Connie OShea represents all that is good in local GAA

October 27th, 2015
by Weeshie Fogarty

Connie o Shea is a Killarney postman, he rises every morning at the ungodly hour of 4 am and heads for his postal depot where he sorts and packs his mail for delivery on his specially adapted postman's bicycle which he navigates expertly around Killarney town. Connie is a well-known and well liked figure, glasses perched on the tip of his nose, peaked cap, yellow fluoresce jacket and radio ear plugs dangling from his ears. He is, like all postmen a great man for the chat but last Monday week if anyone was awaiting an early delivery they were slightly disappointed because their local postman was delayed on route, he had some very important sporting issues to discuss during his deliveries around Killarney town and Connie had waited a long time for this, in fact he had waited all his life for such an occasion.

Connie Shea is and has been all his life a member of The Killarney Legion club and on the previous day he had watched his side achieve the near impossible reaching their first Kerry county championship final in 67 long barren years as local East Kerry rivals Rathmore were put to the sword. Connie is the quintessential GAA club man, passionate, loyal, dedicated, hardworking, honest, and as he described himself to me, "a dyed in the wool Legion man" who wears his heart on his selve. He typifies everything that is great and good about a club man/woman, and for me personally this applies to every GAA man or woman I know around Kerry and beyond because without the Connie o Shea's of this world and the clubs they represent the organisation as we know it today would not exist.

The local GAA club is the strongest sporting link in most parishes and towns; it's the corner stone that has withstood so many challenges. Parishes have lost the local creamery, the post office, the garda station, the local pub and the prospect of losing the parish priest is just around the corner, as we have experienced here already in Kerry. Some GAA clubs will not survive and for me that will end the link in a chain that has been handed down from generation to generation. Our GAA clubs in Kerry have much to be proud of - they have led the way in their communities.

They have shown leadership, courage and vision often way ahead of the ruling body in this county. A club requires dedicated people working very hard to achieve at a variety of levels but in most cases you will also find that it takes one key person to set the goals and drive change and others will follow. Croke Park often tells us how important the club is, how it's the bed rock of the association but if that's case then can they not find some way of helping the many clubs that are struggling?  The costs now associated with getting a team on the field are exceptionally high and it would be a great boost to most clubs if some way could be found, even for a short while, to ease the burden on clubs.

Connie o Shea joined his club when he was just eight years old, attended the Saturday morning coaching sessions and turned out to be a handy club player. His mother Ann has also been a wonderful club servant. His greatest claim to fame in the green and white was as he told me, "winning a Kerry novice and an underage medal and my trainer was Donal o Donoghue who is the uncle of Kerry star James". You can join a club for a number of reasons, it might be in the family, father followed by sons and now also followed by his daughters, you might follow school friends into a local club or you might just be asked by a well know  club person to join.

It matters little just how you decide to dedicate huge parts of your life to a GAA club, and for Connie when his playing days were over he helped out and still does selling the weekly bingo tickets, attending all games and last year raised a lot of finance for The Legion as he travelled far and wide collecting registration money, handing out membership cards with another die hard club man Tommy Regan. Of course he knows full well that a massive challenge lies ahead in the final as a greatly experienced South Kerry team led by the magnificent Brian Sheehan lie in wait. But that's for another day and for the moment Connie is determined to enjoy the experience of seeing his club preparing for a county final because scores of great Killarney Legion men and women before him have gone to their eternal reward without experiencing the build-up, drama and emotion and sheer pride of such an experience.

Connie has seen the good days and the bad days for his club. He has watched the likes of Laune Rangers, Austin Stacks, Dr Crokes, An Gaeltaght and Kerins o Rahillys lift the Bishop Moynihan Cup during the last number of years while the winning of silverware for his beloved club was few and far between. He can vividly recall years ago when he and his late brother Damian were on their way one Saturday evening to town they passed the now demolished Park Place Hotel at the top of High St, the Legion seniors were gathering for an away game, the numbers were at rock bottom and the two brothers were as he recalled "kidnapped, brought back to our house, collected our boots and we finished up as the two corner forwards, and believe it or not we won the game".

Now I must admit that I was one of the people who delayed Connie's postal round last Monday week, on my way up High St. Killarney he hailed me down just outside M.D o Shea's tyre and battery premises, He had been listening to Radio Kerry replaying the commentary of the dramatic closing minutes of the semi-final on Kerry Today and there was a lovely contented smile across his face. He was a very happy club man and in many ways it was fitting that we discussed the previous days match just outside this garage because back in the twenties when this premises was known as The Temperance Hall on a March evening in 1929 a group of eleven men held a meeting in this building at which The Legion was founded. Why this happened is a story perhaps for another day but it's people like Connie o Shea and so many others who unknown and unheralded since the club last contested and won the county championship in 1946 and who worked away in the background through thick and thin, good and very bad days, can at last enjoy the experience of attending a Kerry county final and seeing their club participate in the blue ribbon of Kerry football.  It's a long road that has no turning. 

Radio Kerry - The Voice of the Kingdom