Kerry Footballers

Bob Stack - A Kerry star born in New York

by Weeshie Fogarty

One of the finest Gaelic footballers to wear the green and gold of Kerry - Bob Stack - is not as well remembered by the present generation of Gaelic Games followers as men who had less colourful careers on the sports field.

For ten years the rugged Kerryman was prominent as a county footballer and won six All-Ireland senior medals in 1924, 1926, 1929, 1930, 1931 and 1932. This achievement put him among a very small and select group of men. Contrary to general belief, Bob Stack was born in America of Kerry parents, where he grew up in New York. Before coming to Ireland with his parents to settle down near Ballybunion,he took part in many sporting activities.
He became interested in the North Kerry football club, Faha, and later played in local friandly matches with them. His first football event of any importance was in 1919 when he was chosen to play for the Faha team against Listowel at Tarbert. In 1920 he was on the team that contested the final of the North Kerry League, and clashed for the first time with that outstanding player, Con Brosnan, who was then making a name for himself and who was to become one of his best friends.
But young Stack was not awed by reputations and invariably gave all he had to the game. And the Kerry selectors were not slow to notice this. They decided to try out the Irish boy from New York, and picked him to play in a trial game in Tralee in 1924. Stack failed to win a place on the team that went under to Dublin in the 1923 All-Ireland final, but he was picked for the Kerry junior team the same year.
Then came the Ballybunion man's most exciting day - April 26, 1924 - when he won his first All-Ireland as a member of the Kerry team that defeated Dublin in the final. After failing to win in 1925, the Kerry team went all-out after the 1926 honours. And after sweeping aside all the opposition, they faced Kildare before 37,000 people in Croke Park.It turned out to be a thrilling final, and there was mervellous co-operation between Bob Stak and his friend Con Brosnan, at midfield. The final score read: Kerry 1-4, Kildare 0-4.
The following year the "Lily Whites" came back on the scene, more determined than ever. This time they took the Sam Maguire cup from the Kingdom team. The same year, the Kerry team, including Bob Stack, went on a tour of the United States, travelling and playing there for more than two months. Also in that contingent were Con Brosnan and the great J.J. ("Purty") Landers.
Before the Kerry team's first match in New York, during the playing of the National Anthem the Irish and American flags fluttered together at the masthead. The scene was especially touching for Stack as he had been born in New York and was now playing for his adopted Kerry. The Kerry team's first American tour was a most successful one. Wherever they went they were warmly welcomed and not once were they defeated in a game. In 1929, Kerry produced a combination of dedicated footballers and a style of football that was to bring the county four All-Ireland senior titles in a row.
After beating a spirited Mayo side by 3-8 to 1-1 in the semi final, Kerry met their old rivals, Kildare, in the decider. As usual, the "Lily Whites" played clean, fast football bit the scoreboard showed 1-11 to 0-8 against them at the final whistle.
The fourth of Bob Stack's medals was won in Kerry's "runaway" victory over Monaghan in the 1930 All-Ireland final, largely brought about by the marvellous midfield play of Bob Stack and Con Brosnan. The skilful and clever play of the pair brought the crowd to its feet more than once during that encounter.
The Ulster team had no answer to the dazzling football served up by Kerry and when the referee decided it was all over, Monaghan found themselves the losers by 3-11 to 0-2. Again in 1931 the Kingdom footballers went on a rampage. Besides taking the All-Ireland honours, they won the National League title. Once again, they took the Sam Maguire cup at the expense of their old rivals, Kildare, who could only score eight points against Kerry's 1-11. Glowing praise for Bob Stack and his abilities as a footballer were showered on him by the sports writers.
Around this time, it seemed as if the Kerry football machine couldn't be beaten - until they met an up-and -coming Dublin side in the 1932 semi-final. The Kingdom boys used all their old craft, but the Dubliners matched score for score, and at the end Kerry scraped through on a single point, 1-3 to 1-2. Yes, the Kingdom side certainly got a fright on that occasion. In the final of that year Kerry met Mayo and won by 2-7 to 2-4.

During his colourful career as a footballer, modest and unassuming Bob Stack won many more honours and made three trips to America before finally retiring in 1933. Bob Stack died in 1976. The GAA ground in Ballybunion is named after him.

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