Tributes to Bobby Buckley

March 27th, 2013
by Barra O'Briain and Patrick OSullivan

Bobby Buckley – Footballer and Outstanding Educator
They came from all over Ireland and in particular from within Kerry and Cork to pay their respects to one of North Kerry's great sons – Bobby Buckley whose demise came all too soon and as a notable shock to those who knew him and especially to those of us who worked with him. Commitment, determination and a phenomenal sense of loyalty were the hallmarks that stood him apart. His extraordinary range of achievements are recorded as being at the highest level and standard in the fields of sport, culture, education, economy and Kerry !!!

Kerry football had witnessed lean years in the period from 1946 to its breakthrough in 1953 when the annual pilgrimage to Fitzgerald Stadium took seventeen trains to bring the optimistic pilgrim following from Cork for the Munster final and where an attendance of close on 20,000 witnessed Bobby Buckley replacing Jackie Lyne after half-time and the Kingdom turning the tide from the previous year with a four point margin (2-7 to 2-3) over the Rebels. Kerry went on that year to capture their 17th All-Ireland title with Bobby playing at Centre-field against Louth in the semi-final and where Paudie Sheehy (Captain) played a starring role with a sterling victory over the 'Wee' County (3-6 to 0-10). Armagh succumbed to the might of Kerry in a final that brought a record 85,000 in attendance and with a score of 0-13 to 1-6 at the final whistle.

A year later Kerry were beaten by Meath in the final but returned in 1955 with a renewed determination and where Bobby Buckley and Tom Costello set the campaign afoot by scoring two great goals in the opening round against Waterford. Cork were disposed of by a margin of two points (0-14 to 2-6) and in the semi-final Kerry disposed of Cavan to reach the final against a highly fancied Dublin team that had defeated Mayo in a replay. The Dubs were deemed to be "The dazzling darlings of the exciting new brand of Gaelic football." However, Roche, Palmer, O'Shea, Cronin, Sheehy, Costello, a young Sean Murphy, Brosnan, Culloty (then cornerforward), Lyne, Tom Moriarty and their Trojan Captain John Dowling gave "an outstanding display of the traditional 'Catch and Kick' style" and brought off what was reported as being "one of the most memorable triumphs in the field of play."

Bobby Buckley, prior to 1953 was a trainee Rural Science Teacher at the Crawford Institute of Technology and University College Cork where he was very involved with the Skull and Cross-bones Lee-siders. In 1953 he won a Sigerson Cup medal with the College, in a final played in Belfast, against a star-studded UCD team. He also came close to winning a Cork County Senior Football Championship medal with UCC but they were defeated in the final by Collins' (Army Team) in a replay. However, his prowess on the field saw him selected to the Combined Universities team with most of the great footballers from within the National University  fraternity in that year.

Bobby's first teaching appointment was to Kenmare Vocational School with Tom Bambury as the Principal. He played with Kenmare in 1954 but the team went down to Kerins O'Rahilly's in the County Final.

In 1957 he and Eileen O'Donoughue were married and they moved to Ballyheigue when Bobby was appointed as Principal of the magnificent new Vocational School in Causeway. His origin within and appreciation for rural communities brought his deep sense of Bobby Buckley RIP - a tribute the first to organise the Annual Conference (1973) outside of Dublin and although the move was frowned upon by some colleagues he negotiated with the Department of Education and the Conference came to Killarney.

The post of CEO of County Cork VEC had become vacant and being a much larger scheme Bobby applied for the post and was appointed on the 22nd June, 1973 and took up duty on the 1st October that year. Bobby's predecessor in Cork was Liam O'Maolcatha who had retired two years previous and Diarmuid Ó Drisceoil was acting CEO. Taking up duty Bobby Buckley immediately established a team to draft a 'Resource Study' to highlight the extent and quality of the facilities, equipment and additional buildings across the entire scheme. The report from this study was published and had a profound effect on the Scheme – the VEC, the Schools, Administrative Staff and right up to the Department of Education. In the case of the latter it signalled the very significant Capital and Revenue funding that was necessary to update the educational scheme, school curricula and the twenty one school buildings all of which were in need of modernisation.

The task was enormous the challenge was great and the Department had a policy of building Community Schools and Comprehensive Schools that had the most modern facilities in towns where the amalgamation of existing schools was occurring. Bobby contested this policy and believed that the VEC as the local Education Committee for the County region of Cork was centrally placed and well capable to make provision for education, in a partnership manner at second-level, adult education, Youthreach, music and a literacy and numeracy service on a county basis.

Bobby Buckley's vision based, on the original Resource Study, was brought to fruition and by the time of his retirement in 1996 he had transformed the educational remit under County Cork VEC with new schools replacing old, new school centres established at Ballincollig, Schull and Glanmire. School curricula had been expanded and enrolments at each centre increased. New Sports Halls were erected and attached to the schools and made available to the local communities. Irish culture and the language were fostered both within and outside the Gaeltacht areas and Bobby was particularly proud of having established the first Community College in the county at Clonakilty, in 1980, that proved a viable alternative to the Department promoted Community School. However, he did assist the Department, where necessary in their efforts to establish Community or Comprehensive Schools once decided upon and this was the case in Carrigaline, Passage West, Kinsale, Millstreet and Boherbue.

Bobby had a special interest in making provision for outdoor education and he established a centre at Kinsale and built a state of the art centre for sailing, marine and outdoor education attached to Schull Community College. He promoted active participation by young people in all sports but always had a special interest in the promotion of our National Games. He instigated the appointment of a games officer to organise the fixtures and venues for all of the school football and hurling competitions involving the schools and attended as many of the games as he could and was readily available to make the presentation to the winning team on the day.

At National Level he was appointed as; Chairman of the National Sports Council in 1971, a member of the Board of Governors for the establishment of Thomond College, Limerick; member of the committee for the Review of Garda Management, Training and Recruitment Authority in 1985; member and promoted the concept of the European Rural University and held an assembly of the delegates at Schull Community College 1991; Chairman of the Review Committee on Adult Education at UCC in 1997; Chairman of Siamsa Tíre, Tralee and was a member of the National Council for Educational Awards.

The meeting today of Cork and Kerry, despite his long sojourn in Cork 1973 – 1996, would leave him like all in the Riocht shouting for Kerry and praying for Cork that the winning score mightn't be too great !!! Condolences are extended to his wife Eileen and to their family of Donal, Cathryn, Anne, Susan, Frances, Paddy, Niamh, Roma and Eileen.

Mar a dúirt Donal, a mhac, sa tséipéal ag abairt slán le Bobby – Ní bheidh do leithéid arís ann. Is gan amhras - ní bheidh. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

-- Barra O'Briain

Born in Coolaclarig Listowel and educated at Clonmacon N.S. where he developed a love of football, Bobby also attended Tralee CBS and completed his secondary education at St. Ita's of Tarbert. Due to his love of farming he continued his studies at Mountbellew Agricultural College in Co. Galway, before moving on to U.C.C. where he studied science graduating in 1953. During his time at UCC he played on the college football team along with Jim and Mick Brosnan and Paudie Sheehy, winning a Sigerson medal in 1952. Bobby Buckley was a very prominent member of the famous Clonmacon team of the fifties who were a major force in North Kerry football.

After graduation he took up a teaching post in Kenmare Vocational School, promoted agricultural night classes and formed macra na feirme groups in Kenmare and Kilgarvan. In 1957 he was appointed Principal at the new Vocational school in Causeway. There he continued his great interest in the farming community. He built a cow byre and piggery to give practical demonstration on rearing and maintaining animals to young students, - one noted past pupil was none other than Ned Harty founding director of Dairy Master in Causeway. He also produced celery and onions commercially.

In 1970 Bobby was transferred to the newly developed Kerry Enterprise Company from where he was appointed C.E.O. of Tralee Town VEC. While in Tralee he was the motivator for the development of the new regional college – now Tralee Institute of Technology. In 1973 Bobby was appointed CEO of Co. Cork V.E.C. where he was responsible for the modernization of many of its twenty two schools before retiring in 1996 to reside in Ballyheigue.

Bobby Buckley won two All Ireland senior medals with Kerry in 1953 and '55, playing 12 championship and 14 national leagues games in his Kerry playing career from 1953 to 1956. Ar dhéis dé go raibh a anam dhílís.

-- Patrick O'Sullivan

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