Kerry Footballers

Phil O'Sullivan - All Ireland Winning Captain 1924

by Weeshie Fogarty

Last Thursday our journey brought us to Cloyne in county Cork birth place of the great Christy Ring, where we spent a fascinating few hours in the company of a charming lady now in her 90th year. Annie Hegarty has a memory crystal clear and as sharp as a razor and her recollection of events stretching right back to the twenties is simply amazing. Our great fortune being put in touch with Annie helps us discover some wonderful intimate details of one of the legendary Kerry captains of that decade.

Phil o Sullivan from Glenmore in Tousist captained Kerry to win the 1924 All Ireland and he can lay claim to the privilege of asking his college friend the late Kerry trainer Dr Eamonn o Sullivan to first train the Kingdom for that 1924 final. They were in college in Dublin together and close friends as they played with UCD and Faughts and when Phileen called, Eamonn was just 28 years old and the Firies born man could not refuse. The rest is history and Eamonn went on to become one of the greatest trainers of all time. leading Kerry to eight titles. Phil was also an outstanding hurler and athlete and won many coveted firsts as a sprinter, long distance runner, high jump, hop step and jump, shot putt, handballer and other events. He was also very prominent in the Gaelic League movement.

Annie is the niece of Phil and she recalls vividly how he traveled to America with the Kerry team in 1927. He met and fell in love with Kathleen o Mahoney from Tipperary who played the piano at a function for the visitors. Annie informed us that Phil who was a beautiful singer of old Irish melodies was prevailed upon to sing a duet for the huge attendance with the beautiful young Tipperary girl and so began an affair that would eventually end in marriage. Annie Hegarty is a direct link to that 1924 Kerry victory and is one of the only remaining people who can recall Phil playing with Kerry and the fact that on Sundays following mass he would be in the local field training and coaching the local Tousist footballers.

Phil and Maureen did not have a family and Annie was clearly emotional as she informed us that in 1952 when Phil died at a young age there was no one present at his funeral. To day Phil o Sullivan "The Master" the man who led a star studded Kerry side to victory  over Dublin in 1924 lies at rest in Calvary Cemetery New York far from his beloved Glenmore where his father and later his sisters taught in the local school. Indeed it was in this school now used as a youth hostel that Phil was born in 1897 at the foot of Caha Mountain. Year's later Kerry emigrants from Tousist and the surrounding area came together and erected a marble headstone to mark his grave. In 1965 the Tousist GAA club named the local sports field "The Phil o Sullivan Memorial Park": a fitting tribute to this great Kerry sportsman. Annie Hegarty recollections about the life and death of her uncle is amazing and our lengthy interview with her in Cloyne where she now resides is in my opinion a wonderful contribution to Kerry football, Tousist and history in general.

Fogra: A plea for help to our readers. In 1965 a photograph was taken at Phil's grave side when his friends unveiled a beautiful Celtic cross. John Farrell gave the grave side oration and others present that day included John Kerry o Donnell, Kerry Football Club New York, Denis o Leary President of the Kerrymen's P and B. Association and Con Downey Cork Hurling Club. Standing around the monument are the people who organized the event. Can any reader put us in touch with someone who has this priceless photograph?  Annie Hegarty has seen the original but now it is unavailable. Your help in this historic matter would be much appreciated.  

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