The North Kerry Championship really is different to all the rest

January 19th, 2016
by Weeshie Fogarty

It was the highly distinctive northern accent that caught my ear as I pulled in to the car park at the Bob Stack Memorial Park Ballybunnion for the recent North Kerry football championship final re-play. It stood out like a beacon in the night, welcoming, friendly and obviously anxious to talk football. Pat Carolan sporting his yellow florescent steward's jacket was the first person I met as left my car. Cavan by birth, born in Knockbride Pat had emigrated to New York in the sixties, worked hard there but as he told me, " it was the GAA in that city that was my life saver, I went to Gaelic Park every Sunday, huge crowds at that time and John Kerry o Donnell was a great friend to me. Every Sunday, meeting people from all over Ireland, I also helped out with the club there and have great memories of Kerry teams playing in Gaelic Park, I saw Mick o Connell give magnificent displays in National league finals".

Good fortune followed when he met Carmel Harty from Ballybunnion, fell in love, married and later returned to the sea-side town in Kerry where Pat immediately became immersed in the local Beale club. "It has played a major part in my life here", he told me, "and has helped me in a huge way to overcome the difficulties of life". Pat Carolan is the quintessential GAA man; I meet them all over the county and the country in my travels. He was there in that car park with the rest of the Beale club men from eleven o clock in the morning and when I was setting  out for home hours later there he was still there redirecting traffic out the gap.

The crowds had been converging to the grounds long before the 2 pm throw anticipating another thriller following the pre-Christmas drawn game. It was evident that Brosna were there in force, orange and white scarves and hats standing out in the dreary, dark but dry January day. Brosna attempting to win their first ever North Kerry Championship while Listowel Emmett's were the old dogs for the long road led by the hugely experienced Noel Kennelly and Brendan Guiney. It was at my first North Kerry final some years ago that I had the honour of meeting for the very first time the legendary Eddie Dowling, survivor from the Polo Grounds All Ireland final of New York, 1947. I can still see him as clear as day in the mind's eye, standing inside the gate in Ballybunnion leaning against the wall of the dressing room, cigarette in hand, dressed in grey gabardine coat and peaked cap perched at a right angle covering his weather beaten and always smiling face.

 But it was the warm friendly hand shake I remember most of all, a huge big massive hand, like the proverbial shovel, those hands that had fielded many a high ball for Kerry, Ballydonoghue and Shannon Rangers and whose presence was so sorely missed in New York when Eddie had the leave the field with severe concussion. His absence, Denny Lyne the captain that historic day told me cost Kerry that All Ireland. Eddie died in 2012 but now it was his son Dino who I met as he  took his father's place at this final in Ballybunnion. A fine footballer himself, he played Kerry minor, Dino helped Beale to win the championship in 1989, Don Twomey he recalled the winning captain that day was their man of the match. Just like his father Dino only discusses football and we chatted recalling how his dad had captained Ballydonoghue on a record four occasions to win the North Kerry title. Two of his team mates on these occasions were Kerry stars, Mick Finucane and Gus Cremin.

The ladies committee of the club were in full flow  attending the needs of the press with the best of eats and they informed me that this year the history of the Beale club will be finalised and launched, no doubt their star players, Ogie Moran, Eoin Bomber Liston and Bob Stack will feature prominently in the publication. Between them these three legendary Ballybunnion men hold nineteen senior All Ireland medals and a huge total of twenty nine Munster senior medals.  This massive Ballybunnion field, with a natural sandy surface is as big as Croke Park and named in honour of Bob Stack. American by birth, Bob's parents emigrated there in 1880 where Bob was born in 1902 and when he was twelve years of age they returned to reside at Doon overlooking the wild Atlantic. His magnificent midfield partnership with Con Brosnan of Moyvane lasted from 1924 to 1931.

While the game itself did not produce vintage football it was never the less gripping stuff with the huge crowd getting behind their teams in true North Kerry passionate manner.. North Kerry finals have an atmosphere all the their own completely different from all the other divisions, difficult to put your finger on it but for an outsider such as myself reared on a diet of East Kerry football it makes a great days viewing. So Brosna will wait at least another year to capture their first Eamon o Donoghue Cup. Listowel Emmett's had that perfect ingredient on the field. Youth and experience allied to a great history in this championship and this proved the winning formula because when push came to shove Noel Kennelly's men came out in the second half and literally bossed the game.

Brosna's seven first half wide's were to prove their down fall and the winners young guns like Niall Collins, Brian Sweeney  and Cormac Mulvihill, son of former Kerry great Johnny rose to the occasion in tremendous style while the Connor Cox led the attack with style and class that is a joy to watch.. So Brosna, reigning All Ireland junior champions and their exemplary manager Jimmy Keane will of course be bitterly disappointed but it can only be a matter of time before this top quality side  playing lovely football record a championship final victory, they deserve it . North Kerry championship final, different to all the rest.

Radio Kerry - The Voice of the Kingdom