Tommy Tarpey 19th February 1933 – 14th January 2024

Tommy Tarpey

19th February 1933 – 14th January 2024

Tommy Tarpey was born in Ardrahan on 19th of February 1933 to Bridie and Thomas Tarpey. He was born into a family associated with the G.A.A., social and commercial life in Ardrahan. Tommy attended Ardrahan National School and entered St. Mary’s College Galway as a boarder, in September 1946. After his Leaving Certificate he entered St. Patricks College Maynooth and was ordained there on 2nd June 1958.

After his ordination in 1958, he took up a teaching position at St. Mary’s College where he very quickly became a hurling mentor. He left Mary’s in 1970 and took up a position with the Convent of Mercy co-educational school in Lisdoonvarna. He also acted as Chaplin to the nearby Stella Maris convalescent home.

In Lisdoonvarna, he was behind several entertainment, social care, and welfare schemes for older and young people. In 1977 he was asked by Bishop Casey to work as Youth Director for the Diocese – a new concept in Ireland at the time. A post-graduate course at Swansea University earned him his Diploma in Social and Community Education and in 1978 he was appointed Spiritual Director of Colaiste Einde and Diocesan Director of youth work. 

In September 1983 Fr. Tom was appointed Parish Priest of Mervue, a huge parish with over 9000 people. Here, he over saw the development of Mervue Community Centre and the building of a new Church in Ballybane. Sport was never too far away and during his time here he became Hon. Vice President of Mervue GAA Club. In March 1984, He was co-opted onto Galway city Vocational Education Committee.

In July 1988 he was appointed Parish Priest of Ballyvaughan and Fanore. Again, social issues were his interest as well as local sport and drama.  He became a selector with the Ballyvaughan GAA Club and with the Burren Drama Players as a producer of plays and musicals.

In the late 1970 he was Chairman of the Loughnane & Quinn Parish Hall Renovation Committee. Always concerned with social, recreational and educational needs of the people of the parish. He wanted to maintain a facility that young people could access - Macra na Feirime, Badminton and Youth clubs as well as ICA, IFA and other organisations.

Parish duties kept him busy for decades, but he always found time to visit home in Ardrahan. Two days at a time as he said himself, he always needed the first day to unwind. Being a priest can be lonely and it was a great blessing for him that his life entered another chapter in 1993.

In April 1993, after five years Ministering to the people of Fanore and Ballyvaughan, he retired from his Priestly Ministry and started a new life by marrying his schoolteacher friend, Mary Leahy. A joyous occasion, it was a measure of great respect for Tommy and Mary – that his flock supported and celebrated with him and Mary. Relieved from the burden of Priesthood, he had time to visit and spread his wings. You could meet him anywhere especially at hurling and camogie matches involving Ardrahan.

Tommy had a lifelong association with hurling. He was an outstanding College player with St. Mary’s. He spent two years as a Galway Minor Hurler in 1950 and 1951. His hurling career was severely and cruelly hampered while studying in Maynooth, he could only play during summer holidays. He was an outstanding defender in the County Championship senior hurling campaigns of 1953 and 1954. He played both junior and senior hurling for Galway in 1955 and 1956. He disliked the cynical way in which Galway GAA staged the 1956 County Senior Hurling Final Replay immediately after he returned to Maynooth after summer vacation.

A huge loss to our Club, he left the game in 1957 and several attempts to coax him back were unsuccessful. He was never too far away though, always encouraged and supported youngsters and underage teams. A top-class coach, he got involved in hurling development with Coiste Iomana and was a tutor with P.J. Callanan and Donie Nealon in 1965 at the Irish College in Spiddal.

He was a selector with Galway minor hurling team in 1966 and he was involved as a selector with the minor team in 1983 when Galway won its first ever minor hurling title. He was an Ardrahan Club Officer and selector in the 1980’s He is the holder of several South Board Intermediate and Senior Hurling medals, and he was also an excellent footballer.

An authentic man full of grace and politeness and full of connectiveness for life. His life as a pastor knew no limits and he was an inspiration for so much. Tommy had a life great in years and rich in accomplishments. He witnessed remarkable changes in lifestyle and technology unimaginable at the time of his birth. He was an ardent Gael all his life and this was reflected when the club bestowed the title of Honorary President on him.

To his wife Mary, his extended family and many friends, Ardrahan GAA Club sends its most sincere and heartfelt sympathy. We are saddened at his departure and will miss his iconic presence in our midst for a long time to come.

Tom Greene.