Both South Kerry and Legion can take inspiration from OSullivan

November 3rd, 2015
by Weeshie Fogarty

When South Kerry and The Legion race on to Fitzgerald's Stadium next Sunday to decide the destination of the Bishop Moynihan Cup it will be just their second meeting ever in the Kerry county championship. And the last time these two sides did battle was fifty seven long years ago, Sunday August 9th 1958 was the exact date, the Con Keating Park Caherciveen was the venue and South Kerry then the reigning county champions were the winners.

My own memories of the day are vivid as I was making my championship debut in goal for The Legion and it was a baptism of fire in many ways because looking out the field I had a close up view of some of the greatest Kerry players of that time in the South Kerry colours.  Mick o Dwyer was centre forward, Mick o Connell, centre field, Ned Fitzgerald corner forward, John "Dasher" o Connor at wing back , Jerome o Shea, centre back the great Donal "Marcus" o Neill was in goal at the other end of the field. For a seventeen year old it was a daunting and totally unforgettable but wonderful experience.

South Kerry were dominating the championship having won the blue ribbon of Kerry football, in 1955-56 and regained that year of '58 and amazingly it was a member of my own club who was and still is credited with those historic wins. Gerald o Sullivan was a born and bred Legion man from Ballycasheen just out the Woodlawn road in Killarney and he and his brother Teddy who both played for Kerry had helped the townies to their only championship win in 1946. Gerald as a young lad starring on the forty. But here he was now standing on the verge of the square leading South Kerry against his own club to what transpired to be a six point victory over us that afternoon and being marked by a great friend and Kerry star, Donie Murphy who was towering before me that day in the full back position.  

Gerald a superb player with magnificent fielding abilities had been transferred from Killarney to Caherceiveen creamery in 1950 and from there on gave unswerving loyalty to St Marys, Caherceiveen.  Hard to believe but South Kerry had never won a county championship until 1955 as divisions between clubs and districts had prevented the best players coming together.  And along came Gerald with as Mick o Dwyer said, "his striking good looks, personable manner and wide spread popularity, but most of all he was a natural leader of men". In ordinary life as I myself later discovered when he returned to The Legion to train and play with us in the sixties Gerald was a quiet and gentle person off the field but when he donned the jersey he seem to undergo a personality change and was one of the greatest competitors I have ever seen play for our club.

Mick o Dwyer himself once credited Gerald with being the guiding influence on his young football life, in one of the many interviews I conducted with Mick over the years he said of The Legion man. "If ever I modelled myself on anyone, it was him. He was a great footballer whose worth was never fully recognised, without his guidance and encouragement I doubt if I would have come to anything as a footballer, I owe him everything and the three Count y Championships we won in the fifties are all down to his training and leadership both on and off the field". High praise indeed and Gerald's son Michael was playing with The Legion right up until last season and in fact won an All-Ireland inter-firm with Liebherr's earlier this year.  And Gerald's two beautiful granddaughters, Evie and Lynn are regular attenders at our Saturday morning academy coaching sessions.  An ounce of breeding is indeed worth a ton of feeding.

All of that is now of course just a part of our history and will have no bearing whatsoever on next Sundays encounter. It promises to be a thrilling game and having played county championship with two divisional sides, Killarney, East Kerry, and my club I fully understand the different mental approach which this throws up.

The club side, training on a constant basis together, playing county league and meeting regularly, this certainly gives them an advantage of sorts, no doubt about this. Their overall team work from one to fifteen will be more advanced that their opponents. On the other hand South Kerry would have had their preparations interrupted with the success and participation of St Mary's both in Kerry and Munster but reaching a county final energies all players of the division and this South Kerry outfit have come through a searching rout to the final.

Their advantage over The Legion rests with the highly experienced players in their ranks, men who will enter the game without a worry on their mind, county championship medals already in their collection, no weight of great expectations, they won't be fazed by the occasion and I have been hugely impressed by Denis Daly, Paul o Donoghue, Robert Wharton, and Brendan o Sullivan. And then the massively experienced and leader on the field Brian Sheehan having a superb year, his winning point against Kenmare will be spoken about as one of the greatest ever scored in Fitzgerald Stadium. Killian Young never plays a poor game and then Declan o Sullivan ready to come on when the need arises. South Kerry's trump card, easy question, simple answer, experience, you can't buy it.

Since Peter Keane took over the reins last year he has literally revolutionised The Legion. With his back room men Chris Flannery and Diarmuid Leen they have fused the lake side men into a superbly organised, skilful and never say die unit. Riding high in the county league table, their trump card will be sheer hunger, combined play, and of course absolute will to win after such a long barren period in the wilderness.

And of course the James o Donoghue factor will play a massive part in the destination of the trophy. What a superb all round player he is, on his best day simply unstoppable, no doubt Killian Young will be assigned the task of shadowing him. On the other hand Connor Keane, James o Sullivan Podge o Connor, Jonathan Lyne, Kevin Breen, Shaun Keane and young Daragh Doherty are all proven competitors and now they face their greatest test of all.

So there you have it in the proverbial nut shell, the club side, youth and hunger against experience and strength of the South Kerry division, take your pick.  I have always had massive admiration and appreciation for all the wonderful footballers who come from the Iveragh Peninsula, it's a special place, football comes first down there everything else second.

However this time I wear my heart on my selve, human nature being what it is and after over sixty years of involvement in The Legion I see no reason if, and this is the big question, they bring their best game to the occasion why they cannot bridge that long gap since 1946 and capture their first Bishop Moynihan Cup which was not even in existence all those years ago.

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