Kerry Captains

Jas Murphy - Kerry's Oldest Living Winning Captain

by Weeshie Fogarty

Fifty five years ago on September 27th 1953 Jas Murphy led Kerry to a historic win over Northern rivals Armagh in the All Ireland football Jubilee final in Croke Park. There was a then record attendance of 82,000 fans present and as the gates were broken open before the throw it is estimated than at least another fifteen thousand people gained entrance. This would have set an all time attendance record for a final before or since. Jas was presented with the Sam Maguire Cup on the stands of the Hogan stand. The final score was 0-13 to 1-6 and it recorded Kerrys seventeenth title. Kerrys next competitive outing was away to Waterford in the Munster championship the following July. The man who had led Kerry to that famous win the previous September played in his regular corner back position as Kerry eased to the Munster final on a 3-10 to 1-2 score line. Unbelievably the name Jas Murphy would never ever again appear on a Kerry team list. The Kingdom went on to contest that years final against Meath where they gave one of their worst ever displays as they went down 1-13 to 1-7.

Time has not erased the bitter disappointed Jas experienced having being ignored without as much as an explanation or a phone call by the Kerry county board and selectors following that Waterford game in 1954. A quite unassuming gently spoken person the deep hurt he experienced is very evident as Jas recalled for me events all those years ago. "I was getting married shortly after the game against Waterford and I told the selectors I would be fit and ready for the Munster final. I was playing my best football at that time and the fact that I had captained my county to the All Ireland win had given me tremendous confidence. . However I never heard from them after that and nobody even contacted me. My late wife Mary and I were very upset for a long time afterwards and I stopped going to matches for years following my omission. In 1976 Mary and I went to the States with the Kerry team and we really enjoyed the experience. I later became President of Nemo rangers here in Cork, a great honour for a Kerryman.

So last week all these years later I found my-self sitting in the front room of Jas Murphy's home in the outskirts of Cork city where for two wonderful hours we discussed and recorded his football career, his great love for Kerry, and how he found himself in the unenviable position of marking his great boyhood friend from Tralee Frank o Keeffe in a Munster final. It was 1947 as Jas a Garda stationed in Cork declared for the rebel county and in that years Munster final they were thought a harsh lesson as Kerry captained by Denny Lyne won 3-8 to 2-6. Thirty two thousand spectators turned up to see the game. Some of the Tralee mans team mates on the Cork team that day included Moll Driscoll in goal, Weeshie Murphy, Tadge Crowley, Eamon Young, Nealie Duggan, Jim Aherne and the man who later became Taoiseach Jack Lynch. 1948 proved to be another disappointing year for the Kerins o Rahillys man as he explained. "We lost the league final to Caven after a re-play and I missed the Munster final in Killarney due to injury as Kerry beat us again"

Jas declared for his native county in 1949 and more heartbreak followed as the Kingdom suffered a sensational defeat away to Clare. Success came the following year for the Garda as Kerry won the Munster crown but lost to Louth in the semi-final. Then came that memorable year of 1953 and the honour of captaincy came to Jas in a way that he certainly had not wished for. Paudie Sheehy had been the captain up until the final and when the team was being selected for the decider his father the legendary John Joe then a selector left the room when his son's position was being discussed. Paudie was sensationally dropped from the starting fifteen and the captaincy was then passed to the Kerins o Rahillys man and the rest is history. "It was an unforgettable moment in my life when I walked up to accept the Sam Maguire Cup" he recalled." "However there was a bit of disappointment the following day when together with a few of the lads we missed the train home and the cup arrived back in the Kingdom without the captain. We then got the next train out of Dublin and caught up with the celebrations in Tralee later that night". Jas Murphy is the oldest surviving living winning Kerry captain. It was a privilege to spend some hours in his company as my good friend Christy o Riordan of C/R videos Caherciveen and I continue our task of compiling a DVD of all Kerry winning captains. Our wish is that this will be a fitting memento to Kerry greats as next year marks the one hundred anniversary of the founding of the Gaelic Athletic Association. 

Radio Kerry - The Voice of the Kingdom