Former Cheltenham Town striker Kieran Hehir has died at the age of 64 after a battle with cancer.
He attended Cheltenham Grammar School and spent time with both Bristol City and Bournemough as a younger.
As a boy Hehir would attend matches at Whaddon Road and used to cycle from the ground to the Echo offices with Derek Goddard’s newspaper copy for inclusion in the Saturday evening green sports edition.
He was playing for St Mark’s CA in the Gloucestershire Northern Senior League when Robins boss Denis Allen invited him to play for the reserves.
His first team debut was an FA Trophy first qualifying round tie against Ferndale Athletic on October 12, 1974, but he then returned to St Mark’s.
Hehir was persuaded to re-join the Robins towards the end of the season and made his Southern League debut in a 0-0 draw away to Corby Town.
The following season he appeared for the reserves in the West Midland League before being called back into the first team for a home match against Redditch United.
He scored a hat-trick in the 3-1 win and held down a regular first team spot alongside Dave Lewis in attack for the remainder of the season, scoring another hat-trick in a 5-2 win over Barnet.
Hehir signed his first professional contract with the club at the start of 1976-77, which turned out to be his most successful season with the club.
Hehir and Lewis scored 38 goals between them as Cheltenham finished runners-up to Worcester City in Southern League Division One and achieved promotion back to the Premier Division after an absence of eight years.
Hehir played regularly in the first half of the following season, but spent part of the second half on loan to Barry Town in South Wales.
His 1978-79 campaign was disrupted by injury and after making his final appearance against Trowbridge Town on October 28, 1978, he departed for Evesham United in January 1979.
He made a total of 89 starts for Cheltenham, along with nine appearances from the bench, scoring 37 goals.
By the time he joined Evesham his career had begun to take over from football as Hehir progressed through the export and sales department of Walker Crossweller (now Mira Showers) and he returned to playing more local football with St Mark’s during the 1980s.
He later worked for Lafarge in Kent and would regularly come to watch Cheltenham play at venues such as Ebbsfleet United and Sittingbourne.
In 2006, he moved to Thailand, working and travelling extensively in the Far East.
The following is from one of Echo football writer Derek Goddard’s weekly columns, published in June 2005:
Many years ago, before technology was sent to plague us, a young lad used to jump on his bike and take handwritten copy from the football ground to the office. He was known as a runner and he had to do it several times during the 90 minutes of the game so that the words could appear in the green sports paper we used to print. For quite a long time, that runner was Kieran Hehir. He was a bright and lively lad who I can well remember saying in a piping voice: “We won 12-0 this morning, Mr Goddard, and I got nine.” Hehir went on to play semi-professionally for Cheltenham Town and scored a spectacular hat-trick against Redditch United. He worked at Walker Crosweller before he changed jobs and moved to Kent. He has now returned to Cheltenham. I mention these things because my daughter told me, the last time I phoned, that my 16-year-old grandson had something to ask me. He lives in Rugby and, until recently, spent most of his time on the internet. When he came to the phone, he told me he was writing to a girl who was at the military college in Dover. He said he had sent her a photograph of himself wearing a Cheltenham Town football shirt and she wrote back saying that her father used to play for that club. “Do you know him?” he asked. “His name is Kieran Hehir.”
* Thanks to Paul Godfrey and Cheltenham Town Football club for Kieran Hehir’s career statistics.