Larry Cheevers

Larry was the eldest child of Jack and Ethel Cheevers who lived on Dalysfort Road in Salthill. They were the owners of the Forster Park Hotel and the iconic Park Café which was attached to it. Larry was educated in the Jes and in Castleknock College and went on to study dentistry in UCG — you could only do first year there at the time — and later in UCD where he finished the course and qualified.

He was a naturally gifted athlete and was involved in many sports, starting in secondary school. He was a good swimmer and swam competitively. In 1958, he became the Irish Junior Champion in the 7lbs shot and, in doing so, broke the Leinster and Irish records. In 1960, he was the All-Ireland 220 yards intermediate sprint champion and represented his country in both the discus and shot putt in the Catholic Student Games in Spain.

In 1963, he broke the Connacht record for the 16lbs shot with a putt of 45’ 1.5”. He won trophies for the best performance by an athlete in Castleknock and also as the best all-round athlete in UCG in 1963.

He was also a versatile rugby player who could play in a variety of positions on the pitch. He started this part of his career by winning a minor cup medal with Corinthians in 1958/59. In 1960/61, he helped Castleknock reach the final of the Leinster Schools senior cup, and in doing so, scored 157 points for the school that season. He played for Connacht Schools and also for Galwegians, helping them to win the Connacht Senior League and the Blake Sevens that year.

He made his senior interprovincial debut for Connacht in 1962/63 and helped UCG win the Connacht minor cup. He later starred in a final trial and was a travelling reserve with the Irish international team. He played mostly in the back row, scored tries, could drop goals and his prolific kicking from the tee meant he accumulated high numbers of points every season.

He suffered occasional setbacks and one leg injury was such that, “It had me out of rugby. I was fed up doing nothing so I decided to have a go at boxing, a sport in which I would not have to run. I trained down from 15 stone 10lbs to 14 stone 2lbs and had some tuition from professional and former Olympian, Fred Tiedt. I won the Irish Universities junior title, then the senior and now the British and Irish Universities title. It’s been daft.” There is a legend that he was knocked out once fighting for UCD and as he was lying on the canvas, it was there for all to see painted on the bottom of his boots – ‘I am the Greatest’. I have heard this legend applied to his rugby boots as well.

Having qualified, he moved to Derby for a year and from there travelled on to South Africa where he lived in Somerset West, practised dentistry and also played rugby. Finally, he moved to Vancouver where he set up one of the largest dental practises in British Columbia. He qualified as the first forensic dentist in that state and did a lot of work with the attorney general’s office there, testifying in many trials there while helping to solve a number of crimes.

He never lost his interest in sports and in later life he loved to play squash, windsurf and golf. In spite of being very ill, he raucously celebrated Ireland’s win over South Africa in the recent world cup.

Our photographs show Larry on his graduation day in UCD, and also with his brothers, Tom on the left and John on the right, together with some of their trophies and medals.

Larry had a presence, was great company, gregarious, and had a loud and hearty laugh. He had a wide circle of friends. Though he lived thousands of miles away, he always kept in touch with his Galway mates. He was one of those lucky people who loved his job — “I’d do it until 104”, but most of all he loved his family — his wife of 51 years, Bernice, his daughters Emma and Melissa and his adored granddaughter Chloe.

Larry died last week having bravely fought a serious illness for several months. He was predeceased by his wife Bernice and is survived by his daughters Emma and Melissa, his granddaughter Chloe and his siblings, Adele, John and Tom. Though he has lived in Canada for many years, he will be missed by this many friends in Galway. Solas na bFhlaitheas dá anam uasal.

 

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