Kevin ‘Crack’ McKeever recalled as ‘Big Gentleman’ at Funeral Mass
Mourners at the Funeral Mass of the late Derry City footballer Kevin ‘Crack’ McKeever were reminded of a ‘big gentleman’ who ‘loved and idolised’ his family and children.
The 57-year-old father-of-three who enjoyed a stellar senior soccer career in the 1980s and 1990s was laid to rest following Requiem Mass in the Holy Family on Friday after his untimely death on Monday.
Shortly after 10am mourners followed his wife Maureen, and children Shane, Meghann and Sean, down the aisles while a flautist played ‘The Lonesome Boatman’ and one of Kevin’s old Derry City jerseys was draped over his coffin.
Fr. Chris Ferguson said: “Kevin’s sudden death has left all of us stunned at this time. But we are here to celebrate the gift of his life. To cherish those memories that we carry in our hearts. To pray for Kevin and to pray for one another.”
In his homily Fr. Chris told the congregation of Kevin’s childhood and young adulthood in Carnhill and Foyle Springs, his schooling at St. Patrick’s Primary School and St. Columb’s College and how after meeting his wife Maureen they had settled down in what would become the family home in Templegrove.
“Family was important and above all else Kevin loved and idolised his children Shane, Meghann and Sean but we have to cast our minds back to 1985 when Kevin met Maureen in the centre of romance known as Duffy’s bar,” joked Fr. Ferguson. “When asked to describe Kevin the phrase, ‘a big gentleman’ kept being used. He was renowned for being gentle, quiet and too modest for his own good.
“Kevin, despite his large frame, was by nature shy, reserved and very private. He did possess a very sharp wit and a great sense of humour. Mind you, he needed to if you knew some of the boys he hung around with.”
‘Crack’s’ talent as a footballer led to a very successful senior career in both the League of Ireland and the Irish League. He was, as Fr. Chris told mourners, among a generation of young boys from Derry whose talent and ability were nourished by the late Jon ‘Ugg’ Clifford.
“From an early age his talent as a footballer was nurtured and supported by Tristar football club. Kevin idolised ‘Big Ugg’ and always acknowledged his indebtedness to ‘Ugg’ as a coach and as a person. Kevin’s talents were soon recognised overseas and numerous trials followed,” mourners were told.
A trial at Manchester United ended in disappointment as Kevin broke an ankle at The Cliff in Salford. But this was minor setback as the big midfielder returned to Ireland to make a name for himself as a fans’ favourite at several clubs.
“He enjoyed two stints with his home town team Derry City. In between Kevin was convinced by Roy McCready to join Portadown where he won a league title which was followed up the following year by winning the double. Kevin went on to represent, with distinction, Glentoran, Omagh Town and even Finn Harps.”
Fr. Chris said that regardless of football allegiances ‘we are united in our grief at the tragic and untimely death of Kevin’ and ‘in a similar manner we can all acknowledge his skills as a very talented footballer, his versatility at being able to play in every position, apart from maybe at goalkeeper, and his utter dedication to his teammates and colleagues’.
Mourners were reminded of Kevin’s humility: “Kevin was a real team player and despite his many medals, trophies and successes he never really appreciated his own achievements.”
His care and compassion as a civil servant, providing services to people in often straitened circumstances, was also acknowledged.
“Over 35 years Kevin was a mainstay at the ‘bru’ office in Crown Buildings and throughout his working life Kevin was tireless in his efforts. He left no stone unturned when dealing with people’s claims. In this respect Kevin was generous to a fault. He went over and above what was required or expected and whether it was in the early days of the fresh claims department or latterly the offices of Universal Credit, Kevin was always concerned about those in his care.”
He was, said Fr. Chris, ‘one of Derry’s most well-known and cherished characters and he will be sorely missed.’
Kevin’s coffin was carried from the chapel to the strains of the blessing ‘May the road rise to meet you’. He was later interred at the City Cemetery.