The death of Paddy Kerrigan on Saturday was greeted with sadness in both his native Rhode and Walsh Island where he achieved legendary status as trainer of arguably the greatest club football team Offaly GAA has ever seen.
The nonagenarian trained Walsh Island to a record six-in-a-row of Dowling Cups between 1978 and ’83, along with back-to-back Leinster club titles in 1978 and ’79, and an All-Ireland Sevens title in 1981. Backboned by the famous Connor and O’Connor families, the Island were untouchable during this golden era for the club and much of this was down to Paddy who trained the team with the late PJ Mahon. At a time when ‘outside’ trainers and managers were few and far between in the GAA, Paddy endeared himself to everyone in Walsh Island and became part of the club’s very fabric.
As a player, he won Offaly SFC medals with Rhode in 1955 and ’58, and also lined out at corner forward for the Faithful County in a Leinster SFC defeat to Wexford in 1953.
After his playing career ended, Paddy – or ‘Pilot’ as he was affectionately known – began training underage teams in Rhode. These teams included future stars such as Paddy McCormack, Eugene Mulligan, Jody Gunning, Johnny Mooney and the Darbys, Seamus and Stephen. He went on to train Rhode to SFC successes in 1966, '67, '69 and ’75 before achieving an unprecedented success with Walsh Island. In the 1978 and ’79 SFC finals, Paddy found himself in opposition to his sons Benny and Martin, who lined out for Rhode. Paddy came out on top on both occasions and also denied his home club in the 1982 decider.
In Memory of Paddy " the Pilot " Kerrigan 💚💛 pic.twitter.com/SfKYK26KVE— Rhode GAA (@RhodeGAA) September 5, 2022