GAA Museum Hall of Fame - Eddie Keher
By Cian O’Connell
Eddie Keher’s career was packed with scores and silverware.
The Rower-Inistioge clubman earned six All Ireland medals, 10 Leinster titles, three National Hurling Leagues, and five All Stars for his exploits in the black and amber.
Born in 1941, Keher’s arrival into the Kilkenny senior set-up was an interesting time for the striped outfit.
“County success was fantastic,” Keher admitted in an interview with the GAA Oral History project. “I got on the senior team in 1959 after been beaten in the final of the minor. It was a huge honour for me to get to play for the Kilkenny senior team.
“We didn't have any success really, we won a League in '62, but Wexford were the strong team in Leinster at that time.
“We didn't get into the All Ireland until 1963, but to win the first All Ireland Senior Championship that year was fantastic. Fr Tom Murphy, also from the same parish, was on the same team. It was great when you win that.”
Keher, though, didn’t forget his roots and delighted in the Rower-Inistioge’s rise. “Then you start thinking that your own colleagues on your club team would have the same success.
"Fortunately we won the county final then in 1968, that was absolutely phenomenal.
“All the lads that had played from Under 14 up were there winning a county title and following that four of us were on the county senior team in 1969 and I was very fortunate to be appointed captain by the club. So four of us from this parish won All Ireland medals in 1969.”
Growing up hurling occupied a central role in Keher’s life. “You had people in the village interested in the GAA, hurling in particular,” Keher recalls.
“We were encouraged to learn how to play hurling on the square in Inistioge, later in the school with our schoolteacher, and then with the primary school team which comprised of the Rower and Inistioge. You sort of found yourself involved in the GAA, through playing the games initially.
“That sort of followed on. I went to St Kieran's College and got involved there, enjoyed the games. I got on the minor team and the county team. The people that went before you laid the path for you to get involved.
“This parish hadn't a huge tradition early on for being successful in hurling, particularly. I recall the people that went before me, the great celebration when a team from the Rower-Inistioge won the Under 14 Championship in 1948.
“We then had success at Under 14 level in our time, we won in '52 and '55. It was a Junior hurling team in the parish at the time, we won the Junior, and went on to win the Senior.
“During all of that time there had been great success at underage level. Camogie has made great strides, with representatives from here being represented on the county team.”
At inter-county level Keher relished the tests that were provided by Wexford and Tipperary during his playing career.
“In my time Wexford certainly in Leinster,” Keher responded when asked about the rivalries that exist. “There was always strong rivalry because we are bordering Wexford, particularly on the Rower side, you are right across the river. There was always huge rivalry.
“On the other part of the county the rivalry was against Tipp and that is even more bitter up there. We had awful battles against Tipp in the 60s and they always seemed to beat us, but we did beat them in 1967. Tipp and Wexford were the main big competitors at that time.”
Despite the battles, lasting friendships were still formed, and that mattered deeply to Keher. “You make friends with your foes, people you belted off from Tipperary, Wexford, and Cork and all of those,” Keher admitted.
“Friends outside your own parish. You make friends nationwide and also internationally when you go on the trips abroad.
"It gives you confidence, when you are young growing up there is a lot of pressure on and being involved with the GAA helps young people to train to be confident, to work together as a team, to look at what is best in life rather than what is worst in life. Confidence builds there.”