Death of Dinny O'Shea - Midfielder in Historic 1955 win over Dublin

July 20th, 2010
by Weeshie Fogarty

Denis (Dinny) o Shea one of the legends of that historic 1955 All Ireland win over Dublin died on June 22nd 2010. He had lived at Knockglossmore, Camp where as a young boy he had developed his love and passion for Kerry football. I met up with two of his boyhood friends recently who paid tribute to their late friend. Sean Murphy is recognized as one of the games greatest ever defenders and his brother Padraig is also an All Ireland medal holder. Sean has special memories of his former Kerry team mate. "Denis and I were born in 1932 and we went to school together in Camp and sat in the same class.  There was just three months between our ages.  My memories of him are of a very composed classic footballer, superb fielder and a good kicker. His style was most unusual in the sense that he had two great attributes as I reflect back on those years. I never saw him disposed in a match. He rose high for that ball, got his fingers to it and grabbed it tightly to his chest. When kicking he was very tidy and he kept his kick very low to the ground. He was so difficult to block down. 

He had a very short career with Kerry, playing eight championship games and the same amount of National League games and of course 1955 when he partnered John Dowling in the All Ireland win over Dublin was his greatest day. Yes Weeshie, 1955 was his day and remember he lived very much in the shadow of John Dowling and John was fully aware that Denis would be his ideal partner at mid field.  They both new each others play from their club and 1955 proved that because our mid field that day was absolutely superb".  I had heard some rumors that John would not play unless Dinny his club mate was with him that day so I quizzed Sean on this point. "Yes I also am aware of that and my information is that Dinny might not have been the original choice however John evidently must have had some influence with the selectors and he demanded that Dinny be his partner. But now let me add that is just rumor". Dinny o Shea played from 1955 to 1958 scoring one goal in nine championship matches.

Sean's brother Padraig he himself an All Ireland medal winner with the Kerry Juniors in 1949 had lovely memories of this former Kerry mid field great. "We were alter boys in Camp together for about four years and we played with each other for three years in the Castlegregory league. There were four teams in that, Maharees, Camp Castlegregory, Stradbally and Ballyduff.  Denis was the star as we won three in-a-row. Those years were 1949-50-51". So how did Padraig remember Denis as a footballer? "We were very lucky in Camp school to have a little field across the road and it was there in that little patch where Denis picked up his football. He was a beautiful fielder from the word go and he had a most unusual way of fielding the ball, different to most others.  I have very pleasant memories of Denis o Shea".

Denis played his first championship game for Kerry at midfield in the Munster final of 1955 and held that position for the draw and re-play against Cavan in the semi final and of course also in the final. He won two senior county championship medals with Kerins o Rahillys in 1954-57. So how did he finish up playing with the Tralee side? Sean had the answer. "Apparently he played in an -inter firm championship in Tralee at the time, I think it was CIE against Denny's. John Dowling spotted his great potential, asked him to play with his club and as they say the rest is history.  When in Tralee he stayed with the Kissane family. So you can see now just how shred John Dowling was in spotting a star Kerry footballer".  In 1956 the great Mick o Connell bust on to the Kerry team. He lined out for his first championship game against Tipperary at mid-field and Dinny was switched to left wing back.

He was left out for the drawn Munster final against Cork but came on for Tom Moriarty and scored a point. Mick o Connell went to right wing fordward for the re-play, Denis resumed at mid field and Niall Fitzgerald scored the winning point for Cork in the dying seconds of that game in Killarney. Both Padraig and Sean are unaware why he had such a brief inter county career. Padraig has great memories of Denis o Shea the musician. "He was a lovely musicians and it was amazing how I got to discover his musical abilities. We had no football jerseys one year in Camp so Eugene Dean brought a group of us on the rounds of the parish one Wren's Day, we collected money and bought a set of new jerseys. Now of course we needed music and it was Denis who brought along the accordion and played for the occupants at ever home we called to. Another time I was taking school children on a school tour and Denis was the conductor on the bus, he brought along his accordion and played for the duration of the journey and the kids loved him".  Denis was injured as the county went to Waterford in 1957; he came on as a sub for Tom Collins as Waterford beat Kerry registering one of the greatest upsets in Championship football. He also played in the 1956-57 National League final lost to Galway.
 Sean Murphy believed the league was not taken seriously back then and he himself won just one National League medal.  So how will the Murphy brothers remember Dinny o Shea. Padraig first. "For me he was a boyhood friend, a classy footballer and if he had been a pupil at one of the noted football colleges where he would have played more often he would have won far more honors. He was very good in a crowded situation and in that little field back in Camp in our youth he was the star". Sean's memories of Denis are also very warm. "I remember him as an engaging personality, great company, a classy footballer and a very accurate kicker of the ball". And the former legendary Kerry footballer then added. "Its great to see him remembered like this, more so to day than ever before as there are so many distractions. It's very easy Weeshie in this day and age to forget our past footballers who forged the traditions we have in Kerry today". To Denis wife Kathleen and son Bart we extend our deepest sympathies on behalf of kerry followers everywhere.
Dinny O'Shea RIP All-Ireland midfielder.

The 1955 winning side was the most iconic Kerry team in my lifetime. To be a mid-fielder on such a team was no mean achievement. Perhaps John Dowling was the more remembered of that midfield partnership - but that was because John Dowling was John Dowling.

By the time 1956 came around, there was this young guy from Valentia Island that everybody was talking about. So when the Championship started, Dinny was moved to left-half back to facilitate a baby-faced Mick O'Connell to start in mid-field.

By the time the Munster Final came around, the Selectors moved another new guy, Tom Long, to Left-Half Back. Dinny was on the bench for that awful wet day in Cork where we went in at half-time having scored ZERO in the first half. Things only marginally improved in the second half - but Dinny came on with the young Micko floundering in the bog that masqueraded as a football pitch. Dinny scored a goal with Jim Brosnan scoring another goal with a rocket at the death - to snatch an improbable draw.

For the replay in Killarney, Dinny was back at centre-field with Mick O'Connell now deployed at wing-forward. The word was that Micko was too "fancy" for mid-field. That was the day that Tom Collins played three games for Kerry (all against Cork) - Junior Football, Junior Hurling and Senior Football. Now that is one record that will never be beaten. Anyway, we lost to a last minute point for Cork by Niall FitzGerald. That replay was delayed by six weeks because of the outbreak of polio in Cork. On his run from mid-field for the winning point, Niall Fitz was fouled at least three times. The consensus, at the time, was that the ref was under instructions to ensure that there was not another draw - hence he was not going to get any free unless he was within easy scoring distance.

The following year, 1957, was the year of the fiasco against Waterford, when we arrived without a goalkeeper and only a few subs - including one of the drivers. Dinny O'Shea came on as a sub that day.

By the time 1958 came around, Dinny was back in mid-field - this time with the ever soaring Mick O'Connell, who was only a month or two away from announcing himself in Croke Park with his jaw-dropping display against Jim McKeever of Derry.

For the Munster Final, the selectors changed mid-field again - moving the young Seamus Murphy to partner Micko. At the time, there were mutterings that the young Seamus was being favored because he was a brother of Sean's, then in his classic primacy.

All of this is a long-winded recital to place Dinny in the pantheon of Kerry stars.

On the face of it, his place in the pantheon rests on his role as mid-fielder on one the most famous of all Kerry sides.

But, extraordinarily, it took three all time greats of the game to dislodge him from the Green and Gold jersey.

In fact, he was replaced by Mick O'Connell, Tom Long and Seamus Murphy.

What an epitaph. He should not be forgotten.

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