A native of Causeway, Co. Kerry, Garda Sean Kavanagh, 15128K, joined An Garda Síochána in 1963 and was initially posted to Kilmainham Station. It wasn’t long until he ventured across the river to the Garda Boat Club, where under the guidance of the then Club Captain Gerry McDonagh, Sean began a life long association with the Club.
Sean soon showed his rowing ability when in 1964 he was part of the all conquering Garda Maiden VIII who won the Irish Maiden Championship at Waterford Regatta when they beat Coleraine in the final by a distance of four lengths. They say ‘success breeds success’ and 1965 is a case in point. As an integral part of the Garda Junior VIII, Sean won the Irish Junior Championship and five weeks later on 17th July 1965 they won the Club’s first Irish Senior VIII Championship title. An unidentified newspaper reported:
Hundreds of shirt sleeved spectators saw Garda Rowing Club achieve a lifelong ambition by winning one of the most coveted trophies in Irish rowing, the senior eights championship, at the Dublin Metropolitan Regatta at Blessington. Ironically the Dublin policemen have to thank their second crew for a win which means that the club has now completed the Grand Slam of every major title during the past 10 years. To the ringing cheers of a packed enclosure, the ‘B’ crew confirmed recent form by beating the club’s first eight by two lengths, with Coleraine R.C. another half a length back in third place. It was a victory without the slightest trace of luck. Opening up at forty-seven strokes a minute, the ‘B’ crew were already a third of a length in front at the 500 metre mark with Garda ‘A’ and Coleraine disputing second place. The gap had widened to three-quarters of a length at the half way stage and by the time the crews entered the enclosure it was clear that nothing short of a sensation could foil the leaders. The ‘A’ crew made their last desperate effort 200 metres out, but it was wasted effort and the reserves flashed past the finishing markers with two lengths to spare.
On 2nd of August 1965 the season ended on a tragic note when Sean was seriously injured in a car accident while travelling to Carrick-on-Shannon Regatta. It was ironic that after playing his part in winning the Club’s first ever Senior VIII Championship, Sean’s rowing career was dramatically cut short and what might have been, never was.
Sean’s indomitable spirit shone through and he returned to work a short time later. He immersed himself in the administration side of the Club and it is no coincidence that the Club enjoyed great success in 1973 under his stewardship as Captain. This was a position he retained in 1975 when he led the Garda Senior VIII to international success when they won the Thames Challenge Cup at the prestigious Henley Royal Regatta.
The incredible success of Garda crews in the 1970s was matched by Sean’s exceptional public relation skills. He certainly knew how to ‘make hay when the sun shone’ and barely a week went by without a feature article appearing in the national newspapers praising the exploits of Garda Oarsmen. Sean also played a key role as Secretary on the Metropolitan Regatta Committee in the 1970s, during this period the Regatta thrived accepting top class entries from near and far.
In the intervening years the Garda Boat Club has enjoyed peaks and troughs. Sean stayed loyal to the Club and was always close at hand whether it was helping to organise a crew or raise funds for the building programme, Sean was never found wanting.
On 31st December 2013, Sean Kavanagh passed away peacefully at Naas Hospital after a short illness. His Funeral Mass took place at Mount Argus and was celebrated by the Garda Chaplin Fr. Joe Kennedy. Members of the Garda Boat Club past and present provided a guard of honour. His coffin, which was draped in the Garda Boat Club flag, was brought to his native Kerry where he was laid to rest.
Our deepest sympathies to his sisters Marie, Kay & Gretta, brothers Pat, Cyril, Michael & Noel, sisters in law, brothers in law, nephews, nieces, grand nephews, & grand nieces.
He will be sadly missed and fondly remembered by all of his friends at the Garda Síochána Boat Club.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam