Kerry Captains

Darren Brings the Cup to his native Village

September 23rd, 2009
by Weeshie Fogarty

One of the most memorable and never to be forgotten occasions in the life of the captain of an All Ireland winning team either in football or hurling is the moment he is presented with the Sam Maguire Cup by the President of the association on the podium of the Hogan stand. As he lifts that cup above his head the sight of thousands of supporters spread out before him on the green sward of Croke Park displaying his county colors as they roar in approval is undoubtedly an unforgettable and magical experience. However, not far behind this great occasion for the man entrusted with his county's captaincy is the moment he lifts the trophy before his own people in his own town or village. This usually happens especially here in Kerry on the Tuesday or Wednesday following the final.

And so it was that I made my way to the beautiful seaside town of Glenbeigh the gate way to the South to see one of my favorite players Darren o Sullivan receive the adulation from his own people following this years stunning victory over Cork. Darren is a player with the Glenbeigh/Glencar club and was afforded the tremendous honor of wearing the captain's armband following Mid Kerry's great win in last year's county championship. The village was black with people. Every available vantage point was taken long before the bonfires blazed and the cup paraded through the village. This was the true essence of what Kerry and it football tradition's are all about.  The thousands of supporters had been pouring in since early afternoon and the local club under Chairman Jimmy Healy had everything organized to the tee. It was a memorable Kerry football occasion and it gave the opportunity to all the people of the area and beyond, both young and old (I met people in their eighties) the opportunity to savior the unique atmosphere and experience the feeling of what their county is all about. You can metaphorically speaking practically reach out and touch the secret, tradition and greatness that is Kerry football. This is the importance of having the captain of a winning Kerry team coming from your own club, town and village.

When you cross the beautiful little stone bridge coming from the Killarney direction you are in the parish of Glenbeigh/Glencar. It is all the one parish and has its own Garda sergeant and priest. Fr. Anthony o Sullivan a native of Ballymaclligott is himself an All Ireland medal winner in Croke Park. In his time as Chaplin in St Finan's Hospital Killarney he helped them win the prestigious Connelly Cup.  The area is renowned for producing some superbly talented footballers. One that immediately comes to mind is the superbly gifted Pat Griffin who was the last man from the club to lead the Kingdom around Croke Park on All Ireland final day. That was 1968 when Down once again proved too good for the men in the green and gold. Others who carried their clubs flag for many years with great distinction included, Mick Breen, Teddy Bowler, Geordie o Conner and his four brothers who all lined out together. Jimmy Healy, Kevin Griffin. Mike Sullivan, Michael o Grady, Owen o Riordan, Neilly, Pedar and Derry o Sullivan and Denis Guerin are among many others who starred for this proud club. The Courtney's, McGillicuddys, Breen's and Hoare's all came for Glencar and help keep the flag flying in good and bad times.

It's not easy for a club such as Glenbeigh/Glencar to keep the show on the road year after year and emigration was always very prevalent in the area and still is. Chairman Jimmy Healy told me that having the cup come to the village and hoisted high by one of their own has been a massive shot in the arm to everyone. "This is a very special night for us" he remarked with huge pride as we met outside Ashes Bar. "The big clubs in the towns of Kerry don't take as much notice when it happens for them and the towns are well capable and used to catering with the huge crowds that attend the captain's home coming. Its massive exposure for us and only for the system we have in this county where the county champions nominate the captain we and many other small clubs might never have this tremendous occasion you see here this evening. I hope this system never changes in our county".

I have often heard passionate Kerry men debate at length the pros and cons of captaincy. Should the status quo remain or should it change to a system where the manager on county board nominate the captain. There was even a motion (heavily defeated) debated at county convention some years ago to change the system. I was in Kilkenny for a few days recently as Radio Kerry travelled in force to celebrate their nine nominations for the highly prestigious PPI Radio Awards. Kilkenny's now legendary hurling manager Brian Cody was doing a book signing that week-end. His recently published autobiography "Cody" is a excellent read. I spend some time with him and when I put the captaincy issue to him and how his county handles it he simply replied. "I think Weeshie that I have well and truly answered that question in my book and you can quote me on that". This is what he has written and we might do well to take his views on board and I would readily endorse his views in relation to how the system has served our county and clubs so well since down the decades.

"I have no problem whatsoever with maintaining a tradition where the county champions nominate the captain, it had served us well" he writes. "It's up to other counties to run their affairs as they wish and I see no reason why we should change. I benefited from it myself in 1982 when my club won the county championship the previous year. It's a massive honor for the county champions to be allowed nominate the captain. Clubs are the very bedrock of everything we do, its right we should continue to enjoy that perk. As far as I'm concerned if it ain't broken, don't fix it. The manager may not always get the man who, in different circumstances, would be his personal choice, but that has nothing to do with it". He then concludes by adding and here just change the words Kilkenny to Kerry and you have your answer to the great captain debate. "This is about how we do things in Kilkenny and if it has served us well here in Kilkenny up to now then why change it". End of story. Enough said.

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