THE region of Duhallow lost one of its great sporting personalities with the recent sad passing of Bill O'Keeffe.
The Boherbue native held many legacies to his life, serving GAA, handball, rugby, soccer and athletics with distinction as a player, referee, coach, administrator, volunteer and supporter.
Boherbue and Duhallow GAA, Boherbue Handball, Kanturk Rugby, Millstreet Athletic Club and the Killarney branch of the Manchester United Supporters Club availed of his energy and infectious enthusiasm.
Boherbue GAA Chairperson Eileen Casey O’Connor spoke of a fantastic character within the community and that epitomized the qualities of a true GAA member.
“Bill fulfilled many roles within our club and was a prominent referee within Duhallow and Cork County for many years.
"He was our friend and loyal supporter, a valued member and lifelong supporter, he will be missed in and around the village and club,” she said.
One of the most respected referees in the business, its fair to say that when a referee does his job correctly, he goes unnoticed.
That cliché applied to Bill on earning respect from opposing teams, leaving the proceedings flow much to the satisfaction of teams and spectators across Duhallow and the county.
Duhallow Board Chairman and fellow Boherbue clubman Steven Lynch confirmed a fantastic individual within the community and the exceptional qualities of a true GAA member.
“Bill O'Keeffe was a unique and popular character within Duhallow, a great sportsman and gentleman.
"He was a prominent referee within the division, progressing to referee many County Championship games also, serving as Chairman of our Referees' Committee, readily available to give advice at all times,” he said.
The epitome of safe hands, goalkeeper Bill emerged key to Boherbue bridging a 37 year barren run to regain a hold of the Duhallow JAFC in 1972 on defeating reigning champions Ballydesmond in the decider.
And Bill related of honing his own skills on the great Alex Stepney who made 539 appearances for Manchester United and was part of Sir Matt Busby’s European Cup-winning side from 1968.
“Alex was an idol of mine, he became a legend and a heroic figure, his reflex save from Eusebio stands out on denying Benfica a dramatic late winner at Wembley where in extra time, United took over to win 4-1 and become European kingpins,” he said.
A Red Devils fanatic, Bill served as Chairman to the Killarney Branch of the Manchester United Supporters Club up to the time of his passing.
PRO Gerard Linehan spoke of Bill's passionate interest about United and tears of joy on yielding success over the years.
“Bill held the position of Supporters Club Chairman for close on 25 years, a large percentage of our membership is drawn from Duhallow, North and Mid Cork.
"One of his greatest thrills was bringing former United star Roy Keane to the club and to Boherbue to perform the official opening of the old restaurant at Boherbue Co-Op where Roy enjoyed his visit and hung around for autograph seekers,” said Gerald.
“At the end of each season, we voted on the Supporters Club Player of the Year and Bill had the privilege of presenting the Award to players such as Peter Schmeichel, David Beckham, Steve Bruce and others.
"United have returned a message of condolence, the club intending to acknowledge Bill's contribution in a match programme,” he said.
And with Kanturk rugby, O’Keeffe emerged a warrior in the finest sense of the word, always true to his colours, the club stalwart delivered 110% whether on the field or in a coaching capacity.
“Bill was an ever present player in the front row of the first team from the mid 70's to the late 80's captaining the club in season's 79-80 and 80-81.
"In finishing his playing career, he coached the second team during which they won the McCarthy Cup, throughout his time, he worked tirelessly to develop Kanturk RFC and in later years was an ardent club supporter,” said a club statement.
Travelling far and wide from Croke Park, Lansdowne Road to Old Trafford in support of his favourite sporting teams, Bill will be missed by many, none more so than his wife Rinnie and family to whom sympathy is extended.
Ní bheidh a leithéid eile ann.