So many tributes have been beautifully rendered in the last days, espousing the endless breadth of Jerry Kiernan’s talents and generosity as a competitor, analyst and coach in the world of athletics. These paeans have even reached into the domain of his appreciation for the finer things in life - good conversation, good coffee and good football - as well as his qualities as a man: those of candour, kindness and razor-wire wit.
One facet of Jerry’s myriad abilities that, publicly, may go unheralded, but will be deeply felt throughout South Dublin at this time, are his profound abilities as an educator. In St. Brigid’s B.N.S, Foxrock, Jerry’s classroom existed as a sort of outlier, utopian continent, unto itself. It wasn’t that he rejected the structures that primary schools typically operate within, rather his supreme confidence in how and what he taught meant that he could casually disregard them. For a man who has been dubiously described as contrary, he managed to find common ground with, not only the boys in his class, but every single pupil he encountered in the school yard and corridor.
His influence was not restricted to his own class as, so often, he would do the rounds of the classrooms, trying to stir up excitement within the ranks about an upcoming cross-country event or the yearly pilgrimage to Santry. On those canvassing sorties, he would pop his head around the door and the eyes of the children would light up in anticipation of a timely diversion from the hum-drum of class work. He had the ability to seize on a single strand of conversation and lead the lads down a captivating series of thematic tangents and oratorial chicanes. Many in his audience knew nothing of L.A ‘84 or sub-4 minute miles but were still equally rapt. This charisma was a lightly-worn thing - never affected, forced or embellished.
As a colleague, he was shy at first and dedicated his lunch-times to athletics coaching in Spring and Summer and officiating at Conker and Marbles tournaments in Autumn and Winter. When you did get to know him, he spoke with passion and precision on any given topic and he listened equally deftly, taking joy from whatever weekend silliness you might regale him with, revelling in the youthful frivolity of it all.
Generations of students, their parents and his colleagues from Brigid’s will never forget Jerry Kiernan for the kindness, the intellect and the good-humoured word of salutation, as the rebel-riot of curls bobbed by you on Mart Lane, a back-pack slung over one shoulder, on his way to U.C.D or Irishtown to help favourably steer the fortunes of others. To impart what he had amassed and intuited over his lifetime.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis
By John Duignan (Feb 2021)