Legion Hall of Fame award for Jimmy O Leary

March 25th, 2014
by Weeshie Fogarty

It's seldom if ever I get an opportunity to write about my own club Killarney Legion and when all is said and done the GAA is all about one thing and one thing only, the club.  Too often in today's world of the all consuming inter county scene especially in championship season the clubs themselves suffer most. And it's in the clubs of this county that the heart and soul, the true essence, the core and real meaning of the association is to be found. The on going battle of club versus county is forever to be heard and with the massive problem of emigration, injuries to players, continuing fund raising difficulties clubs in all divisions are forever swimming against the proverbial tide. But, and this is the bottom line the club is the foundation, the bed rock the past, present and future of the association. Anyone worth his or her salt will put their club number one and everything else second and in my life time association with my own club and my viewing of others I am forever amazed at the utter dedication, passion, commitment and fervor men and women, young and old harbor for their beloved clubs.  And it is precisely these sentiments that bring me to the subject of my column this week. Remembering those who have literally devoted a life's work both on and off the field.

Twenty seven years ago in my capacity as club officer I was involved in the establishment of a new initiative which would remember and honor former Legion activists and the legendary Kerry footballer and All Ireland winning trainer Jackie Lyne became the very first recipient of the clubs  initial Hall of Fame Award. This special trophy was presented to the club by the wife of one of our late founder members Vince Doyle (his brother won All Ireland medals with Kerry in 1913-14) and in each of the intervening years other former servants of the club were honored.  And it's a beautiful coincidence that the recipient of the award this year, Jimmy o Leary is the son of one the founder members of our club. His late father Mickey o Leary was one of the staunchest club men I have known who's brother Timmy won three minor medals with Kerry in 1931-32-33 captaining them to victory in the latter year. Two senior All Ireland medals were also added to the collection of this brilliant footballer and Jimmy has fond memories of long lazy days fishing on the lakes of Killarney chatting with his uncle and been indoctrinated  with the history of both Kerry and The Legion. Two more uncles Brendan and John also played with both club and county.  An ounce of breeding is worth a ton of feeding.

The GAA and its clubs are all about family and tradition. This is what it is build on, this is what it is all about, "forget your past and you have no present, and without a present you certainly have no future", words which remained etched in the mind heard at a county board convention articulated by the great John Joe Sheehy. Jimmy o Leary now a Legion Vice President was reared in a passionate Republican and GAA home. He has vivid memories of being brought to Legion club games by his father in the forties and fifties. In 1955 while just fourteen years of age when The Legion were short he "stood in" as they say at corner forward to make up the numbers. They went on to win the o Donoghue Cup that year but Jimmy did not receive a medal. Another fourteen year old had also helped the side that year when pressed in to service. Michael "Hawker" o Grady (RIP) and Jimmy tossed a coin for the one reaming medal, Jimmy called heads and tails came up.  However he captained Kerry to win An Ireland minor basketball title and played in all grades for the county.

A team selection from entirely from the list of recipients since the award was inaugurated in 1987 shows in the finest possible manner exactly what the club since its founding in 1929 has contributed to Kerry football. Thirteen of this selection has worn the Kerry jersey in some grade; three have played in the 1947 historic All Ireland final in the New York Polo Grounds, six of the side have All Ireland medals in one grade or another, three of the selection have played hurling and football for Kerry,[i] eighteen Kerry senior county championship medals have been captured by members of the side and eight of the players have also represented their county in basketball. And for good measure throw in two Kerry senior hurling county championship medals to the mix and a precious All Ireland hurling Celtic Cross. Corner forward Mickey Lyne from Faught in Muckross never played for Kerry but he lined out for East Kerry in six senior county finals, winning four and adding an All ireland club medal to his name in 1970, a Legion legend in my book.  Weeshie Fogarty, Lui Nolan, Donie Murphy, Noel McCarthy, Denny Lyne, Jackie Lyne, Danno Keeffe, Jimmy Redpath, Teddy o Sullivan, John C Cooper, John Joe Sheehan, Johnny Culloty, Mickey Lyne, Michael o Leary, Jimmy o Leary.

Jimmy a retired psychiatric nurse will be presented with the Hall of Fame at the clubs awards night at the East Avenue Hotel on Sunday April 20th. He will be surrounded by his wife Ella (her brother Paddy Hussey won All Ireland with Kerry in 1959) family and friends. He summed it up perfectly when I asked him what this meant, "it's very special Weeshie and I am greatly privileged, in many ways its inviting me and my family back into The Legion, the club my late father help found eighty five long years ago and I am deeply honored having my name associated to that very distinguished list of previous winners". John Joe Sheehy was right when he stated "never forget your past". Jimmy o Leary is connecting all those exemplary founder members of my club to this very present day; no man, no family, deserves this tribute more.

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