in 1968. He also played corner forward on the Callan CBS team that won the Leinster U-17 College’s title the same year. When his playing career was over Davy served as a club official for several years in the 1970s, as both Assistant Secretary and Secretary. He was also a selector on many U-16 and Minor teams down through the years and was incredibly proud to have been part of the management team when Callan won the Minor B Championship in 1997, that team consisted of lads like John O’Neill, John Paul Corcoran, Michael Dunne, Joey Gormley who were then all part of the 1999 John Lockes County Intermediate Champions and that same year O’Neill and Corcoran won All-Ireland titles with Kilkenny and then in 2000 Corcoran was part of the Kilkenny All-Ireland winning squad. Davy was fiercely proud of all those lads whom he was involved with at underage. Davy’s commitment to the club was unwavering, and in more recent years, he took on the role of Caretaker of the Park, a role which he carried out diligently and with immense pride. The Lockes would not have the fantastic facilities and pitches we have today, were it not for the dedication and work put in by Davy. The Club have been very lucky in recent years to play host to many big local and national fixtures, and every single team that visits complements John Lockes on the warm welcome they receive, the condition of the pitches and the great facilities on offer. And behind it all, proudly watching proceedings from his quiet vantage point each day, was the great, yet incredibly humble Davy Kelly never seeking the limelight. In his eulogy, Club Chairman, Sean Hogan quoted the man himself when he told those gathered that after working hard to prepare for such events, Davy would proudly say “Everything is in order, we are ready to go”. And if Davy said everything was in order, there was absolutely no doubt, we were ready to go. Davy also had a passion for Laois football and that came about through his cousin Mary Munnelly from Arles in County Laois. One of her sons Ross has starred for Laois since the early part of this century. Ironically Arles is the same parish that the late great Brother Damien Brenna came from. Ross Spoke about what they called him in household ‘Big Davy Kelly’ and that he was a regular visitor to their part of the country. He told how he would travel the night before a big game to Dublin and meet up with the Mullenney’s in Dublin on the Sunday morning for a few pints before going to Croke Park for the game. Ross said the family were humbled by the numbers who came in support from the John Lockes and general community and in all the times Davy visited Arles he never let on how involved he was in the John Lockes, that was Davy, just a humble man.
The current Covid-19 outbreak, has meant that funerals as we all know them are a thing of the past for now and although Davy probably would have preferred no fuss, it was very unfortunate that a man who gave so much to his club and local community could not get the type of send of he truly deserved. However, the phrase ‘come together, by staying apart’, was never as poignant, as it was on Sunday morning, when players, mentors and club officials stood metres apart while lining the streets as Davy was brought from the funeral parlour to the parish church, or as club members and friends stood at their cars to say their quiet goodbye to their dear friend as he made his way to Kilbride. Sadly because of the Covid-19 virus young children were not allowed to join in the guards of honour, but it was such an emotional scene to see children with their families wearing their Lockes club gear lined along the route to Kilbride. In what was an incredibly fitting tribute to the man, the funeral cortege made it’s way, flanked by his John Lockes family adorned in the blue and saffron, one last time through the gates of John Locke Park, pausing briefly to overlook the immaculately manicured field, that Davy tended with such love and pride for many years. An empty chair at the entrance to the club house reminded everyone of the first man to welcome you to the Park on so many occasions over the years. I think for a long time to come we will all see Davy at that door when we drive into the car park, or his silhouette through the upstairs window, or standing at the back gate letting visiting teams into the dressing rooms, overseeing events at the top of the steps under the score board, smoking his cigarette and boy he loved the fags, at the top of the steps by the AstroTurf, sweeping out the dressing rooms, or out checking or lining the fields along with Kieran Lanigan who gives a lot of time to the Park. Young or old, Davy made it his business to get to know everyone, and always had time for a kind word. He knew every team’s fixtures, sometimes before they did, and was always able to give a review of how various games went and who played well. Born and bred John Lockes, newcomer to the club, young or old, rich or poor, Davy treated everyone as an equal. In the words of Club Chairperson Sean Hogan, “A true and trusted friend. A true gentleman”.