By Sean Moriarty
A wave of sadness swept across the town today (Thursday) with the news of the passing of bona-fida town legend Donie Sheahan at the age of 95.
There isn’t one aspect of town life that doesn’t have Donie’s influence on it. Best known as one of the town’s leading pharmacists, he was also embedded in the history of Dr Crokes GAA Club and Killarney Racecourse.
Donie had many claims to fame; he was born on the same day as Queen Elizabeth of England, April 21, 1926, was the winner of a County Championship medal with Dr Crokes in 1951, as a coach he led East Kerry to an All-Ireland club title in 1971 before joining Micko Dwyer’s backroom team during the Golden Years of Kerry football in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and was a successful racehorse trainer and owner. He was also a key figure behind the development of Fitzgerald Stadium.
He has been described by the business community as a “larger-than-life personality” who contributed enormously to the commercial life of the town where he ran a very busy pharmacy at 34 Main Street since 1953.
“Above everything else, Donie Sheahan was a true gentleman, a warm personality and a great wit and so many people loved meeting him on his travels. He will be greatly missed,” Killarney Chamber of Tourism and Commerce President, Niall Kelleher, said. “Sheahan’s Pharmacy is a real landmark in Killarney and Donie was always a welcoming presence behind the counter where his experience and expertise helped many people in so many ways for close on 70 years. His son Liam, and grandson William, are still providing that wonderful service to the local people and to visitors, and our thoughts are very much with the extended Sheahan family at this sad time.”
Donie’s Killarney life began when he was appointed the pharmacist for the Killarney District Hospital and St Columbanus’ Home in 1950s. From then on he played a leading role in the commercial development and sporting excellence of the town.
Officials from his beloved Dr Crokes described him as a giant of a man whose words of wisdom will be missed by all associated with the black and amber. Only last Sunday, days before his passing, he placed a call to club chairman Matt O’Neill to get the weekend results.
Donie was the most recent Club Patron, the highest office bestowed upon a member of the club, but served in several key roles within the club, including over 20 years as chairman.
“Our condolences are extended to the entire Sheahan family,” Mr O’Neill told the Killarney Advertiser. “His proudest moment was the club winning the 1992 All-Ireland, he never thought he would see the day. He was involved in every aspect of the club and never missed an AGM. It was never a proper AGM without Donie’s input and wise words. He had a huge presence around the club, a giant of man and he will be sorely missed.”
Donie, from Main Street and Lewis Road, will be missed at racecourses all over Ireland, particularly at his two home venues, Ross Road and Listowel.
“He was also famous for his involvement in horse racing and he enjoyed nothing more than when the racehorses he owned competed in Killarney or in his native Listowel, often with great success,” added Mr Kelleher.
Killarney Racecourse Manager Phillip O’Brien said he was an internal part of the racing scene, not just in Kerry, but all over Ireland and beyond.
“Since I was a boy Donie was part of the racing scene,” he said. “Everyone knew him, even young jockeys, 17 or 18-years-old had huge respect for him. Some days I used to go up town for lunch and he would drag me into the back kitchen of the pharmacy and we would sit there and watch the racing and have a sandwich. It’s a sad day and he will be missed.”
This time last year Donie was unable to attend the annual Listowel Harvest Racing Festival in the town of his birth due to COVID-19 travel and crowd gathering rules – the first time that he missed the meeting in over 80 years.
Two of Donie’s most-famous horses were ‘Dromhall Lady’ and ‘For William’. The latter finished second on two occasions in the Kerry National Handicap Chase, the biggest race of the annual Listowel Harvest Festival.
Donie passed away the day after the 2021 Kerry National took place.
Family and close friends will gather at O’Shea’s Funeral Home tomorrow evening (Friday) from 6pm to 8pm.
Donie’s Funeral Mass will take place in St Mary’s Cathedral on Saturday morning at 10.30am, followed by burial in Aghadoe Lawn Cemetery. The Requiem Mass will be live streamed on www.churchservices.tv/killarneycathedral.
Donie was predeceased by his beloved wife Carmel (née Dowling), and his sisters Sheila and Maureen and his brother Tommie.
He is survived by children, Liam, Kieran, Aileen, Kathryn and Paul, grandchildren Ciara, Dónal, William, Kevin, Fionán, Gráinne, Peter, Cathal, Caitríona, Eoin, Sinéad, Amy, Clodagh, Megan and Andrew, and great-grandchildren Amelia, Evie, Will, Daniel, James, Lyla and Eleanor. He is also sadly missed by his daughters-in-law Siobhán, Janet and Louise, son-in-law Seán, his sisters Catherine, Margaret and Anna, nieces, nephews, relatives, neighbours and his pharmacy staff and colleagues.