Kerry Footballers

Paddy Kennedy - All Ireland Winning Captain 1946

by Weeshie Fogarty

Paddy Kennedy. The name keeps coming up where ever football is discussed. Ask any one who knows anything at all about the game who was Paddy Kennedy? And the answerer invariably will be. "Wasn't he the great Kerry midfielder of the thirties and forties"? Or else pose the question while in company of the knowledge follower. Who was the greatest footballer of them all? And the answer might be. Paddy Kennedy or Mick O Connell.

Even now years after his death in May 1979 at the young age of 62 the name Paddy Kennedy is immediately associated with great fielding, sheer class, and graceful movement on the field of play together with great modesty and sheer love of the green and gold. I always regret not having had the privilege of seeing the Aunascaul man play or of having the honour of meeting him and shaking his hand. And so just three weeks ago on a cold and wet October day in the company of Paddy's son Brian I found myself standing at the grave side of this Kerry legend in Bohernabreena Cemetery in County Dublin and gently laying a little green and gold flag by the headstone on which is written the inscription.
God rest you Paddy Kennedy,
Your reward you've surly won.
When duty called, you gave your all
Both off the field and on. 

Christy Riordan of C/R videos Caherceiveen and I were continuing our quest to document the achievements in some small way of all winning Kerry captains. As next year is the 125th anniversary of the founding of the GAA our project it is hoped will celebrate Kerry's magnificent contribution to the association during the intervening years. The Kennedy family was lavish in their hospitality as we spend a wonderful afternoon in their company discussing the career of the great Kerry mid-fielder.

Paddy's wife Lyla is the proud owner of her husband's six All Ireland medals. Five seniors, 1937-39-40-41-46 and the minor win came in 1933.  These six precious pieces of gold are now linked together forming a magnificent bracelet which is worn on all the great GAA and family occasions. Aunascaul born Paddy won a county championship with Kerins o Rahillys in 1939 and four champiponships in Dublin, three with Geraldine's and one with the Garda whom he joined in the late thirties. He left the force some years later to take up a position as a mineral water company repesent. His name as expected was a massive selling incentive and he was also the manager of the Crystal ballroom in Dublin up until the mid seventies. His vast collection of honors included ten Munster Senior Football Championship medals. The first in 1936 and the last in 1947. In 1941and '46 he helped Munster to Railway Cup victories. 

Paddy's two lovely daughters Eilish and Helen have wonderful memories of their father. They recalled how he would have them out in the back garden teaching them the art of his legendary high fielding. The spring from a standing position and the wide open arch of both hands to grasp the ball. Both girls later went to repesent their school and then Ireland in basketball. Their skills saw them travel all over Europe. "No doubt it was dad's coaching that helped us on the road to play with Ireland", Helen informed me. Speaking to Brian and Paul it is so obvious that they so proud of their famous father. Both played football and Brian recalled the many occasions when comparisons were made in relation to their displays and their dad. "It made it very difficult, the usual comment was: "sure you will never be as good as Paddy". This of course is a common trait in my opinion when sons of former Kerry stars play with their clubs. Paul is the proud owner of a Kerry jersey worn by his father. Not just any old jersey let me add but the one worn by Paddy in the famous 1947 Polo grounds final in New York when Cavan beat Kerry. Now much smaller having been washed a few times it has the huge number 15 on its back. Paddy played in the corner that day as he had not fully recovered from an ankle injury sustained the previous year in the great final re-play victory over Roscommon. He was of course the Kingdom captain for that memorable win. Paddy's niece Emma was also there to talk about her great pride in her grandfather. Also present to welcome us was Knocknagoshel born Moss Walsh brother of the late Kerry great Eddie. As well as being great friends Moss had been a team mate with Paddy when they both lined out for Dublin club Geraldine's.

The story of Paddy Kennedy is one of the most enduring of all Kerry footballers. He is the man all great Kerry high fielders are compared with. Both his sons recalled how despite being elevated to the status of a national hero following his retirement he would explain away the phenomenon in his usual modest way by replying. "Sure only for Mick o Connell and the comparisons that they are making between us, I'd be forgotten long ago". It certainly was an unforgettable experience to spend a day in company with the family of a Kerry legend.

Radio Kerry - The Voice of the Kingdom