Kerry Footballers

Darragh O'Se and more Midfield Legends

September 30th, 2009
by Weeshie Fogarty

I can still see it as clear as day in my minds eye as if it was only yesterday.  The Fitzgerald Stadium Killarney, May 22nd 1994 as a young slip of a lad from the Gaeltaght club in West Kerry made his inaugural senior championship appearance for his county. It was not the first time I had seen Darragh O'Se playing a game of football. Years previously I was training my own club side Killarney Legion's under fourteen team and on one glorious summer evening The Gaeltacht came visiting.  Liam O'Rochan one of the great GAA grass root workers in this county was the man in charge of the Gaeltacht lads and my memory is of Liam all on his own that evening issuing instructions to his young charges whose beautiful lilting Irish phrases rang around the near empty grounds.  And one player in particular stood head and shoulders above all others. It was Darragh O'Se.  For me one of the most fascinating aspects of Kerry football is being present at a club or college game and  seeing for the first time a young Kerry lad who even to the untrained eye is apparent would go on to play for his county. That evening it was more than evident that Darragh was an exceptional talent as he ranged all over the field, catching, running, tackling, scoring and leading his side to victory.

And so it was that last Sunday week in Croke Park that this exemplary West Kerry man wrote himself into the pages of Kerry history as he captured his sixth senior All Ireland football medal. Kerry is renowned for producing many of the best mid field footballers in the history of the game. I never saw Paddy Kennedy play but his name has been handed down from generation to generation as a brilliant fielder of the ball. I have been fortunate to have seen many outstanding Kerry mid fielders such as John Dowling, Mick O'Connell, Seamus Murphy, Jimmy Lucy, Mick Fleming, D.J. Crowley, Pat McCarthy, Jack O'Shea, Sean Walsh, Ambrose O'Donovan, William Kirby, Donal Daly, and Seamus Scanlon but Darragh O'Se stands unique above all others for one very special reason.

Impossible to say who was the greatest of all nevertheless I must rate on top of my list the three most outstanding men I have seen in the middle of the field for the Kingdom. In no special order Mick O'Connell, Jack O'Shea and Darragh O'Se are my greatest and most consistently brilliant over a long period of time. However Dara stands alone in the annuals of Kerry mid fielders and is unique in one specific statistic and will probably never again be equaled. So where does he differ from Micko and Jacko. The legendary Micko O'Connell played fifty six championship games for Kerry and scored 1gl-121pts. However seven of his games were played in the forwards. Jack O'Shea played fifty three championship games for his county scoring a massive 11gls-55pts. But ten of his appearances were in the forwards. Darragh has played eighty one championship games for Kerry, he has scored to date 1gl-31pts and here is the difference, all of his eighty one appearances have been in the middle of the field. Surly a truly amazing record. Will he continue? Only time will tell. His brother Thomas in my opinion is the greatest half back I have ever seen playing Gaelic football and his score of 3gls-24pts from a defensive position is remarkable and no defender in the history of the game can come any where near his scoring record. Third brother Marc completes this amazing trio. Thomas and Paul Galvin are my footballers of the year, a year which has seen Kerry achieve the near impossible of reaching six All Ireland consecutive finals. 

Last Saturday in the superbly prepared grounds of Ballymaclligott I witnessed East Kerry suffer one of the most humiliating defeats ever visited on the wearers of the once greatly feared red shirts. St Kieran's ran riot as they chalked up the massive score of 5-21 against a hugely under strength East Kerry side who replied with just eight points. In fairness to Charlie Farrellys St Kieran's men they completely eased off as the final quarter arrived and introduced a string of subs. But behind this massive score line lies the story of little cooperation and refusal by some clubs to help in the fielding of a full strength team for this important clash. As a past player of East Kerry, I lined out with them for over ten years through good times and bad, I find it a very sad state of affairs indeed that any footballer in this hugely efficient and highly organized division would turn down the opportunity to play in the Kerry senior football championship. Danger signals are flashing for divisional football in this county as any club now good enough to win the Intermediate have the right to enter the senior county championship on their own. Nevertheless the county board would want to keep a close eye on the unfolding football landscape in Kerry. It is my total belief that only for the very strong divisional teams down the decades Kerry would NOT have won the thirty six All Ireland titles they hold to day. If divisional teams continue to disintegrate the supply of powerful, highly trained and experienced players will not be available to the Kerry management.

Following the game last Saturday I spoke with a clearly frustrated chairman of the East Kerry board Dermot Griffin and he pulled no punches in relation to where the blame lay for this massive defeat. "It's very difficult and we have our problems, we are not getting cooperation from some of the players and some of the bigger clubs" he began " We knew during the week we had problems and we were very lucky to get a team out on the field to day and we appreciate very much the fellows that came out. We had eighteen fellows out there and we applaud and thank them".  I put it to Dermot that not getting cooperation must be hugely disappointing. "Yes it's very disappointing of course and we are wondering what we are doing wrong. There seems to huge emphasis on club football now and people are concentrating on Intermediate and Junior championships and club championships.  Of course they are great in many ways and to see you local team and parish play in Croke Park is a great thing but they have taken their toll on districts boards. Also there are a lot of club trainers coming in from outside and their aim and total effort is to promote the club only. District board football is suffering immensely".

So the big question for the chairman and I put it to him is the day coming when we will not see an East Kerry team contesting the county championship?  "I wouldn't rule it our Weeshie, it's quite possible but while I am chairman of the East Kerry board its up to the six clubs that amalgamate the East Kerry team. We are a bit unique really as we have five or six different combinations playing county championship football such as Kilcummin, Rathmore, Crokes and your own club The Legion while Currow, Cordal and Scartaglin are part of the St Kieran's set up so we are very unique in that". When I put it to Dermot that clubs are breaking away on a regular basis he pointed out that the reason here is because there are very strong clubs in East Kerry. Once again this exemplary chairman of the board made it perfectly clear the onus is on the clubs.  So what message would he send out to them following this humiliating defeat? "Very simple and that is the onus is on the clubs and not on the board and not on me as chairman of that board. I am and will be trying very hard but the six clubs will have to stand up and do some thing about it. They are obliged to give senior championship football to their players, now if they don't want to do that then that's fine. However as far as I am concerned the onus is on them and we will facilitate them in every way we can but they will have to make the effort, take the bull by the horns and get on with it".

Fogra: One of the highest defeats I can recall is Austin Stacks 6-22 to 2-2 win over Beal in the county championship in 1992.

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