Offaly football manager Liam Kearns has died suddenly, aged 61

Offaly manager Liam Kearns has passed away

Colm Keys

The sudden death of current Offaly manager Liam Kearns has shocked the GAA world. He was 61 years of age.

Kearns, Limerick-based but originally from Kerry with whom he won an All-Ireland minor title in 1980, has been one of the highest profile football managers over the last two decades, having taken charge of Limerick, Laois and Tipperary before replacing John Maughan in Offaly last autumn.

A popular figure at inter-county level, it was with Limerick and Tipperary that he made his biggest impacts and he constantly strove to challenge the old order in Munster.

A retired Garda by occupation, he made his mark as a manager initially with Garda College. He was a gym instructor in Templemore and took charge of the football team, guiding them to back-to-back Trench Cup successes before they lost a Sigerson Cup final to UCD in 1996.

He then graduated to manage a Limerick U-21 team to an All-Ireland final which they lost to Mickey Harte's Tyrone team that was the bedrock for their future All-Ireland senior successes in the decade that followed.

Many of those Limerick players, under Kearns' direction, developed into Kerry's most formidable opposition in the 2000s when they contested Munster senior finals in 2003 and 2004, taking Kerry to a replay in 2004, the most difficult games Jack O'Connor's team had as they cruised to All-Ireland success.

When he left Limerick in 2005 he was in demand and replaced Mick O'Dwyer in Laois, taking charge for two years (2007-2008) that included a Leinster final defeat to Dublin in 2007.

He then managed Aherlow to a Tipperary senior title in 2010 and also went back studying after retiring as a Garda, completing a fitness-related degree with Setanta College.

For a period he was helping out John Evans in Roscommon and was among the contenders to take over prior to Kevin McStay's appointment there

But an opportunity then opened up to take over Tipperary and in his first year, without Steven O'Brien who had committed to the hurlers and Colin O'Riordan who had taken up an AFL contract, he guided them to an All-Ireland semi-final which they lost to Mayo after beating Galway in an All-Ireland quarter-final.

They had also beaten Cork in a Munster semi-final that year, a feat he also achieved as Limerick manager in the 2003 Munster Championship, one of Larry Tompkins' last games in charge.

Kearns remained with Tipperary for four years and was a contender for the Galway job when Padraic Joyce was appointed in 2019.

He was originally associated with the Austin Stacks club in Tralee and played 10 league games for Kerry after winning that All-Ireland minor medal in 1980, half-forward on a team that featured future All-Ireland winning captain Ambrose O'Donovan.

In a statement confirming the news Offaly GAA said it is "devastated to learn of the sudden passing this evening of our senior football manager, Liam Kearns. In his short period of time as manager of the senior footballers, Liam made a hugely positive impact and he was extremely well respected by everyone associated with Offaly GAA. Offaly GAA extend deepest sympathies to his wife Angela and daughters Rachel & Laura. May he rest in peace."

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