Legendary Trainer Dr. Eamonn O Sullivan is remembered by his friend John Kelly of Spa, Killarney

by Weeshie Fogarty

My earliest introduction to Dr Eamon o Sullivan and the Kerry football team was on a mid September morning in 1946. I was then an eleven year old schoolboy completing a milk sales round in Killarney town and on dropping in to the Franciscan Church with my father to say a morning prayer a group of twenty two very athletic looking men were leaving after morning mass and on their way to the nearby Scotts Hotel,(now demolished) for breakfast.

My father exchanged brief greetings with two of the group namely Denny Lyne from Cleeney also a milk vender and Gerald Teahan who owned a licensed premise in the town, and he wished them well in the up-coming All Ireland final against Roscommon.

Turning to me he said, "they are the Kerry football team and their great trainer Dr. Eamon o Sullivan who are in collective training for the final against Roscommon". My life long passion and love for Kerry football was born there and then on the steps leading to the Friary.

Nine years later, Saturday 22nd April 1955 I joined the staff of St Finan's Psychiatric Hospital and it was here I was to meet the man who had gained legendary status on many occasions both as a psychiatrist and a sports personality. St Finan's then had a patients population in excess of 1,100 in 1955, (it is now down to under 100), with many of those unfortunate people having been admitted there during the ere of the economic war and the hungry 1940'swhen Ireland and Kerry was in a state of economic stagnation and so as the out world had little to, offer them the hospital became their home.

Apart from E.C.T. or Electro Convulsive therapy which in association with a small amount of other medication was used to treat most disorders which were in sharp contrast with modern day procedures such as psychotherapy counseling and a wide range of medication to treat the various disorders such as depression, schizophrenia and anxiety states etc. In that far off ere the resident medical Superindendent of a Psychiatric hospital enjoy a status on par with a county manager and was remunerated on the basis of the patient population of the hospital that he administered a service to.

He was also entitled to t accommodation and supplies from the hospital farm and garden. On taking over the position of R.M.S. following the resignation of his father-in-law Dr Griffin in 1933 Eamon took up residence in a large apartment overlooking the entrance of the hospital which had first opened its doors to the mentally ill in 1896. Despite the fact that he took over administrative role in the worst possible ere in the economic life of the country and when the rate payers simply could not afford the extra revenue required to improve the standard of care in the Killarney hospital Eamon o Sullivan must take major credit for the manner in which he improvised to deliver a reasonable of care for those less privileged members of society.

A year after his appointment he prepared an elaborate plan of improvement for the hospital which he deemed necessary for the welfare of the patients and staff which include a dental and general sugary, a proper regeneration plant for the storage of food, a modern Occupational Department and workshops as well as recreational facilities to include a hand ball court, billiard tables, tennis courts etc. He provided a recreational room for the staff, extra land fro the farm, new furniture and decorations, a proper house telephone system, laundry equipment and new bathing facilities all at a total cost of £21,000 and with a recommendation that this be submitted to the Irish Hospital Sweepstake which at that time funded improvements in health care.

Having secured some funding to defray the cost of the aforementioned expenditure again made a further application to the visiting committee for the appointment of a third doctor but again due to economic climate this application met with strenuous opposition and a further number of years were to elapse before such an appointment would be passed.

In that Victorian when any worthwhile form of treatment was but a distance dream and the risk to patients becoming chronically institutionalized Eamon's main focus was on Occupational Therapy and the rehabilitating of patients and he went on to write a book on the subject. His main objective was to adopt a programmed pf theraphy suitable for each individual whether it is the workshops, garden or farm and products from the hospital workshops were sold to retailers as far away as Cork city.

Such a programme was extended to the development of Killarney Fitzgerald Stadium which to- day stands proudly as a memorial to his vision of having a top class GAA stadium in Killarney and also the combined contribution of staff and patients from St Finan's. It was little wonder that the group of us nurses who arrived to St Finan's in 1955 viewed this man DR. Eamon o Sullivan somewhat as a monarch and a legendary figure who over the previous twenty years had made an enormous contribution to the development of facilities in the hospital and also in the development of sporting facilities such as the Stadium and the Killarney golf course at o Mahoney's Point.

!955 was also the year that kerry scored a magnificent victory over Dublin in the All Ireland football finale victory with which the name of Eamon will be for ever associated. My recollection of that final is that in essence while collective training had been banned by central council in 1954 Dr. Eamon as trainer still managed to have a major share of the players arrange leave from work to train regularly during the day and also to obtain adequate rest. having watched many kerry teams picked for finals in the interim period I feel that the system of collective training combined with adequate rest and diet was possible the nearest to what English professional clubs have in operation to-day. Eamon was years ahead of his time in matters of preperating players for matches.

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