The late Fr. Brian Kelly

January 17th, 2007
by The Kerryman

A few weeks before Christmas 2006, Fr Brian Kelly, a larger than life character, and a great GAA man, was laid to rest.

His nephew, iar Uachtaran CLG Sean Kelly, penned this tribute to his late uncle on the occasion of the recent Kerry championship - O'Donoghue Cup - final:
"It's rather strange to be writing an article about one so close to you so soon after he passed away, but Fr Brian would want me to do it and he'd appreciate the thoughtfulness and opportunity afforded to me by the East Kerry Board.

The O'Donoghue Cup Final place us all firmly at home in East Kerry and places East Kerry at the centre of the universe. Winning the O'Donoghue Cup means everything to clubs and players in East Kerry.

In the '70s it meant everything to Fr Brian. In 1972 when we won the O'Sullivan Cup (and list the O'Donoghue Cup) he said at our dinner dance: "When all fruit fails, welcome news." Thankfully he trained us to welcome the fruit the following year.

Divisional Board Championships have a life and soul of their own. Fr Brian had trained Glenbeigh to make the great break-through in Mid Kerry and he was really proud of those Mid Kerry Championships too especially as the unhearlded Glanbeigh/Glencar were competing in a division incorporating the mighty Pack Four Men of Laune Rangers.

Later Fr Brain as Parish Priest in Allihies trained that club called Garnish to win their first Beara Championship in 27 years. He got great satisfaction from that as they had only a 'paircin' to play on and had a very tiny population. They celebrated that win as only fishing communities can and Fr Brian was proud as punch of them. One of that team, Ger Harrington, is now chairman of the Dublin County Board.

But while Fr Brain enjoyed great successes with Kilcimmin, Allihies and Glenbeigh his most famous achievement had to be training Mid Kerry to win their first county title in 1967. They had lost the previous year and it was a major break through for the mid Kerry men, and indeed for Kerry, and whole new generations of stars emerged from that little division to wear the green and gold of Kerry with pride and distinction for many years.

He was always very proud of his players and in turn they remained loyal and grateful to him all his life.

Many may not know what that when he was based in Dingle he was also chairman of the West Kerry Board and started underage competition in the area. Among those who often praised him for this initiative and said he benefited greatly from the new competitions was Paidi O Se. Paidi picked up Fr Brian's fanatical zeal for football. He didn't however follow him into the priesthood.

Fr Brian was also chairman of the mid Kerry Board for some time and had a great working relationship with his great pal from the Laune, former County Board Treasurer, Jimmy Coffey.

Ironically he was due to come with me to the launch of a great mid Kerry footballer, Pat Ahern's book in Jimmy Coffey's during the summer when, unfortunately, illness prevented him from doing so.

The large crowd attended his removal and funeral and who came from all corners of Kerry and beyond, was testament to the esteem in which Fr Brain was held. Ar dheis De go raibh a anam dilis.

Radio Kerry - The Voice of the Kingdom