Tribute to Frank OKeeffe

April 1st, 2014
by Weeshie Fogarty

Frank O'Keeffe: August 28th, 1923 – March 25th, 2014

One of the last link with the Kerry team that competed in the famous 1947 Polo Grounds match in New York has been broken with the death of Frank O'Keeffe, aged 90.

A passionate footballer who passed on his love of the game to his sons – and his skills and success on the field to son John – he also excelled in the family furniture business .

Born in Ballymullen, Tralee, in 1923, he was one of eight surviving children of John and Lily O'Keeffe.

He attended CBS, Edward Street, Tralee, initially and later St Brendan's Seminary in Killarney. He spent a brief period with the Kiltegan Fathers before deciding the religious path was not for him.

From early on he was passionate about Gaelic football, playing with the John Mitchel's Club in Tralee, with whom he won county championships in 1947 and 1952.

Coming through the minor and junior ranks, he came to prominence in a challenge match against Antrim in 1946 and was selected to play against Roscommon in the All-Ireland final and replay in the same year. He played on the forward line.

In 1947, he travelled to the Polo Grounds in New York to play for Kerry in a historic final against Cavan.

He was the last surviving member of that day's team for a match which was to end in cruel defeat for Kerry.

Passion and skill
In 1948, he married Kitty Barrett from The Kerries, Tralee, and they reared their three sons, Maurice, John and Dominic at their home on Racecourse Road.

His passion and skill for football was passed on to the children. He will be remembered by many for the energy and personable skills he brought to the family furniture business at Pembroke Street, Tralee.

He enjoyed the banter and excelled at "striking the deal" while ensuring the customer felt that the deal fell in their favour.

His personal generosity was renowned.

Retired from business
He retired from business in the late 1970s and his health deteriorated shortly thereafter. He and Kitty were cared for by staff of Our Lady of Fatima Home in Tralee for some years, where she died in 2006. Subsequently, O'Keeffe spent some time in Tralee Community Hospital where he died.

He is survived by his three sons, Maurice, John and Dominic, his brother Brendan, his daughters-in-law Jane, Liz and Jill, Sharon, his grandchildren Heléne, Sinéad, Claire, David, Shane and Amy, his brother-in-law and sisters- in-law, his nephews, nieces, relatives and many friends.

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