National League

Kerry set out on the long Voyage to retain the Sam Maguire

April 19th, 2005
by Weeshie Fogarty

And so Kerry have relinquished one of their national titles, the league has been lost and all eyes are now on May 29th when Kerry set out on the long voyage to retain the Sam Maguire, opinions differ greatly as to what was best for the county as regards being out of the closing stages of the league. On one hand it means that the panel will not have another competitive match until they meet Tipperary in May and the lucrative financial income which comes from the league semi-finals and final has been lost. Another big game would have given the selectors the opportunity to have one final decisive look at some of the fringe players on the panel as well as giving them the opportunity to show that they have what it takes on the big stage. You can play all the challenge matches in the world but it is well known that one highly competitive outing is a completely different kettle of fish. The selectors I would imagine are still a little unconvinced as regards the championship qualities of some of the so called fringe players, league form can be very deceiving.

Of course you have the believers who will say that being out of the league is a blessing in disguise because it gives the selectors and trainer Pat Flanagan the opportunity to have more or less a clear run into the championship, they will have met in conclave since the Mayo game and planned their campaign right up to the Tipperary clash. Training nights, challenge games, club matches, county championships, weekend end collective training, forget about holidays, births, marriages and deaths until the crusade is finished and anything else that will effect the preparations has been fully discussed.

The biggest fear of all is injuries to the big name players, or should I correct myself there and say injuries were one time the biggest fear of all, lets not forget that the two leading names on the team were missing last year, Seamus Moynihan and Daragh O Se were injured, missed the final and still the team rose brilliantly to the occasion. Once again the old saying, 'show me your subs bench and I will tell you how good you are', is a classic example of a big panel with most importantly of all lots of big match experience waiting to come on. However the management can't wrap the players up in cotton wool, the club is the corner stone of the association and players will be lining out with their clubs and injuries will occur, Darragh o Cinneide has been the first causality, remember last year and that serious injury to Seamus Moynihan in that county championship game in Killorglin.

One thing we can be absolutely certain, if Kerry get to the final this year every scribe in the country will write about the final of fifty years ago, that historic day when Kerry stunned the sporting world and beat the so called Dublin machine in 1955. For me this year the dream final pairing would be that of Kerry and Dublin. Indeed I was fully informed of the significance of that now distance day when I had the great pleasure of meeting two lovely ladies at last Sunday week's local derby in Tralee between Austin Stacks and Kerins o Rahillys. John Dowling was the legendary Kerry captain that day fifty years and two of his charming daughters informed me that not alone did their dad lead Kerry to glory that year but he also opened his nationally known shoe shop in the town of Tralee.

This is a wonderful Kerry trait, linking up the day and year with some happening in one's life, you will always hear the phrase, 'I remember the year well, that was the year Kerry beat such a county in the final', some one remained me lately that this is called an association of ideas. (You learn something every day). As for myself I was attending my first final and I had just begun a life long association with my Legion club and that final was of added importance to me from a Legion perspective because we had a great participation in it. Jackie Lyne was a selector, his first time as a mentor, he had been dropped sensationally for the final the previous year against Meath and it caused uproar in the county, indeed many felt that his demotion greatly upset the morale of the team and could have been one of the causes of what was a very disappointing display by the Kingdom. The Cleeney man threw his hat into the ring for the selectors job in '55 and he romped home heading the poll. His fellow selectors that historic day were John Joe Sheehy, Johnny Walsh, 'Paddy Bawn' Brosnan, and Michael o Shea, (St. Mary's Caherceiveen). And of course the trainer was the one and only Dr. Eamon o Sullivan, a man we have often referred to here in this little column.

Another of my club men with whom I would later play with and train under was the late Gerald o Sullivan, while Gerald did not start in the final that day in '55 he had played in the earlier rounds against Waterford, Cork and Cavan and at the time was playing outstanding football. Born in Ballycasheen, Killarney on the Woodlawn road, his wife Joan and son Michael still live there, Gerald and his brother Teddy had played in the Polo Grounds final of 1947 and had won county championship medals with The Legion in '46. Looking back now in retrospect it is evident that his contribution to Kerry football was immense, sadly he, like many more great servants are quickly forgotten by later generations. In case readers think that this is a parochial club assertion of my great clubman, let me quote Mick o Dwyer from his excellent Biography and what he said of Gerald.

Undoubtedly, the biggest influence of all on the South Kerry was Gerald o Sullivan. A native of Killarney he took up duties at Caherciveen creamery in 1950 and from there on he gave unswerving service to Caherceiveen St. Mary's. With his striking good looks, personable manner and wide spread popularity, Gerald o Sullivan was a natural leader of men, In ordinary life a man of gentle and self-effacing demeanour but once he pulled on a football jersey he underwent a personality change.'

Mick o Dwyer credits him with being the guiding influence on his young life, this, a truly remarkable tribute to an exemplary person. ' If ever I modelled myself on anyone, it was him. He was a great footballer whose worth was never fully recognised, without his guidance and encouragement I doubt if I would have come to anything as a footballer, I owe him everything'. Trained by Gerald South Kerry went all the way to the county final at the first attempt and on October 13th 1955 they won their first championship since 1897, they repeated this victory in '56 and '58. One of my most precious memories of my football life is of playing with and knowing Gerald o Sullivan, one of those people of whom you learn good things from and never forget.

Two more men from my club deeply involved in that '55 victory were Johnny Culloty, well known to one and all, a man whom we will return to in greater depth at a later date, he lined out at corner forward that day and then there was Donie Murphy another great profiled here in this column some weeks ago. Donie starred at full back in that years Munster win, became ill after the match, was diagnosed with tuberculosis, hospitalised and missed that remarkable final. Donie now lives in Castlebar and when there for the recent Mayo game I had a long chat with him, he still has a passionate love for his club and county. So as Kerry attempt to win the county's 34th title what was achieved 50 years ago will surly be recalled at many stages of the campaign despite what I was once told by a prominent Kerry Gael, 'forget the past, that only puts pressure on the players', to that man let me say, it's the past that put us where we are to day, ignore it at your peril.

Fogra: Next week the Mid Kerry board announce their Unsung Hero Of Kerry GAA. He will join Kilcummins Sean McCarthy and Kenmare's Tom O Connor, previous monthly recipients of this new award.

Radio Kerry - The Voice of the Kingdom