‘There were no strangers in Bracker’s life – everybody he met he became friends with’

The late Tommy Bracker O’Regan was a great sportsman and a wonderful tourism ambassador.
Picture: Eamonn Keogh

Widely acknowledged as a great sportsman, a long-serving and hugely popular tourism ambassador and a thorough gentleman, news of the passing of Thomas Bracker O’Regan had led to real sadness and a great sense of loss in Killarney this Thursday.

Known far and wide simply as Bracker, he will be remembered by locals and thousands of visitors as the charming, top-hatted porter at the Great Southern Hotel where he always extended a very warm and genuine welcome to everybody that arrived at the steps and were guided through the revolving doors.

Tommy was an institution in Killarney hospitality circles. Genuine, gregarious, witty and helpful, he had a great way about him and his personality shone through as he served his time as one of the most prominent personalities in the town’s tourism industry.

Former Great Southern general manager, Michael Rosney, who worked with Tommy for a number of years, described him as a total and complete gentleman.

“There were no strangers in Bracker’s life – everybody he met he became friends with,” he said.

The Great Southern Hotel where Tommy was always welcoming

“He had a wonderful ability of being able to put a smile on everybody’s face, send guests home happy and all the while getting the job done to perfection,” he added.

Bracker was also a legendary sportsman and he lined out with great success with Austin Stacks, in his native Tralee, playing in goal in the 1969 Kerry Senior Hurling Final and also making his presence felt on the football field.

He was part of the famous Stacks team of 1973 that won the Kerry County Championship for the first time in 37 years and it laid the foundations for a golden era and for the growth and development of the club.

He scored the all-important that clinched victory over Na hÁthasaigh in the decider, on a 2-8 to 1-6 scoreline, and taking to the field alongside the young corner forward by the name of O’Regan that day were players who went on to become superstars of the game including John O’Keeffe, Mikey Sheehy and Ger Power.

Affairs of the heart brought him to Killarney where he married Evelyn Horgan and Bracker made quite an impression on the basketball courts with the legendary Busby Babes team that won numerous Killarney town leagues and championships.

Tommy Bracker Regan was a legend in Killarney hospitality circles

In the 1960s they were the main basketball team in town and in the 1966-67 season the Babes won senior and minor county championship titles and competed in the Munster Championships with Tommy lining out alongside the likes of Weeshie and Geni Fogarty, Tadghie Fleming, Jackie Looney, Pat Somers and Johnny Culloty.

Tommy played with Killarney Legion for a couple of seasons and won an East Kerry Winter League medal in 1961, lining out at midfield alongside Johnny Healy of New Street in a side that included Louis Nolan and Adrian Culligan.

Although he never severed his ties with his beloved Stacks, Bracker was very actively involved in the GAA in Killarney and he trained a star-studded Killarney side – a combination of Legion and Spa players – that beat local rivals Dr Crokes in the replayed 1986 Kerry SFC semi-final before they lost to his home town club in the final.

Bracker also had a keen interest in greyhound racing and enjoyed nothing more than a good night at the track with friends.

Tommy, who passed away peacefully at his home in Ardshanavooly, was predeceased by his wife, Evelyn in November 2020. He is survived by his daughters Miriam, Bríd and Evelyn, son Tomás and grandchildren Samuel, Clara, Laoise, Tiarnan, Oisín, Eoghan, Ryan, Tomás, Gavin, Pearse and Hugh.

He is further survived by his sons-in-law Seán O’Donoghue, Kevin O’Connor and Mark Bolger, daughter-in-law Aileen Fleming, his brothers Jimmy, Martin and Denis, his sister Mary, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, nieces, nephews, relatives, neighbours, his former work colleagues in the Great Southern Hotel and his many great friends.

Reposing at O’Shea’s Funeral Home on Friday from 4.30pm to 6.30pm will be followed by removal to St Mary’s Cathedral. Requiem Mass will be on Saturday at 10.30am with burial afterwards in Aghadoe Lawn Cemetery, Killarney.

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