By Denis J. Croke
THERE was acute shock across the GAA in Laois, and further afield, when news broke on Sunday evening that current Offaly football manager, and former Laois manager, Liam Kearns had died suddenly.
Kearns (60) was appointed Laois manager back in September 2006, taking over from Mick O’Dwyer.
A retired garda, Kearns led Laois to both the O’Byrne Cup and Leinster SFC finals in his first season as manager, but Dublin proved to be Laois’s nemesis on both occasions.
Wins over Kildare, Louth and Offaly sent them to the O’Byrne Cup final where they ran Dublin to just two points. Later in the summer Laois got the better of Longford and Wexford to advance to a Leinster final meeting with Dublin, but again the Sky Blues prevailed, this time with two goals to spare. That year Laois also preserved their National Football League Division 1 status.
Unfortunately for Kearns and Laois were not as impressive in 2008, their cause not helped by the departure of some of the panels more senior players.
Despite these setbacks, Laois made it to the final of the O’Byrne Cup Shield. The final against Kildare was postponed due to a bereavement in the Kildare camp and it was decided that the National Football League game between the pair would decide the destination of the shield.
But the league proved a great disappointment for both these counties. Kildare beat Laois, their only win in the campaign. Laois failed to win a game and both were relegated.
In the Leinster championship Laois got the better of Wicklow who were now managed by Micko. However, Wexford beat Laois by six points in the provincial semi-final, and they were to exit the All-Ireland qualifiers when losing out to Down, a result that effectively ended Kearns term as Laois boss.
The Tralee-born man was appointed Offaly manager on a three-year term last August. He had previously managed Limerick and Tipperary. During his six years with Limerick, he led them to the 2003 and ’04 Munster finals earning a replay against Kerry in the ’04 decider. He also guided Limerick’s U/21s to back-to-back Munster titles and an All-Ireland final appearance.
Although he never played a senior championship for Kerry, he played 10 times for the Kingdom in the National League. He won an All-Ireland minor medal in 1980 when he scored 7-12 in the six-game campaign.