Anthony McIntyre appreciates the heroism of a teenager in Ennis who died trying to save his friend.

Our brothers in arms. Our warriors when the going got tough. Our leaders when the pressure came on. Our pride when they took the field. Our joy when they lit it up off the field. Our devilment when it all got too serious. Our gentlemen always. Our terrible loss - Statement of condolence from Ennis Rugby Club on the loss of Shay Moloney and Jack Kenneally. 

Jack Kenneally & Shay Moloney

Today a friend wrote on his Facebook page:

In every walk of life there are heroes. Whether it's boxing, football, or any other sport. My heroes are the men and women who sacrificed their life for freedom. They are too many to mention.

I can understand that. Heroic exploits are something I tend to think of from people like Bobby Sands, who by the time of his death at 27 was a seasoned IRA activist. Bobby had time to think things out including his own death. It took remarkable courage acted out in the service of a political cause.

Yet it is not only in a political fight for freedom are heroes to be found. Away from political life, ordinary people are to be found carrying out extraordinary acts of heroism. They will never attain the iconic status of Bobby Sands for understandable reasons but their commitment to others was every bit as strong. They too lay down their lives for their friends.

When it comes from a fifteen year old there is something deeply moving about it. Unlike Bobby Sands, Shay Maloney had no time to prepare for what lay before him, no prolonged contemplation, or opportunity to say goodbye to those he loved. When he rushed to the rescue of his drowning friend in an Ennis quarry last Thursday, where both had been swimming, he might not have known the outcome, but he would have sensed the risk given his friend's dire situation and was prepared to face it down. He lost his life doing so. His friend Jack Keneally died as well. The life Shay Moloney has missed out on in a desperate bid to save his friend, hardly needs laid out. Four times his age, I think I get it.

Lying beneath the shimmering summer haze lurks something terribly destructive of human life. Each year there are fatal accidents involving school pupils during the summer holidays. Sometimes by drowning, as happened here in Drogheda with Gareth McGuirk, on other occasions as a result of cycling as in the case of young Daniel Roche, not far from here. Summer holidays lull the young into a false sense of security: life is good and it will go on getting better - young people don't die.

Water holds immeasurable dangers against which even the physical strength and stamina of young fit sporting men comes second best. Within minutes the life that took years to nurture can be snuffed out. There is no return.

I was shaken by the Ennis tragedy, tremendously sad for the parents but relieved that I did not have their burden to bear, wholly unable and unwilling to exchange places. I sought out my son upon learning of the incident. He too is fit and sporty. Last year I had my hands full in Majorca, endeavouring to keep him away from the riskier swimming manoeuvres he was trying. Each time I took my eyes from him he was off doing his own thing, oblivious to both danger and advice. After Ennis, I explained to him the potential for harm that lies out there awaiting the unwary but never beckoning them. It gives little away in terms of a warning. I don't want him to be a hero or for someone else to heroically risk their lives trying to save his life over a less than acute appreciation of danger.

There is only so much a parent can do to safeguard against the type of loss that occurred in Ennis. Part of growing up is not listening to parents and striving to do things their own way. It comes with the adolescent condition.

Meanwhile, as the boys in Ennis are laid to rest, the courage of Shay Moloney in risking and losing his life to save Jack Keneally places him on a pantheon not inhabited by many others. A lonely spot none of us want our children to share.

A young hero, along with his friend, tragically lost.

Anthony McIntyre blogs @ The Pensive Quill.

Follow Anthony McIntyre on Twitter @AnthonyMcIntyre      

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Anthony McIntyre

Former IRA prisoner, spent 18 years in Long Kesh. Free Speech advocate, writer, historian, humanist, and researcher.

3 comments to ''Heroism"

  1. "Summer holidays lull the young into a false sense of security: life is good and it will go on getting better - young people don't die."

    Nail on the head. When I was that age, I thought I was indestructible. Anything could happen and I'd be ok. And besides, the sun was out so what could go wrong? Youthful arrogance is a wonderful trait. Unfortunately, it doesn't last.

    As a much older fellow, stories like this chill me. As you say, it only takes a matter of seconds, and that's it. Sober reading.

  2. Tragic, a young lives gone far too soon. Quarries are bloody dangerous at the best of times, pool water looks inviting but is often freezing sending the unwary into shock. RIP.

  3. Very poignant Mackers,
    When I read about it the first thing that comes in to your head is the ‘if only’. I can’t imagine how the families feel in knowing that those boys headed out that morning for a day’s fun and expecting them back at dinner time....that's the loss, that place at the table is forever empty.
    As parents and especially when we think of some of the antics we got up to as kids...sometimes you think its pure luck that we made it through.


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