Tribute to Paddy Batt Shanahan

February 15th, 2011
by Weeshie Fogarty

As one would expect a huge crowd turned out for the burial of a great Currow and Kerry GAA stalwart the well known and much admired Paddy Batt Shanahan who answered that final whistle on February 2nd last. Paddy Batt Shanahan, the name for me as young lad growing up left a lasting imprint on the subconscious. His was an era well before that  of multi media, DVDs, Radio Kerry, and even the words  Public Relation Officers had yet to be born. So stories of heroes and legends, great players, dashing clearances by cast iron like defenders and titanic battles for the championship of the county were relayed by word of mouth and passed on from the senior players of ones own club.

So it was with me and Paddy Batt. His story and exploits on the field came to me via word of mouth.  The Currow man had close links to Killarney because when he was at the peak of his football defensive powers during the late forties/ early fifties he togged out with Killarney in the county championship. And of course members of my own club Killarney Legion did like wise and so on the 13 th November 1949 Paddy Batt lined out and starred in his favourite left corner back position as the "Lake Side" men defeated famed John Mitchels in the county final, 2-7 to 2-3. Years later I would hear stories of those legendary championship battles from Denny Lyne, John C Cooper Gerald o Sullivan and Freddy Murphy all now sadly departed.  Then as time rolled by I became friendly with Paddy Batt through my friendship with his exemplary daughters Joan and Margaret. I would often meet him as he followed Currow and Kerry and it was fascinating to as the fellow said "draw him out" then stand back and listen to tales of days gone by on the fields of Kerry. 

In 1949 the Currow native helped Kerry win the junior All Ireland title lining out at centre back in the win over Lancashire, 2-14 to 0-6. Tipperary, Cork and Waterford were overcome in Munster. Wicklow were defeated in the semi-final and in the 'Home" final Down were put to the sword 3-11 to 3-5. It was the Kingdoms seventh junior title. A remarkable thing happened that day in that final. Lining our at midfield was a young seventeen year old lad from Camp in West Kerry. Sean Murphy was that young man and the following year 1950 he lined out at mid field with Paudie Sheehy as Kerry won the All Ireland minor title. Surly a unique achievement, to win a junior medal before a minor. Sean would go on to become one of the all times greats of Gaelic football.
He has vivid memories of that day in 1949 and in particular the gently way Paddy Batt took him "under his wing" before and during the game. Sean told me. "he was a great character with a wonderful pair of hands and he played a huge part in that All Ireland win. Quite and unassuming he put me at ease in the dressing room as we togged out. It was a very daunting experience for a seventeen year old and I was literally in awe as I looked around surrounded by players I admired so much. John C Cooper, Liam Fitzgerald, John Dowling, Tom Long who was the captain and of course Mixi Palmer. Paddy Batt reassured me and convinced me that everything would turn out all right during the hour and he would keep an eye on me. And that is exactly what he did". Sean was hugely impressed by the Currow man and recalled. "He was a powerfully man, about five ten in height and built to match. He was made of bell iron and I always compared him to Jackie Lyne, John Cronin and Paddy "Bawn". He never shrieked a challenge and to see him busting out with the ball scattering men left and right was a great sight to me and the rest of the team".
In 1950 Paddy Batt had the unusual experience of playing against his former team mates in that years county final. He had transferred to play with his home town of Castleisland and once again at centre back he had a stormer as Killarney were beaten 1-7 to 1-4 in a re-play. Two county championship medals with two different teams. He himself would be the first to admit that he was no John o Keeffe or no Thomas o Se. He came from the old school of Kerry players, catch and kick, go through the crowd not around them, no short passing and don't take prisoners.  Paddy Batt Shanahan was one of those often forgotten men who served their county and clubs with passion and pride when the need was greatest. He didn't star in Croke Park and failed to win that prized All Ireland medal. However he help Kerry to two Munster titles and played a number of league games with the Kingdom. 

July 30th 1950 Kerry defeated Cork 2-5 to 1-5 in the Cork Athletic Grounds and lining out at left corner back the blazing hot day was one Paddy Batt Shanahan from the village of Currow. Its worth recalling that Munster final team long forgotten who later lost the semi final to Louth. Liam Fitzgerald, Jas Murphy, Paddy Bawn Brosnan, Paddy Batt Shanahan,, Mick Finnucan, Jackie Lyne, Teddy o Connor (0-1) Jim Brosnan, Eddie Dowling, Teddy o Sullivan (0-2), Phil McCarthy, Gerald o Sullivan Paddy Godley (0-1), Dan Kavanagh (2-1), Batt Garvey.  A great athlete in his youth, he participated in the long jump at the various sports meeting around Munster. Rowing was another favourite sport of his as was the high jump, together with the 16 and 56 pound shot. An avid angler and game shooter he would regularly be seen at "Mick the Bridges", one of his favourite fishing spots. He had his own boat and spend many the long lazy hazy days of summer on the lakes of Killarney. A powerful swimmer in his youth he was known to have swam from Ross Castle to Innisfallen Island.

So another link with the past has gone to his eternal reward. The name Paddy Batt Shanahan was for some of us of that era and vintage synonymous with the traditions and uniqueness of Kerry football. It is men such as him many sadly forgotten for their contribution to their county's greatness who laid the foundations of to days heritage. The Currow man might not be remembered as one of the greats of Kerry football but in his own inimitable and unassuming way he, in my opinion has certainly contributed to what we often ponder about, and that is, What is the Secret of Kerry?
To his wife Joan, daughters Margaret and Joan, son Denis and extended family we extend our deeoest sympsthy. He was laid to rest in St Michaels Cemetery, Killeentierna.

Fogra: To discover every single Kerry player and their clubs and every team that lined out for Kerry in league and championship then simply check out the web site  It's a virtual history of Kerry football waiting for you to discover and enjoy.

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