On Monday, December 3rd, we unexpectedly lost our dear friend and colleague Liam Hegarty. Liam was a constant presence in the USGAA for decades and his influence, ideas and innovation have been felt throughout the adult and youth clubs here in the US.
Born in the United States, to Billy and Betty Hegarty, Liam’s family spent a number of years living in Ednamuck, Co. Donegal, before settling in Kells, Co. Meath. Kells is where Liam developed a life-long grá for all things GAA. As a youth, Liam was involved with the local Gaeil Colmcille club before leaving Ireland and returning to the US in the late 1980’s.
Upon settling in Philadelphia, Liam immediately got involved with the Donegal Philadelphia GAA Club both as a Club Officer and a player. He took great joy in the club’s various successes over the years. Not the least of which was his most recent moment of pride and happiness when Donegal Philadelphia captured the Senior and Junior Football Championships at the USGAA Finals held in his own beloved home town, Philadelphia.
As Liam transitioned from player to spectator, he became heavily involved in youth GAA. His first involvement was at local level with the Philadelphia Youth Board. This eventually led to the founding of the Delaware County Gaels, the club Liam has supported for many years. As youth GAA grew across the US, Liam, along with like minded GAA supporters, was instrumental in forming the Continental Youth Championship. This foresight and passion for developing youth competition has resulted in the largest, annual GAA event in the world.
Having been in instrumental in its founding, Liam served the CYC in many roles over the years. He continued to assist in the development and growth of CYC until 2015 when Liam received the honor of being the Presidential Appointee to chair the CYC Steering Committee. Liam led the CYC Steering Committee through 2018 and was set to continue on into 2019. During his time as Chair, Liam was never one to overlook the efforts of others. To honor those who shared his passion, Liam inaugurated the CYC Circle of Honor Award to recognize people who devoted their own time to the continued development of this growing, international competition.
While nurturing and building the CYC, Liam continued to serve in other areas of the GAA by filling a variety of roles on the Philadelphia Divisional Board and the USGAA Youth Committee. His tireless efforts culminated in Liam rising to the level of Chair of the USGAA Youth Committee when he was elected as the USGAA Youth Officer in 2014. As Youth Officer, Liam shared his passion for youth GAA by helping create programs to develop new youth clubs and while growing existing clubs across the US. Liam knew how to work as part of a team and he knew how to motivate and energize the groups he worked with.
Liam had a strong vision for the future of youth GAA and had his own way of navigating discussions which ensured others felt heard. No matter what the problem, large or small, Liam had a solution for it. No matter how big an issue, Liam never shied away from it. He never tired in his desire to see Youth GAA prosper and he never let others lose their passion for the game. With enthusiasm and energy, Liam carried forward his vision for the youth throughout his five year term until passing on the torch upon his election as Vice Chairperson to the USGAA this past November.
While investing his time in the GAA, Liam shepherded his four sons through their own GAA experience, never losing his passion for watching youth play Gaelic Games. He proudly watched his sons compete, and was a perpetual presence on the sidelines at youth events. However, even if his sons were not on the field, Liam could regularly be seen in his golf cart watching a game, any game, as it did not matter to Liam which teams were on the field. All that mattered was that youth were on the field, playing the games that they and Liam treasured.
Beyond the GAA, Liam chose to be involved in many other organizations. He contributed his seemingly limitless time and energy to numerous volunteer opportunities in the Philadelphia community, ranging from the Anti-violence Project to the Irish Immigration Centre to coaching at West Chester Soccer club. He was as dedicated to his community as he was to GAA, and Philadelphia is better for it.
Despite his time and commitment to the GAA and other pursuits, Liam was dedicated to his family above all. He relished his time with them and ensured his home was the gathering place for parties and celebrations. New Year’s Eve and Super Bowl festivities were Hegarty family traditions and when not entertaining, Liam was with his wife Maureen and the boys camping, traveling, playing sports and enjoying the role of father and husband. Liam shared the stories of his family freely and made listeners feel like they had been with him on the sidelines of his children’s games, or part of their shared passion of Irish dance, where Liam and Maureen were well known in Irish dancing circles.
Liam’s accomplishments are extensive and yet a retelling of them does not do justice to his memory. Liam was more than a passionate volunteer. He was a story teller with a wonderful sense of humor and infectious laugh. He was a valued friend, a mentor, an advocate, a brother, a son, a beloved husband and an adored father. Liam was so much to so many and his loss is immeasurable.
We are forever thankful for the time we had with Liam and grateful to his family for sharing him with us for so many years. On behalf of all GAA communities who have been touched by Liam and his immense legacy, we extend our deepest sympathies to Maureen, Billy, Patrick, Kevin, Michael, his extended family, and his many friends and colleagues. We hold Liam and his family in our prayers and will keep his memory close in the years to come.
Viewing 4:00-9:00 PM Monday, December 10, 2018 at SS Simon & Jude Catholic Church, 8 Cavanaugh Ct, West Chester, PA.
Funeral Mass 11:00 AM Tuesday, December 11, 2018 at SS Simon & Jude Catholic Church, 8 Cavanaugh Ct, West Chester, PA. Interment SS Peter & Paul Cemetery.
Arrangements: The Donohue Funeral Home, 1627 West Chester Pike, West Chester, PA, 610-431-9000.
On behalf of:
Delaware County Gaels
Donegal Philadelphia GFC
Philadelphia Youth GAA
Continental Youth Championships