Fiontán Ó Cearbhaill was born in Wexford and moved to Waterford as a child. He was employed as a railway clerk for 27 years, gaining his B.Mus from Trinity College Dublin through evening study. Shortly afterwards he secured a post as music teacher in the Presentation Convent Secondary School, Waterford, which he held until his death.
In addition to his work as a school teacher, he was an active musician, teaching violin and music theory privately, conducting three brass bands and leading a theatre orchestra. He held the post of organist and choirmaster in a number of churches in Waterford and latterly at the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity. He was a founder member of the Irish Church Music Association and was for many years editor of and a regular contributor to the association’s magazine, Hosanna.