Martin 'Bracker' O'Regan RIP

March 31st, 2005
by Eamon Horan, The Kerryman Newspaper

One of the great legends of Kerry football passed from our midst with the death of Martin 'Bracker' O'Regan at the ripe old age of 95.

Though I never had the pleasure of seeing him perform on the field of play I always felt as if I had, such were the stories and anecdotes that surrounded the affable Tralee man's name. Many's the time I listened to him recount famous games of long ago when he sported the green and gold of Kerry and the black and amber of his beloved Rock Street. The 'Bracker', as he was affectionately known among the Kerry football fraternity, could tell a story better than anyone I have known in the realms of sport over the years. And even if he was prone to the grand exaggeration at times, never the less he never failed to hold his listeners spell-bound with his great gift of recalling games of yore in which he played no small part.

He came onto the football scene in an era when Kerry were monarchs of the game, having won the All-Ireland senior title in 1924, '26, '29 and '30. Come 1931 and the sharp shooting Tralee man had made it onto the Kerry senior team. And what an impact he made the same year.

My colleague John Barry and I published 'Years of Glory' in 1977, a book which recounted the story of Kerry's All- Ireland senior football triumphs, starting with their initial success in the 1903 final. 'Years of Glory' contains the following reference to the Munster final of 1931 between Kerry and Tipperary at Tralee: "The game was only a few minutes old when Martin 'Bracker' O'Regan crashed home a goal for Kerry, and the Rock Street man followed up with another goal soon afterwards.

'......before half time, Martin O'Regan scored his third goal and Kerry put up another 1-8 at their leisure in the second half. Prominent in the taking of the points were Miko Doyle and O'Regan, who made a dream championship debut.'

The 'Bracker' went on to play a leading role in Kerry's subsequent march to another All Ireland title, with victories over Mayo and Cavan. It was at this time also that the 'Bracker' toured in the US with Kerry. One of his great stories concerned a game Kerry played in Yankee Stadium in New York and the man who was chosen to throw in the ball was the former heavyweight champion of the work Jack Dempsey, alias the Manassa Mauler, one of the all time greats of boxing.

'Bracker' told the story as follows: 'Jack turned round to me at the start of the game and asked me what should he do. I told him to face outwards and throw the ball in straight over his head. "And what will I do then, asked Dempsey. Well if I were you, Jack, I'd start running fast because you could get hurt around here!' And thereby hangs a tale. One of many famous anecdotes attributed to the avencular Tralee man.

'Bracker' won county football championship with the Rock in 1930, '31 and '36 and county hurling championships with the club in 1929 and '31. He retained a passionate interest in football and Kerry football in particular right up to the end. Whenever Kerry were about to play in a championship home the 'Bracker' would run the rule over the team and tell you where their strengths and weaknesses lay, in his opinion. He was a great admirer of the great Kerry teams of the 1970s and 80s and he also had tremendous admiration for the great Mick O' Connell.

Outside of football and hurling, he was a lifelong follower of the longtails and was a regular patron of the Tralee track over the years. In addition, he was to be found at coursing meetings all over the country including Clounanna and Clonmel year after year. He was to be found daily perusing the form sheets in Ladbrokes betting office in Rock Street, something he did ever and always without the aid of reading glasses. In recent years he was elected as President of the Tralee Town Board, an honour which he accepted with enormous pride. He was also a great card player and played regularly in John Mitchels and Austin Stacks clubs over the years.

Kery had indeed lost one of its most illustrious sportmen with the passing of Martin 'Bracker' O'Regan. He will be remembered with affection and fondness by all those who were privileged to have known this fine old gentleman. I will always treasure the many hours I spent in his company over the years and his matchless capacity to talk about games and names of long ago. He was a credit to his club, his county and, above all, to his extended family who loved the ground he walked on.

Kerry football has lost one of its most illustrious sons.

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