Remembering Kerry Legends of The Past

December 17th, 2013
by Weeshie Fogarty

Sixty years ago this year, 1953, Kerry won what was known as their Jubilee All Ireland Final. The contentious story of the captaincy that day still resonates after all these years as does another highly debatable captaincy issue when Kerry had won their previous title in 1946. Gus Cremin was captain for the drawn game that year. I spoke to these two exemplary men at the center of the debates. It is only right and proper that we remember these men. So very often they are completely forgotten in all the hype and glamorization which dominates the game to day.  "Out of sight, out of mind".
Jas Murphy from the Kerins o Rahillys club in Tralee accepted the Sam Maguire Cup that day in 1953. It was a hugely significant win for The Kingdom.  Kerry had failed to win the title since 1946 when the legendary Paddy Kennedy had captained them to victory over Roscommon following a re-play. So from that to 1953 had been Kerry's longest spell without a win since the Sam Maguire Cup was first contested in 1928. And so I visited Jas Murphy in his home in Cork where we recalled that momentous day of his sporting life. Jas is the oldest surviving winning Kerry captain alive. The captaincy has often caused great trouble.
In 1946 four separate men led the team in the pre match parades. Shannon Rangers had won the county championship in 1945 and two of their stalwarts Gus Cremin and Eddie Dowling had been captain during the march to Croke Park. Injury and loss of form saw both men lose their place. Bill Casey was also captain for one of the matches and then following the drawn final against Roscommon Gus Cremin who had been captain for that match was dropped for the re-play and Paddy Kennedy was handed the honor of leading Kerry to victory.
So all these years later when I visited Gus, now approaching his 92nd year at his home in Ballydonoghue he revealed. "I am still deeply hurt to this day and I blame Dr Eamonn o Sullivan the trainer as been responsible for I losing my place for the re-play. I was just a hard working farmer and he always favored the student or the man with the white collar work. However I did come on in the re-play and scored the point that was responsible for defeating Roscommon".  In relation to that point renowned GAA scribe Eamon Mongey wrote in a national paper that "it was the most perfect and valuable point ever scored in Croke Park". Gus continued "I came straight home form Dublin and the following morning I was out in the fields saving my crops. I avoided all the celebrations and to this day I am still deeply hurt due to the way I was treated. The officers of the Kerry county board never came to me and the following year 1947 I missed a trip to the Polo Grounds Final in New York as I broke my leg in the North Kerry League final. I played my last game for Kerry in 1948 when we lost heavily to Mayo in the All Ireland semi-final".
And so as Jas Murphy marched up the steps of the Hogan stand to accept the trophy in 1953 controversy again shrouded the captains appointment. Paudie Sheehy had been captain for the semi-final win over Louth. His father the legendary John Joe was a selector that year and when the team was being chosen in the Park Place Hotel Killarney where the panel were staying John Joe Sheehy announced that he would leave the meeting when Paudie's position came up for discussion. What transpired was to cause a sensation in the county. Paudie was dropped from the starting fifteen and the position of captain for the final was now vacant. Jas a retired Garda takes up the story. "The first I heard of the captaincy was on the Thursday before the match. A friend rang me from Tralee and said that the John Mitchell's club who had the nomination of the captaincy was honoring me with the appointment. I was very sorry for Paudie and it made it more difficult for me because we were great friend and traveled to matches and training together. I felt that there were others on the team more deserving of the honor than myself.
The tradition in Kerry is that the captain is always the first man to alight from the train with the cup when the victors return to the Kingdom. I was always slightly puzzled when studying a magnificent photograph of Jackie Lyne being shouldered high by a massed crowd of jubilant supporter on the platform of Killarney railway station that year of 1953. No sign of Jas, where was he? All those years later in his beautiful comfortable home in Cork he cleared up the mystery. "Would you believe that I missed the train on which the team returned to Kerry? I had met friends at the Garda Club in Dublin and lost track of time. However I caught a later train and met up with the lads in Tralee where I was shouldered through the town with the cup.
For Jas Murphy the man who had led Kerry to their seventeenth All Ireland senior title sixty years ago, 1953 there would be great heart break the following year and when I spoke to him about his career he was visibly up set in relation to the shocking treatment he received from the Kerry county board and selectors the following year. He played just one more championship match for Kerry as they defeated Waterford's 3-10 to 1-4 in the first round of the 1954 Munster championship. He was never again contacted by the Kerry county board and was never offered an explanation as to why his services had been dispensed with.
"I was playing the best football of my life at the time" he told me. "I was dropped from the panel and I felt deeply hurt and gave up even going to see Kerry playing. My late wife Mary was very upset also and to this day I have never heard from any one in authority as to why I was totally ignored". I have seen numerous instances of very hurtful wrongs been inflicted on Kerry footballers down through the years. In some instances it is a case of what club you come from or did you father or brothers play with Kerry, or have you a friend on the selectors committee. Jas Murphy like many others was badly wronged. A quite dignified gentleman he certainly did not deserve to be totally ignored following the great win in 1953. He remains the only Kerry captain to have his services dispensed with the year after leading his county to All Ireland glory. Gus and Jas, lets not forget them.

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