GAA community mourns legend

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KIERAN McGurk made national headlines in 1981 when he grabbed a late winning goal against a high flying Kerry side in Killorglan, a victory which secured the county’s division one status.

The Kildress native was to improve dramatically throughout his career and was one of the county’s best players for over a decade. He became known as a spot kick specialist and it is believed that he converted around 30 penalty kicks in a row whilst playing in an Armagh jersey.

Living in Craigavon in his early years, Kieran wore his first GAA jersey in the colours of Éire Óg.

He told the ‘MAIL’ in the past that it was Sarsfields man Harry Gormley who encouraged him to pull on the hoops jersey.

Over the past number of years Kieran had been spending time with his family and, in particular his wife Geraldine, who had been going through a period of illness.

At Clann Éireann, the former Armagh player, in a management role, brought a Second Division title and an Intermediate Championship to the Shore Road club.

But one of his biggest achievements was to follow when, along with his former playing colleagues Sean McGeown and Eamon Murray, he won Division Three and Division Two titles in consecutive years.

Following this, he oversaw the ‘Trasna club’s consolidation in the top flight of Armagh football.

Outside GAA circles, Kieran was a talented all round sportsman and played Mid-Ulster League soccer. He was a keen golfer, his prowess on the pool table and indeed throwing darts were all well noted.

Back in his county days, Kieran lined out alongside Brian McAlinden, Neil Smyth, Martin McQuillan, Jim McKerr, the Grimleys, Paul, Mark and John, and Gerard Houlahan whose father Joe also passed away this week.

Armagh reached the National League final back in 1994, which they lost to Meath. During that season Kieran played alongside new recruits such as Diarmaid Marsden and Barry O’Hagan. That particular team also included Kieran McGeeney, Cathal O’Rourke, Gerard Reid and Benny Tierney.

Kieran McGurk, for a period, managed the Kildress club in County Tyrone and was also involved with Donegal club Glenties who went on to win a Donegal title and reached an Ulster Club final last season.

Former Armagh manager and player Brian McAlinden paid tribute to a man he described as “one of the greats”. He added: “He was simply a colossal person and player and it’s just unreal how quickly that can be taken away.”

Kieran won his first Ulster Senior Championship medal in 1982 on a team captained by Colm McKinstry and, under the management, of Brian McEniff, lined out on several occasions for Ulster in the Railway Cup series. The Senior Club championship medallist made his inter-county debut against Louth in the NFL in 1981. He competed in three NFL finals.

Armagh All-Ireland winner Diarmaid Marsden said: “When I was progressing through the youth ranks with Armagh teams, Kieran was always the type of player you looked up to. He was always there for advice both on and off the field. On the field of play, he had fantastic vision, he would easily have fitted into any county team and his untimely death has affected the entire community.”

Paul Grimley, Armagh assistant manager, contacted the ‘MAIL’ from Portugal and said: “Kieran McGurk was a fantastic fella and a great footballer - a very hard yet a very fair player.”

“My sincere condolences go to his wife Geraldine and their extended family circle.”

Kieran resided in the Foxgrove area of Derrymacash. He is survived by his wife Geraldine, his son Ryan, daughter Ciara and his young grand-daughter Niamh with whom he was so close. Both on a sporting and personal level, Kieran will be sadly missed by all of those who had the pleasure of knowing him. His sad passing at the young age of 49 has come as a shock to the community.