Ennis drownings: schools and rugby club pay tribute to ‘brothers in arms’

‘The boys played a great style of rugby. They were hard as nails but skilful with it’

An image of Jack Kenneally (left) and Shay Moloney, in an image released by Ennis Rugby Club on Friday. The club paid tributes to: ‘Our warriors when the going got tough. Our leaders when the pressure came on. Our pride when they took the field. Our joy when they lit it up off the field. Our devilment when it all got too serious. Our gentlemen always. Our terrible loss. Photograph via Twitter

A senior garda has described as "heroic" the efforts made by Shay Moloney to save the life of his friend Jack Kenneally in a lake outside of Ennis, Co Clare on Thursday afternoon.

The two Junior Cert students drowned at a disused quarry where a number of young people were swimming during the good weather.

Ennis Rugby Club, for whom the pair played, described them as “brothers in arms”, while their school principals spoke of how they would be greatly missed by fellow students and teachers.

Supt Brendan McDonagh of Ennis Garda Station said: “It is our understanding that Shay went back in and tried to help Jack who had got into difficulty and Shay got into trouble himself.


“Another boy went down to help them as well. That boy just got exhausted and was not able to help and had to come back up. The water is quite deep out there.”

It is understood it was Shay’s first time to swim at the lake at a disused quarry at Knockanean.

Supt McDonagh said: “Unfortunately, where they were swimming, there was no life saving equipment. It is very sad for their families and friends who are doing their Junior Cert. It is a parent’s worst nightmare.”

In a message of Facebook, one of Jack’s three sisters, Katie wrote: “I am actually lost for words in this moment. All I can say is you will be forever missed and always loved. You were the most amazing little brother and we are all so so devastated... rest in peace bro we all love you soo soo much.”

Katie later wrote: “RIP Jack and Shay — at least ye are together.”

Shay from Hazelwood, Ennis and Jack from Waterpark Heights, Ennis were described as the “heart-beat” of the under-15 Ennis rugby team and the club was inundated from messages of sympathy from clubs across Ireland.

Shay Moloney (left) and Jack Kenneally who drowned on Friday. Photograph from Ennis Rugby Club via Twitter

Club president Richard Murphy said messages of sympathy had also come from clubs in Australia, the UK, Australia and Canada. Ireland international Simon Zebo also expressed his sympathies to the families and friends of the two online yesterday.

In a heartfelt tweet, Ennis rugby club published a photo of the two in their team’s red and black colours with the message: “Our brothers in arms. Our warriors when the going got tough. Our leaders when the pressure came on. Our pride when they took the field. Our joy when they lit it up off the field. The devilment when it got all too serious. Our gentlemen always. Our terrible loss.”

Shay played as hooker, while Jack played in the second row.

Mr Murphy said on Friday: “They were two great lads. They were the beating heart of the under-15 team. On and off the field. They were a tight group. They were tight friends.”

He said: “Shay was always smiling. Jack was just whip-smart. Real townies the pair of them.

Mr Murphy said the two were part of a successful under-15 team that won the North Munster league and Cup this season, beating Young Munster in both finals.

He said: “The boys played a great style of rugby. They were hard as nails but skilful with it.”

Mr Murphy said Kenneally’s rugby exploits had resulted in his call up to the Munster Rugby’s cadets. He said: “That was going to start over the summer but unfortunately, they will not be able to go down that road now.”

Mr Murphy said the two were always knocking around the club. He said: “There was always a bit of devilment and mischief about them, but they were incredible respectful and polite.”

At the site where the boys lost their lives yesterday, friends had placed flowers, popcorn, sunglasses and a pair of Ennis RFC shorts.

In the early 1980s, another star member of the Ennis RFC underage set up and sports all-rounder, Johnny Scahill, died while swimming at the lake.

Local councillor Ann Norton (Ind) said that the sadness “was palpable on the streets of Ennis” ahead of the Jack’s funeral on Sunday, and Shay’s on Monday.

The site which contains the lake has been on the market for a number of years and the Sherry Fitzgerald McMahon website confirmed that the 62 acre site with a price tag of €185,000 was now sale agreed.

Previous plans by a developer to build houses on the site failed and the site has been rezoned to agriculture.

The site has been on the market on the instructions of a receiver and Cllr Norton said that whoever purchases the site must secure it and make it safe.

There are signs at the entrance to the land - known as “the quarry” locally - advising against swimming. They read: “Danger — Deep Water — No Swimming” and “Danger silt Pond, Deep Water, Keep Clear”.

Shay was a third year student and due to start his Junior Cert exams at St Flannan's College while Jack was a second year student in Ennis Community College.

St Flannan’s principal Fr Ignatius McCormack said that what occurred “is a terrible tragedy for both families and friends, our schools and our community. We are deeply saddened by these events.

“Both will be greatly missed by all who knew them. Offers of sympathy have been pouring in and are greatly appreciated.”

Ennis Community College principal Brian O’Donoghue said: “This is a terrible tragedy for the Kenneally family, our school and our community.

“Jack was a talented rugby player and played for Ennis RFC. He was so proud of his achievements as we all were. Jack will be greatly missed by his fellow students and teachers.”

Gordon Deegan

Gordon Deegan

Gordon Deegan is a contributor to The Irish Times