YESTERDAY, the parish of Kilbrittain came out to pay its socially-distanced respects to the late Pat Deasy, who died earlier this week after a short illness.
While he was a native of Rossmore and was a ‘blow-in’ to Kilbrittain in the early 1970s when he took up a posting at Baurleigh NS, he embedded himself into the fabric of the place, primarily through its GAA activities.
During the 1980s, Baurleigh and two other rural schools, Burren and Ratharoon, were closed and merged with Kilbrittain NS in the village. Pat, the Baurleigh headmaster, was to become principal of the new entity – ‘Master Deasy’ was how he was known to the youth of the parish – and as well as leading in a firm but fair manner. He helped to oversee the move to the newly constructed school in 1995 and, on the sporting front, he guided numerous hurling teams to Sciath na Scol glory.
My own experience of this came in 1997 when, having finished second to Dungourney in the round-robin section, losing heavily to the East Cork school, we beat them by 2-1 to 0-1 in Páirc Uí Rinn. Our star man in the final was David Desmond, who was as comfortable in goal as he was outfield, but Pat banked on him doing the business up front – which he did – while Mark Hayes was a reliable presence between the sticks.
That wasn’t Kilbrittain’s first victory under Pat and it wouldn’t be his last, with consecutive titles claimed in 2005 and 2006 and a camogie title in 2008 prior to his retirement a year later.
As a teacher, he didn’t suffer fools but he wasn’t strict for the sake of strictness and was okay with the sports page of his daily newspaper being thumbed through at lunchtime. That said, an early brush with authority ensured that I didn’t step out of line too much.
In senior infants, I was involved in some gang warfare and after a fight with a rival group, we were sent to the Master. I’m not even sure if his green metre stick even grazed any of our backsides, but the gang members did resolve to clean up our ways.
The generous side to his character was shown when I was in sixth.
We were a national runner-up and the volume of boxes of crisps that made up the prize was way too much for a five-teacher school.
Pat put a box aside for each classroom and sold the rest to the local shop, giving me the cash as a reward – I bought a pair of Uhlsport gloves with my windfall. I like to think I paid him back in 2014 as, along with Martin Ryves, we came second in the Kilbrittain GAA golf classic.
Retirement allowed his growing love of golf to flourish – while his swing might never be taught as a model to follow, he could get the ball around efficiently. Victory in Kilbrittain Golf Society's President’s Prize in 2011 - during the presidency of my father Jim, a friend of Pat's - was testament to that.
The GAA club remained just as strong a focal point too, however. Having transferred from Kilmeen, he played hurling and football for Kilbrittain and was part of the panel that reached the 1984 county JAHC final as well as picking up two West Cork junior D football medals.
He continued to play at lower grades into his 40s, while his off-the-field service was stellar. Having been assistant secretary in 1983, he stepped up to secretary for 1984 and 1985 and then in 1987, he became the first secretary of the new under-age section, holding that role until 1992. From 1997-2003, he was club registrar, while he also held down various managerial and selectorial roles, including with the side that won the county minor A hurling league for 1999.
He returned to administrative work as cultural officer in 2018 and 2019 and was elected chairman for 2020, with the club having moved into its new grounds at Clashavanna – Pat’s kitchen window overlooked the site.
Unfortunately, he was prevented from seeing out his term but all who encountered him will remember him fondly. He is survived by his wife Phil and children Clíona, Cathal, Róisín, Siobhán and Pauraic, brothers Noel, John and Bertie, sisters Mary and Eleanor, daughter-in-law Méabh, son-in-law Pádraic and grandchildren Charlotte, Caoilainn, Darragh, Odhran and Daithí.