John Keane (hurler)

John Keane (hurler) bigraphy, stories - Irish hurler

John Keane (hurler) : biography

18 February 1917 – 1 October 1975

John Keane (18 February 1917 – 1 October 1975) was an Irish sportsperson. He played hurling with his local club Mount Sion and with the Waterford senior inter-county team from the 1930s to the 1950s. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest players in the history of the game.

Because he played with an unfashionable hurling county Keane’s great ability did not bring him all the medals he richly deserved but he remains a man apart in the affections of all who saw him play. His haul of seven Railway Cup medals (from nine appearances) places him on the same mark as his great rivals and friends Mick Mackey and Jack Lynch. His place as the greatest centre half-back in the history of the game was copper-fastened when he was chosen in that position on the Hurling Team of the Century and the Hurling Team of the Millennium.


Mount Sion

  • Waterford senior hurling championship:
    • Winner (8): 1938, 1939, 1940, 1943, 1945, 1948, 1949, 1951
    • Runner-up (2): 1941, 1950
  • Waterford minor hurling championship:
    • Winner (3): 1931, 1933 1934
    • Runner-up (1):1932
  • Waterford senior football championship:
    • Winner (2): 1953, 1955
  • Waterford Junior football championship:
    • Winner (1): 1939


  • All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship:
    • Winner (1): 1948
    • Runner-up (1): 1938
  • Munster Senior Hurling Championship:
    • Winner (2): 1938, 1948
    • Runner-up (1): 1943
  • National Hurling League:
    • Runner-up (1): 1939
  • Munster Junior football championship:
    • Winner (1): 1948


  • Railway Cup:
    • Winner (7): 1937, 1938, 1939, 1940, 1942, 1943, 1949
    • Runner-up (2): 1941, 1947,

Post-playing career

Blue Heritage plaque on the house where John Keane was born in Barrack St., Waterford. In retirement from playing Keane became heavily involved in training both club and county teams. He trained his own Mount Sion club to many county victories in the 1950s and 1960s including a record-equalling nine Waterford senior hurling titles in succession. In the eighteen years between 1948 and 1965 the Mount Sion club won fifteen county senior hurling titles and John was associated as player or coach with every success.

As the trainer of the Waterford county senior hurling team he enjoyed an unprecedented run of success when the county won three Munster titles, one All-Ireland, one National League and one Oireachtas title. Keane’s side won the Munster title in 1957 but Waterford later lost the All-Ireland final by just one point to Kilkenny. After losing the Munster final in 1958 Keane’s side bounced back in 1959 to win another Munster medal. That year the Decies faced Kilkenny in the All-Ireland final once again and, after a drawn game, Waterford overwhelmed Kilkenny in the replay to claim a second-ever All-Ireland title. In 1962 Keane guided Waterford to an Oireachtas title and the following year to National Hurling League and Munster honours. However Waterford fell to Kilkenny in an exciting All-Ireland final.

In his final years Keane, who smoked cigarettes through most of his life, suffered from ill health. A heart condition and circulation problems reduced the mobility of one of Ireland’s greatest-ever hurlers. He knew that his time on earth was limited so, shortly before his death, Keane embarked on a tour of the country to visit many of his former hurling opponents. It was an heroic journey that also proved to be his last. First he travelled to Kilkenny to visit his great friend and opponent Jim Langton. Then back to Waterford where he spent a restless night tossing and turning with the pain. On the following day he travelled to Kinsale where he called on Jack Barrett, an old hurling colleague from his Munster Railway Cup days. After visiting Jackie Power in Tralee Keane was travelling to Limerick when he died on the side of the road near Tarbert, Co. Kerry, on 1 October 1975.David Smith, "The Unconquerable Keane" p. 227. He was just fifty-eight years old.