Farewell to John Moriarty - Author, Philosopher and Lover of Kerry Football

May 4th, 2013
by Weeshie Fogarty

They came from far and wide to say a final farewell to John Moriarty, poet, author and philosopher and unknown by most a passionate lover of Kerry and its footballers. John died on Friday June 1st and he was laid to rest on Monday 4th under a leafy oak tree in Aghadoe overlooking the mountains and lakes that he loved so much.  John Moriarty was one of the most remarkable Kerrymen I have ever known. Like John B Keane he had this wonderful gift of making everyone feel good about themselves. To meet him and discuss any topic that might arise was each and every time a whole new experience. I was so fortunate to have befriended John through our love and passion for Kerry football and when he launched into a discussion about Kerry football he would simply leave you speechless. He and only he had this great gift of explaining Kerry and its football as if it was a religious or mythological event.
I will never forget the first time I met John. About five years ago I was on my way down New St. in Killarney one Autumn day in late September. Striding towards me was this tall imposing person, his huge head of tangled grey hair helping to make him even more distinguishable. He had a bundle of papers or files under his arm. As we drew closer he spotted me and uttered the words that were to bring us together for the first time. "Up Kerry Weeshie, God bless you" he shouted and before I knew what was happening this six foot plus wonderfully imposing figure of a man was standing towering in front of me. And what I remember most of all is John's magnificent beaming smile. A smile that would light up the darkest of winter days. Following that we would meet periodically around Killarney and on a number of occasions after some Kerry games he would phone me to discuss some aspect of that match.
John's analysis and discussions were completely different from anyone else I have ever spoken to. On one occasion following an All Ireland semi-final he phoned me inquiring if I had seen an action photograph in one of the daily papers. I do recall that Kerrys Johnny Crowley was the centre piece of this shot. Yes I replied I had seen it and he then proceeded to explain in his own wonderful way the true meaning of the picture. For him the old adage "a picture speaks a thousand words" was relevant to all aspects of life.  Then three years ago following Kerry's magnificent victory over Mayo in the final John and I met and as I listened to his beautifully descriptive accounts of some incidents from the game I immediately decided that what he was saying should be captured for a far wider audience than I. He agreed that I could visit him at his home and conduct an interview in relation to what he considered the true meaning of Kerry football. This has become one of my most treasured memories.
John Moriartys lovely little house nestles near the base of the towering Mangerton Mountain. Far away from the maddening crowds it is situated in the heart of nature itself. You walk to the front door over soft bouncy grass and around you are an array of majestic standing stones. We sat in his front room the floor of which is littered with piles of books no doubt covering ancient religions, different philosophies and thinking and numerous other subjects far beyond the grasp of most. Looking out the window he described the stunning scenery.
"We are five and a half miles from the centre of Killarney, up in the hills, up under Mangerton Mountain. It's the parish of Coolies. There is a posh part of Muckross and there is a part of in that is in the commonage like and we are in the wilderness part of it". As he was speaking he was laughing to his hearts content.  "You are looking straight out at the Reeks, the Tomies and behind them is the gap of Dunloe. And then your are looking at Torc Mountain with the mist down on it to-day a little bit. You have the Punch Bowel and behind me is the Horses Glen and Stumpa and all the way over to East Kerry you have Cappagh and in the far distance the Paps of Dana. We are surrounded by mountains here and you have all the furze and the bracken and the dwarf furze growing around the house. Up here in the nights we hear the stags bellowing because the rut is on. It's magical. There is just a few families of us up here and I live in a small group of houses. It's a dead end road but right there where no one but us will see it is a lone Kerry flag. No member of the Kerry team will see it. There is no bus passing our door, no train, no cars, nothing.
That flag Weeshie is celebrating the Kerry team and in hope for the Kerry team. There is probably Kerry flags flying in secret places all over the country. It's almost like a Christmas candle lighting in the window of some house in some hidden place and no one will ever see it. But maybe only the Angles will se it. It is there to tell the Kerry team that up here where no one but ourselves will see it we have a flag flying for them. Thanks to good old Mike Brosnan who was a carpenter in his day, he erected the pole. This is our little community celebrating our beloved Kerry".
I asked him what he thought of Colm Coopers goal in that final win over Mayo. Only John could describe it in such a beautiful way. "I read what Gooch said about that goal", he replied. Once again peals of laughter reverberated around the room as he continued. "When I saw Eamon Fitzmaurice launching another Garryown in on top of the forwards I thought, oh Jesus not another Garryown. I was totally distressed by the strategy that won the game, and the strategy was precisely to kick the ball in high on top of the forwards. I said what are they doing launching these huge kick in on top of them. Then up goes Gooch, he has already burned off Dermot Gerathy who had gone in there to silence and quiten Colm. He fielded magnificently and do you know what Gooch himself said afterwards. "Having gone up for that ball I knew I hit the ground one second before my marker did, and I knew then that I had a yard on him and I ran for goal". What we saw then after that was the Gooch ghosting, literally ghosting past defenders and at the narrowest of angles he had then to get it around the extended boot and extended leg of the goalie.
That a game should depend on a split second, on a second of timing is stunning. He came down thinking of that and he had the presence of mind to think of that one second he had ahead of his marker. I often think Weeshie that with the hundreds of times the ball is moved in a match that the result can turn on just one of those moves is a revelation to me. Think of it carefully. An advantage of one second and that made a huge difference in the game. That incident spoke to me of what this Kerry team is all about". I also put it to John that the skill levels of our players are equal to that of the top soccer players of the world. "In levels of skill they are equal to each other it's only that Zidane and the others gets millions for their playing. The last day Diarmuid Murphy made a save, a great diving save. Now if Schimachel at his best made it and Diarmuid is as tall as Schimachel we would say that he is earning his keep.
There was incredible joy in Killarney when the team came home, real joy. The same in Tralee, Dingle and other places and I hope that it will be some bit of compensation and that the players were able to share that joy of the people When they were beaten by Armagh in that final two years they played some of the best football I have ever, ever seen anywhere in any sport on the way to that final. It was champagne football. And we had lost the Munster final that year when those great o Shea brothers had lost their father. Football is part of our heritage Weeshie, is what we are and signifies where we come from".
I sat there enchanted at John's choice of words surrounded by mounds of books and loose sheets of paper. His brilliant beaming smile and musical laughter will forever remain etched in my memory. His passion for all sports astounded me. This great man, a gentle man, a humble man. We will never ever see his likes again. I count myself so fortunate to have befriended him and recorded his Kerry football memories for future generations. As renowned Irish poet Paul Durcan remarked to me at John's grave side. "It is only from this day on that John's greatness will be fully appreciated".

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