At 15 years of age the John Carew Park native considered turning his back on sport, but the allure of Limerick’s St Francis Boxing Club changed all that.
By 19, and under the tutelage of coach Ken Moore, Sheehy had dispatched with competitors across all levels, winning national titles at U18, U22 and Senior level, and was earmarked as a future Olympian.
Moore said he will never forget the first time Sheehy walked into the club looking for guidance: “Kev came to me when he was 15, and he had become a little bit disillusioned with sport and his dad asked me would I take him on - it was either come to us or he was packing it in - so I said I’d give him a chance and we became very close and very successful.”
“You can teach a guy to box, but they have to have a natural drive and hunger from somewhere to push themselves to the limit they do, and Kevin had this in spades,” he added.
Moore proudly watched from ringside as his prodigy broke through to elite competitions, European and World Championships, and how just a week before his death, he won a Gold medal at a multi-nations competition in Eastern Europe.
“He was a young man who was progressing well, not only as a boxer, but as a person. He was on the podium-squad for the high-performance system, they had Kevin earmarked as a potential Olympian for 2024 in Paris,” said Moore.
Sadly reflecting on “what could have been” the St Francis coach said Sheehy’s death is felt threefold, by his family, the boxing fraternity, and also within his local community.
“The hardest part of it is that I cannot forget the last three times I dropped Kevin home from sparring or competition, and as we were driving down towards Kevin’s house - it is a rough area, an underprivileged area, especially the kids they’re out on the road - and they always waved into the car at Kev as we were going past, even the adults.
“All these kids were waving at him like he was a superstar because here was a guy from their area, here was a guy that was going somewhere, here was a guy who was showing them that there is another way.”
“Every time I dropped Kevin off at his home I’d see these kids - whatever they had been doing - all of a sudden they’d start shadow-boxing, because they’d seen Kevin Sheehy.
“He was only a kid himself, and it was astounding the positive impact he already had, not only as a boxer, but the impact this young man had on others round him in the Carew Park community, and Kevin never paid any heed to it, he was such a nice young man.”
“Several weeks before he was taken from us we were up in his former primary school, CBS Sexton Street, giving a talk to the kids and it took us 40 minutes just to get out of the room because the kids were asking him every question under the sun - just to be near him.”
Moore said the death of his talented friend has been hard on everybody at the boxing club: “We were very, very close, and it’s been very tough. We just try to drive on the club as best we can, but no one will ever take Kevin Sheehy’s place, that will never happen.”
“All we can do is put our heads down and keep going, because everyday we open the doors of the club there’s another 15 kids who are waiting to be taught, so we can’t turn our backs on them.”
Moore joked: “Kev was a good egg, and funny, but not as funny as he thought he was - he couldn't tell a joke - because he’d be laughing half-way through it; that was Kevin he’d be laughing at his own joke before he’d have it told.”
“He was very special, he really was, there’s not a day goes by we don't remember him.”
Paying tribute to Sheehy’s loved ones, he said: “His family have been exceptional, I don't know how they are coping, they have been so strong, and dignified, and I know they are doing that for Kev because of who Kev was.”
“They must want scream (in pain) but they have been so strong, and I really don't know how they are doing it.”