The Hight of Madness - Kerrys Greatest Supporter

September 17th, 2013
by Weeshie Fogarty

A beautiful new publication which I am convinced will prove in time to be a superb addition the library of Kerry GAA books has just come to hand and while Kerry may not have a September date in Croke Park the launch date of this lovely book will add greatly to the calendar of Kerry GAA people. Written entirely by her own hand "The Hight of Madness - Kerrys Greatest Supporter" charts the colorful life of Kathleen o Sullivan from her earliest days growing up in the country side of South Kerry, to her embracing a lifetime as a GAA sports fan and discovering along the way that it isn't' just all about sport; its about community, loyalty, hard work, joys and disappointment and most of all, its about love-of people. It's all about what the sport of GAA represents and offers to the smallest clubs and the most celebrated teams and the life long bonds that grow from this shared love of community, national and international. Kathleen o Sullivan has captured this and much more in this wonderful unique honest publication, one of the very first to my knowledge ever written by a die hard Kerry supporter. Only a passionate, loyal, obsessive, and highly committed devotee as Kathleen could have written this.  It would be utterly impossible for a Kerry player, manager, selector or journalist to write from this perspective and pen what Kathleen has achieved here. This for me makes the book unique, distinctive and only one of its kind.

Her GAA family is everywhere, but for Kathleen its roots remain in her home town of Caherceiveen with its club the famed St Mary's. From Con Keating Park to Croke Park and a host of venues in between, Kathleen o Sullivan has traveled the length and breath of Ireland to support her club and county teams. This book captures Kathleen's  wonderful GAA  journey which stretches beyond the county boundaries and she has met and spoken to players and supporters all over Ireland, all she has come to admire and cheer on-when they are not playing against her beloved Kerry.

The inimitable Billy Keane in a beautifully worded Foreword sums up this exemplary lady as only he can. "Kathleen o Sullivan is in love. With her native Caherceiveen, the famed South Kerry town that hugs the mountains. With Kerry football- a life long passion. Kathleen loves goodness too. And being good is what she is good at. Her decency and love of life shine through on every page. The book is a traveler's tale. Sometimes the narrative leaves the road and goes off on a side bohereen of recollection and, of course, football. It's a book you can dip in and out of, get lost in and then find your way back to wherever Kathleen was going in the first place. The tale simply told is the most powerful story of all. Kathleen writes without trace of those twin enemies of the autobiography-deceit and arrogance".

And then for me Billy adds the ten most forceful words of all. Words that capture the essence, the spirit and the real core of this Kerry GAA book. He writes. "There is a lovely innocence and openness in her writing". And this is the Kathleen o Sullivan that I met some years ago on the streets of Caherceiveen, a meeting of which she writes of in her book as follows.  "The notion of writing a book has been floating around in my head for many years. One cold snowy December day some years ago, at a South Kerry final in Caherceiveen, I met my great friend Weeshie Fogarty from Killarney. I asked him for advice as to what I should do about my dream of writing a book. He looked at me, put his hand on my shoulder and said: Go for it, Kathleen, follow your dream. You have a vast knowledge of Kerry and the GAA in general all over Ireland. And remember what Oliver Gold smith wrote-"and still they gazed and still their wonder grew that one small head could carry all it knew". That applies to you more than anyone I know and people will be quoting this about you".  Little did I think back then that this remarkable lady who lives on her own in her aptly named flat in Caherceiveen called The Upper Deck would complete such a mammoth task? The mind boggles when one realizes that out of the hundreds of thousands of Kerry football supporters down through the decades Kathleen is probably the very first to write a book lock, stock and barrel from a supporters perspective.

It's a beautifully publication by Bridget McAuliffe, Red Hen Publishing. Over two hundreds pages and photographs and it also captures the history of South Kerry and surroundings areas and brings the reader to the four corners of Ireland as Kathleen meets and befriends the Legendary players of the game. Sean o Neill, Christy Tyrrell, Jack Mangan, Johnny Culloty, Seamus Durack, Jamsie o Connor, Davy Fitzgerald, Martin Furlong, Willie Byrne, Mick o Rourke, Matt o Connor, Joe Brolly, Mickey Whelan, John  Joe Nerney, Brian Whelan, Declan o Sullivan, Paudie o Se, Eddie Keher, Mick o Dwyer, Mick o Connell and many more are all pictured with the author.

This book is different to any conventional sports book you have ever read. Kathleen captures the real essence of time and place; it reflects her own incomparable character which leaps out at you from every page. There is a beautiful honesty and simplicity and integrity shinning through from start to finish and knowing at first hand the trials and tribulations she endured during her years working on the manuscript it is even more remarkable.  Kathleen o Sullivan has by virtue of this publication contributes greatly to the Secrets of Kerry. It will prove to be a lasting legacy by an exemplary lady. She deserves your support at the launch which takes place in The Ring of Kerry Hotel Caherciveen Saturday September 28th, 7.30 pm.

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