Shane Kearney: A community prays for wounded soldier known as a ‘tidy hurler’ and diligent student

Hundreds of people throng St John the Baptist’s church in Killeagh to show their support and solidarity with Trooper Kearney’s family

The photograph of the smiling young man in uniform that greeted those attending the prayer service for Trooper Shane Kearney in his home village in Killeagh, east Cork, spoke volumes about the young man who suddenly had become the focus of such hope and goodwill. Standing against a backdrop of a sand-coloured courtyard, the young man dressed in his Army fatigues looked confident and proud with his blue UN beret tilted on his head as he smiled out at the world from the photo in a happier time and place.

Trooper Kearney (22) joined the Defence Forces in October 2018 after completing his Leaving Certificate at St Colman’s Community College in Midleton, and he was posted to the 1st Cavalry Squadron based in Collins Barracks in Cork.

He departed for the Lebanon in November as part of the 121st Battalion on what was his second peacekeeping tour having previously been part of the 117th Battalion which completed a tour of duty from November 2020 to May 2021 in the troubled Middle Eastern country.

Local Parish Priest, Fr Tim Hazelwood knows Trooper Kearney and his family well, and said the news that he was in a critical condition in Lebanon following an attack which claimed the life of his comrade Pte Sean Rooney had left the closely-knit community in a state of shock.


“Shane and his family would be well known and well respected – Shane played with the junior hurlers, he’s a tidy hurler and his father, Paudie is a well-known referee. What we heard is he was coming home for a family funeral, and they were on their way to Beirut airport when this happened.”

Fr Hazelwood was instrumental in organising Thursday night’s prayer service when hundreds of people thronged St John the Baptist’s church in Killeagh to show their support and solidarity with Trooper Kearney’s parents Paudie and Phil and his younger sister Aimee.

Local Fine Gael councillor Micheal Hegarty from nearby Ladysbridge described the Kearney family as “salt of the earth, decent people”, and said the news “came like a bolt out of the blue for everyone here in east Cork, and our thoughts and prayers are with the Kearney family”.

Trooper Kearney attended St Colman’s College secondary school in Midleton, where retired deputy principal Goretti Fitzgerald on Thursday night remembered him as a popular and diligent student who excelled with the school’s hurling team, helping them to win some college titles.

“I remember Shane well as a student – hurling was his thing, but he was an absolutely lovely guy, diligent, always did his best, best foot forward, a great student – a very kind, considerate, caring type of guy who got on fabulously well with his classmates and with staff.

“His sister, Aimee was with us too – she’s younger than Shane but the family were always very supportive of them in school – he was very proud of his own achievements – we’re thinking of him and praying for him and his family, and obviously we hope he will make a full recovery.”

A family friend of the Kearney family said the Defence Forces had been very supportive since the family received a phone call at 4am to tell them of the tragedy, but the fact that they were several thousand kilometres away made it all the more difficult for them. “If this happened here in Cork you could imagine the family would be at Shane’s bedside up at Cork University Hospital – the Army, who have been brilliant, but it still makes it that much harder that they can’t be at his bedside at this difficult time,” said the friend.

“The Kearneys are a very close family and they have asked people to pray for Shane, but they also have the family of Sean Rooney from Donegal in their own thoughts and prayers – they are very conscious that another family is grieving having lost their son,” she added.

Trooper Kearney played junior hurling with Killeagh GAA earlier this year, lining out with the club in the league, having played championship in 2021. Club chairman Ger Scully described him as “a dedicated club man who just loved hurling and would fill in wherever he was needed”.

“He’s always down the field when he’s around asking people how they are getting on, and he would always have a hurley in his hand so he’s very steeped in hurling and a really skilful hurler – everyone is in shock and numb really, and we’re just hoping and praying all goes well for him.”

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times