John 'Thorny' O'Shea RIP

June 25th, 2009
by Weeshie Fogarty

John Thorny O'Shea of Clash, Tralee - a football legend who starred on field for his beloved Mitchels and Kerry - died on Monday last.

Thorny starred on the Mitchels minor football team that defeated West Kerry in the 1958 Championship final by 12 points to no score. This successful Boherbee team was captained by the late Philo Healy and were to begin an era of greatness up Boherbee. The minors of 1958 blossomed into the seniors of the future. Thorny, Seamus Roche, Alan Conway, Johnny Kelliher, Paddy O'Mahony, Joe Cournane, Redmond Powell, Willie Donovan were some of those who made the transition to senior rank.

Thorny went on to play for Kerry in minor in 1959 with Alan Conway and Seamus Roche, but they lost the Munster final in Killarney to Cork but in the same year, John Mitchels senior team began a glorious chapter in championship football. They came out of the great shadows of the great rivals Kerins O'Rahillys to write their names into the history books by winning six out of the next eight county finals and during that proud period, Thorny played a major role in all six victories.

In the 1959 final, a Niall Sheehy goal towards the end gave Mitchels a replay and there Mitchels outclassed their rivals Feale Rangers with fast, brainy play. A Paudie Sheehy goal settled Mitchels and with Thorny a tormenting tornado in full flight, they left the North Kerry team in a tizzy. Thorny was in the half-forward line with Sean Og Sheehy and Paudie Sheehy in the 3-9 to 1-10 victory. The 1960 final also went to a replay with West Kerry but in that, Mitchels cruised home by 1-11 to 0-3. Thorny, Fred Lynch and Seamus Roche made up the winners half-forward line and the big question among Kerry football followers was, is there any team that could stop this Boherbee machine?

In 1961 John Mitchels were on their way out at the quarter final stage when they trailed Feale Rangers 1-9 to 1-5. With three minutes remaining Paudie Sheehy pointed and a few seconds later an innocent looking shot from 30 yards out by Thorny went all the way to the Rangers' net for a dramatic equaliser. Mitchels won the replay and defeated Kerins O'Rahillys 2-9 to 0-8 in the county final. The three-in-a-row was in the bag. Thorny completed the forward line in the 1961 victory with Paudie Sheehy and Seamus Roche. Mitchels began 1962 with a victory over Kerins O'Rahillys in the quarter final. They went on to play South Kerry in the semi-final. Midway into the second half they led by three points when Teddy O'Dowd won possession and spotted Thorny unmarked near the edge of the square. A pinpoint pass to O'Shea was followed with the Rangers' net bulging - Thorny had struck another vital goal. Boherbee had another draw in a county final but defeated Feale Rangers 1-9 to 0-5 in a replay. Thorny played in the full forward line with Dom O'Donnell and captain, Teddy O'Dowd. His place in the half line went to his brother Derry, the Kerry minor winning forward.

In 1963 they were heading for five-in-a-row. They had a narrow opening round win over Mid-Kerry and met old rivals Feale Rangers in the semi-final where a left-footed goal by Thorny was the difference between the teams. The boys from the Yellow Road then completed the historic five-in-a-row of Kerry Senior Football Championship by defeating Kerins O'Rahillys in a final that had the whole county emthralled. There was a gap of a season the and it was 1966 before Mitchels continued winning ways by winning their sixth championship in eight seasons. With the boot of Thorny O'Shea scoring nine points in the final victory against East Kerry with brother Derry getting a goal.

Thorny was a man of many talents and in his later life, impressed by his son Mossie's abilities with the instrument, he learned how to play the saxophone, getting lessons from Billy Curtin. After that, he was a regular at the jazz sessions around the town.

John O'Shea is survived by his wife Helen, sons Johnny, Maurice, Gerard and Aidan, daughters Josephine, Anne and Martha, brothers Thomas and Derry and sisters Helen, Rosaline and Geraldine.

Radio Kerry - The Voice of the Kingdom