Memories of Gaffney Duggan

November 11th, 2014
by Weeshie Fogarty

The name Gaffney Duggan will mean very little to younger readers of this column but this week I recall with great affection a man who never kicked a ball for his county but was one of the best known and highly respected Kerry GAA personalities of, and I say this after careful consideration, the last century. It was amazing how and where his memory was recalled for me recently as I like many more who had the great fortune to have known him had simply forgotten his name. I was privileged recently to be asked to launch renowned Irish author Alice Taylors latest book, Do You Remember, at The Innisshannon Art Gallery and when the formalities were over I fell into conversation with a number of people and one a Roscommon man immediately asked if I had known Gaffney Duggan.

And so the memories came flooding back, this particular person had befriended Gaffney when Kerry played Roscommon at a field opening in that county back in the fifties and had attended his funeral when he died. I first had the pleasure of meeting the genial Kerry bag man in 1959 when he handed me my Kerry minor jersey as we togged out to meet Clare in the first round of the Munster championship in Killarney. Of course I had heard so much about him as I had followed the progress of Kerry teams during the previous years and had seen him many times at Kerry training sessions in Fitzgerald Stadium. Later in my time with the various Kerry teams travelling to games all over the place I would eagerly look forward to chatting with him in the various hotels either on the evening preceding games or on the morning of the match itself.

He would often recall for me his beginning as Kerry bag-man. "I started with the Kerry team as an assistant to Jack Sugrue Pendy in 1923" he told me. "I went to England for a few years at the start of the war but returned to Tralee in the mid forties". From here on he was an ever present in every single Kerry dressing room and remember back then the Kerry selectors often looked after several teams and there was just the one bagman to all teams and that was Gaffney Duggan. He was the very first bag-man to be taken on an American trip, in 1969 and the Kerry players, county board and his multitude of friends all made it possible through personal subscriptions. It was the trip of a life time for this kind and gentle soul and he brought back a fund of memories and stories which he delighted in sharing with all.

While he was an ardent county board man he had massive pride in his club John Mitchels, and they were in their pomp around the fifties and sixties and Tralee men would tell you when his club were playing a local derby against either Kerins o Rahillys or Austin Stacks it was the only time he found it difficult to keep neural. He always traveled with two bags. I can still see him in my minds eye struggling with one, a huge brown case carrying the jerseys and the second a little old fashioned suit case, like a child would carry to school. This I presently discovered contained his scissors, bandages, elastoplasts, laces and other odds and ends. It was also used for keeping the players valuables, watches, wallets, lose change, etc. during the game.

The late and highly courteous county board secretary Tadgh Crowley (Austin Stacks) explained to me one time as I traveled with him on refereeing duties a little secret re this bag. "This was his own confidence bag", Tadge recalled "if he thought that a player was nervous he would suggest a little help from the bag and spend a few minutes putting a new lace on a boot or a bandage on a strained wrist or ankle. And then while he had an anxious player's attention he would whisper quite words of encouragement in his ear and it always seemed to work.

It is only now when one looks back and recall those days I was involved with various Kerry sides that I appreciate just how respected and loved Gaffney was. He was the best known bag-man in Gaelic football and from his journeys around Ireland he was known and warmly welcomed by every official at far flung outposts. A warm hand shake a big smile and a fast joke as he made his way to the dressing rooms struggling with the big old brown suit case packed with team jerseys. And the old cotton jerseys back then were far heavier than those worn to day.

On All Ireland week ends he was always immaculately attired, white shirt and flashy tie and Sunday suit and Sunday cap, always the cap. but at all other times training, etc the tie was left at home and the cap was always perched at a lovely jaunty angle on the bald head. And beneath that cap was the always smiling gentle face, mischievous at time. He had a beautiful sense of humor as he cracked jokes for all to hear. I heard him remark once as the future of a young footballer was being discussed. "he will never make it, suffering from ducks disease, arse to close to the ground". Or if he heard a fellow boasting about his display for Kerry he would stop him in his tracks as he teased them with," we will keep you for church tournaments and field openings". And about the Mitchels player who had a reputation for meanness he remarked, "He is so mean that if he were a ghost he wouldn't even give you a fright".

Gaffney Duggan was special, he knew every footballer, and he knew their fathers and grandfathers, his involvement in the great Kerry football story stretched right back to 20s. But most of all my memories of him was of a kind gentle person and kindness in a human being is for me the most precious gift of all. And Gaffney Duggan possessed this in abundance. It was a privilege to have known him, if only unfortunately for a short few years.

Fogra: Death of Kerry Captain
I was very sorry to hear of the death last week of Sylvester O Grady, member of my own club Killarney Legion. A lovely pleasant, kind and courteous person I had known him all my life and had the great privilege of playing with him in the sixties when we togged out in local and county competitions. Sylvie was more than a good footballer he was an All Ireland winning captain and a great athlete winning many trophies in track and field. He led the then Kerry Technical Schools to their very first title in Croke Park in 1960, a massive honor for our club. A fast classy footballer with plenty cutting and a lovely solo run, wing or corner forward was his position. He was the star and top scorer for our district here in Killarney, Moyeightragh, when we won the Killarney Town League in 1963. His brothers Sean and Michael (RIP) were with him on that side. His father John (RIP), brothers Sean and Donal were Killarney Town Councilors and to them and Sylvie's sisters and extended family we offer our deepest sympathy's. 

Off to New York Monday Next.
Thursday, November 13th, 7:00 p.m. at Glucksman Ireland House NYU
Donie O'Sullivan, Christy and Anthony Riordan C/R Videos Caherceiveen and Weeshie Fogarty presents a new documentary, Tales of New York: A Brief History of the Gaelic Athletic Association in New York, examining the growth and development of Gaelic Games in that city and their importance for many of the Irish immigrants who came to settle there.  Donie contextualizes the documentary and screens excerpts from the film. The film works with interwoven brief sketches on immigration, economic, social and political problems using contemporary and archival footage.

Christy Riordan C/R videos Caherceiveen together with his son Anthony and Weeshie Fogarty author/ journalist/ Sports Broadcaster with Radio Kerry travelled to New York three years ago and conducted over 30 hours of interviews many of which are included in this historic documentary.
On the following Sunday November 16th at 8 pm a second launch will be held and all are welcome to The AQUEDUCT BAR 4277 KATONAH AVE, Bronx 718 324-1497 Cross St: 236 St

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