HALL OF FAME HANDBALLER JOE WAS A DE­VOTED HUS­BAND AND FATHER

Wicklow People (West Edition) - - NEWS -

OBIT­U­ARY THE com­mu­nity of Tinahely was sad­dened to learn of the death of Joe Cleary, Mill­house, re­cently.

Joe passed away peace­fully in Our Lady’s Hospice, Black­rock sur­rounded by his lov­ing fam­ily on June 24.

He was born on 24 March 1941 in his fam­ily’s home in Tinahely, one of three chil­dren. Af­ter leav­ing school, Joe worked with his father. He also spent much of his time in the Hand­ball al­ley be­hind the fam­ily’s home hon­ing his skills.

A piv­otal mo­ment in his hand­ball ca­reer came when the then 12-year-old Joe ac­com­pa­nied the late great Billy Pol­lard to the All-Ire­land Se­nior Final in Croke Park where he watched his hero, handballer John ‘Bull’ Ryan, play.

Joe would go on to en­joy a long and fruit­ful hand­ball ca­reer. He rep­re­sented Wick­low in provin­cial fi­nals from the age of eleven and won his first mi­nor All-Ire­land Hand­ball final at the age of 13.

When he was not yet 19, Joe had al­ready won The Kells Gold Medal, 15 county cham­pi­onship medals, six Le­in­ster medals and five All-Ire­land ti­tles. He brought Wick­low their first ever mi­nor and ju­nior All-Ire­land medals when in 1958 he brought the ju­nior dou­bles back to the Gar­den County. He fol­lowed this in 1959 when he again won the All-Ire­land Mi­nor 60 x 30 Soft­ball Sin­gles Final.

He con­tin­ued his win­ning ways in 1969 when he and part­ner Paddy Lee brought Wick­low its first Se­nior All-Ire­land ti­tle since the days of Martin O’Neill and Luke Sherry in 1930 and 1931. He was greeted with a hero’s welcome on his re­turn to Tinahely.

Joe also played foot­ball and was cap­tain of the Tinahely Ju­nior team which won the County Cham­pi­onships in 1969.

He met Pauline, the woman who would be­come his wife, in Mur­phy’s pub. The couple were en­gaged af­ter six months. The couple tied the knot in Rath­mines in 1966 and started their mar­ried life in a rented house in Knock­ananna.

Af­ter three years, they moved into their newly built home in Tinahely where they raised four chil­dren – Roisín, Sarah, Deirdre and Robert.

They were mar­ried for 53 years and through­out this time, one was rarely seen with­out the other. Pauline sadly passed away in Jan­uary 2018.

In 2004, Joe was pre­sented with the FBD In­sur­ance Hall of Fame All Star Award at the FBD Hand­ball All Star Awards.

Joe worked as an overseer with Wick­low County Coun­cil for many years un­til his retirement in 2005. He was also well-known for his love of singing and was a mem­ber of the church choir.

It was with great sad­ness that Joe’s fam­ily and friends said their final farewells at Joe’s fu­neral at St Kevin’s Church, Killaveney. He was laid to rest in the ad­join­ing ceme­tery.

Joe was the beloved hus­band of the late Pauline and the lov­ing father of Róisín, Sarah, Deirdre and Robert, and gran­dad of Leah, Katie and Jack. He is sadly missed by his lov­ing fam­ily, sis­ters Kit and Ail­ish, nieces, neph­ews, ex­tended fam­ily, rel­a­tives, neigh­bours and friends.

The late Joe and Pauline Cleary. RIGHT:Joe with the All-Ire­land Cup in 1959.

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