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Donie O’Sullivan – A footballer once but a friend always



Killarney Advertiser sports columnist Eamonn Fitzgerald reviews the autobiography of his former Kerry teammate Donie O’Sullivan

There is no shortage of sports books on offer and many will make their way into our stockings this Christmas.

Several sports personalities’ autobiographies are ghosted, but all too often star players commit to print far too soon after ending their glorious sporting careers. Invariably, these books are shallow, egotistical and a self-glorifing journey of self-delusion, providing no real insights into the person’s thoughts and values.

The hero’s achievements are well known but what does the biography tell us about the inner persona?

There are some great exceptions. I found the biographies of Kieran Donaghy and Philly McMahon well worth reading and hopefully some of this year’s Christmas crop will emerge as very worthwhile too. I have found one already and it is very much homegrown, well over 40 decades since the subject’s playing days. Mature reflection provides the necessary savvy.


Donie O’Sullivan: A Footballer, Once, an autobiography penned with fellow Spa man Jimmy O’Sullivan Darcy, gives us a fine insight into the values and principles of an enduring GAA star.

Four All-Ireland titles with Kerry, one All-Ireland Club and three Kerry SFC titles in a row with East Kerry, Kerry’s first All-Star, nine O’Donoghue Cups and a plethora of other awards. That and more but you’ll be scratching your head to find these facts in this autobiography.

Jimmy Darcy is a sports columnist who provides a comprehensive and constructive honest analysis of the local and national sports scene. In this book he sets the context of the social and political life during which the ‘once footballer’ excelled.

I had the good fortune to play on teams with Donie and we were also in opposition in the very healthy Spa v Dr Crokes O’Donoghue Cup rivalry. He was a full-blooded competitor, tough as táithfhéileann, but fair and sporting.

We travelled far and wide along with Mick Gleeson to play together most times, but not always. Donie gave sterling service to Dr Crokes in the early 1960s, winning three O’‘Donoghue Cups. When Spa got going once more, he quite rightly played with his home team, winning six more O’Donoghue Cups.

He was the leading figure for Spa along with Pat Casey and Mick Gleeson, usually at the expense of the Crokes. The game plan was simple, direct, and successful. Donie boomed a 70-yard kick-out, Casey fetched cleanly and delivered quickly into Gleeson. Raise another flag.

I recall the 1968 O’Donoghue Cup final fixed for a Friday night. Mick Gleeson and I were in the same workplace in Dublin and Donie was employed elsewhere in Dublin. The game was fixed for 7.30pm in the Park. Travelling in the same car out of Dublin on a Friday afternoon without the luxury of a motorway; a four or five-hour journey was not the ideal preparation.

The friendly conversation kept us occupied until we took a four-minute sos to stretch our legs 14 miles from the Park, just 20 minutes to throw-in. I had the duty to mark Mick Gleeson, a huge challenge at the best of times. No quarter given or taken, friendships suspended for one hour. But with the shake hands at the final whistle, normal respectful relationships were renewed. Values.


Darcy drove Donie around the Spa countryside and the latter supplied the commentary, facilitating the reader to see into the recollecting mind of footballer. The writer discovered the real personal values of faith, integrity, and respect of the footballer of fadó, fadó.

Footballer, is it? He readily admits that he couldn’t even make the Sem team. Why? because he was “too small”. Maybe so, but there was plenty of work to be done in the modest farm at Tiernaboul. Cycling both ways on a high nelly was enough to take the teaspach off anyone.

He was also a very keen student, a lifetime learner and teacher, which took him off to the USA on so many occasions, especially to San Diego. He studied there and lectured on Irish history, a subject dear to his heart, as is the Irish language. Significantly, his Ó Súilleabháin offspring have Irish names: Colm, Fionnuala, Eoin and Orna.

Forget the Kerry minors or U21s but look to Maynooth. That was the era of big numbers answering the call of a Higher Authority. Donie answered the call.

He must have togged out there every day whatever the weather. He liked the structure of Maynooth, the self-discipline. “You studied, you slept, and you played sports.”

Friends in that seminary said that Donie practiced and practiced kicking, which in later life crowned him King in the Kingdom of dead-ball kickers. When I placed the ball on the edge of the square, his explosive contact was like a jet taking off and Mick O’Connell, his lifelong friend, knew exactly when and where to leap into the clouds.

Seánie O’Shea is a splendid long kicker but how would he have done with the old ball on a wet day? The weather was never an issue for Donie. The pitches at Maynooth were a small bit shorter than your regular pitch, but still, he could drive the kickout so far, bypassing all lines until it was safely grabbed at the other end by his cousin Bill Murphy. The latter became Bishop of Kerry and is still a keenly interested sports supporter.

The former could well have been a kicker with the New York Jets, who wanted him to join them. However, he felt life is for living and cherishing, even when it throws up so many challenges and disappointments. It wasn’t all plain sailing.


Darcy listens for a response and the open confessions emerge. It wasn’t a winner all the way. Donie had disappointments go leor. Imagine having to listen to the 1962 All-Ireland final on the wireless because at that time clerical students were not allowed to play games outside of the college once they returned to Maynooth in September.

He won his first All-Ireland medal in 1962 and was not one bit sour about not being allowed play. He confided, prayed, and then made his own decision, as he did when he left the seminary some years later. To this day he has an eternally grateful grá for Maynooth and particularly for the lifelong friends he made in that era of his life.

More disappointments were to follow. He was dropped for the 1969 All-Ireland final, having played so well all the way to that final. One never got a reasoned explanation why. He was disappointed but never sulked. Like life, he just got on with it and held no grudges.

Think of the 1970 All-Ireland final. Kerry won, but he received a leg injury after 20 minutes. Still, he continued to play on until half-time. Looking at him hobble off eventually, I was disappointed that the lion-hearted Spa man would not be fit to join us in the county final one week later against Waterville. He had to sit it out for the three-in-a row.

But nothing compared to the biggest challenge of all, life and death staring you in the face, this time off the field. Eoin, his son, appeared to have no chance of surviving and “we were thinking and then discussing when the life support would be unplugged”. Aggressive lymphoma on a 10-year-old is hard to take. Miraculously, Eoin survived and returned to full health.

Also, for six years, Donie was the primary carer for his beloved wife Dr Áine, who was suffering from dementia. His family said he never once complained, resilient and reliable as ever. She passed away in April 2021.

Others will count his medals and a plethora of awards, but the Donie I know values friends most of all. That thread runs right through the autobiography. The friendships forged on the sporting fields endured forever and when he hears that a former player, friend or foe, was experiencing health issue, the once footballer - but always friend - lifted the phone and visited his former teammate or rival player.

This book is well worth reading to encounter the inner persona of a very public footballer who knows where he came from and cherishes his beloved Spa with no hint of éirí in airde. He knows that life is thuas seal, thíos seal.

Donie is fíor dhílis don Ghaeilge i gcónaí, agus ritheann liricí an Ríordánaigh liom. The man from just over the county bounds offers this nugget.

“Is níl laistigh d’aon daoiorse, Ach saoirse ón daoirse sin.”

Donie O’Sullivan: A Footballer, Once, an autobiography with Jimmy Darcy O’Sullivan, is available from Amazon.

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Kingdom hoping to lay some old ghosts to rest at Páirc Uí Chaoimh



by Adam Moynihan

All-Ireland SFC Group 1

Cork v Kerry

Saturday at 3pm

Páirc Uí Chaoimh

I was one of the unlucky few to have been present at the last Cork-Kerry clash in Páirc Uí Chaoimh in November of 2020. It was a truly awful night.

The match was played behind closed doors which made for an eerie, unsettling atmosphere, and the rain came down harder than I ever remember seeing first-hand.

Unfortunately, Kerry came down hard too. Mark Keane’s last-ditch goal clinched an unexpected victory for the hosts and, just like that, Kerry’s year was over.

It always hurts when your team loses but that one completely floored us all. It was such a horrible way to lose a game and I felt so bad for the players as they trudged off the field, soaked to the bone and shaken to the core.

They got some form of payback the following year when they won by 21 in the Munster final, and again last year when they ran out 11-point winners in the semi-final. But something tells me that it would mean a lot more to return to Páirc Uí Chaoimh and do the business there.

It won’t be easy. The final scorelines in the last two games suggest that it was all one-way traffic but that simply wasn’t the case. In 2021, Cork led by 1-5 to 0-4 at the water break (remember those?) and they pushed Kerry hard 12 months ago too. There was nothing in that match right up until the 50th minute, at which point Kerry brought on David Moran and Paul Geaney and ultimately pulled away.

You can never really read too much into the McGrath Cup but Cork demolished Kerry in January. Their form since has been spotty but they did well to see off Louth last week, with the returning Brian Hurley (shoulder) kicking eight points in a two-point win. Hurley has proved to be a handful for Kerry full back Jason Foley in the past.

Significantly, John Cleary’s side are strong in a key area where Kerry struggled against Mayo: midfield. Ian Maguire and Colm O’Callaghan scored 0-2 each in Navan (and the latter scored 2-4 in that aforementioned McGrath Cup game at the start of the year).

Jack O’Connor named his team last night with Adrian Spillane replacing Tony Brosnan and Paul Murphy coming in for Dylan Casey. Spillane will add some extra brawn and energy around the middle third. Going by the last outing, Kerry need it.

It is also worth noting that David Clifford has never really shot the lights out against Cork. He has been well minded by Maurice Shanley, Seán Meehan and Kevin Flahive in the past three championship meetings, with the retreating Seán Powter also getting stuck in when needed.

Flahive suffered a cruciate injury late in last year’s game but he could potentially be in line for a comeback tomorrow; he has been added to Cork’s 26 for the first time in over 12 months.

Meehan has been ruled out with a hamstring injury so Shanley may be asked to track the Footballer of the Year this time around.

Clifford was one of the few bright sparks against Mayo and he would love to bring that form to the Páirc on Saturday. With vital points on the line, there would be no better time to lay some ghosts to rest.

From a Kerry perspective, you would hope – and perhaps expect – that Clifford and his teammates can do exactly that and get the show back on the road.


1. Shane Ryan

2. Graham O’Sullivan

3. Jason Foley

4. Tom O’Sullivan

5. Paul Murphy

6. Tadhg Morley

7. Gavin White

8. Diarmuid O’Connor

9. Jack Barry

10. Dara Moynihan

11. Seánie O’Shea

12. Adrian Spillane

13. Paudie Clifford

14. David Clifford

15. Paul Geaney

Subs: S Murphy, T Brosnan, D Casey, BD O’Sullivan, R Murphy, M Burns, M Breen, S O’Brien, D O’Sullivan, C O’Donoghue, S O’Brien.


1. Micheál Aodh Martin

2. Maurice Shanley

3. Rory Maguire

4. Kevin O’Donovan

5. Luke Fahy

6. Daniel O’Mahony

7. Matty Taylor

8. Colm O’Callaghan

9. Ian Maguire

10. Brian O’Driscoll

11. Ruairí Deane

12. Killian O’Hanlon

13. Seán Powter

14. Brian Hurley

15. Chris Óg Jones

Subs: P Doyle, C Kiely, T Clancy, K Flahive, P Walsh, E McSweeney, B Murphy, J O’Rourke , M Cronin, S Sherlock, F Herlihy.

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Is Killarney green or blue? Celtic and Athletic to face off in tonight’s league final



Kerry Premier A League Final

Killarney Celtic v Killarney Athletic

Tonight at 7.45pm

Mounthawk Park, Tralee

Killarney Celtic will be gunning for their fifth league title in a row tonight (Friday) when they take on crosstown rivals Killarney Athletic in Tralee.

Celtic have been the dominant force in Kerry soccer in recent times with Athletic playing second fiddle. This will be the third Premier A final in a row to be contested by the Killarney clubs; Celtic won the 2020 decider 4-0 and last year’s final ended in a 3-0 victory for the club from Derreen. (The 2020/21 season was scrapped due to the pandemic.)

Prior to that, Celtic defeated Castleisland in 2019 and Dingle Bay Rovers in 2018, both on a scoreline of 1-0.

Celtic and Athletic also met in the 2017 final. The Blues prevailed in that particular encounter to capture their first ever Premier A title.

As for this season, Neilus Hayes’ Hoops qualified for the final by virtue of their first-place finish in the Premier A. Despite losing key players – including attackers Ryan Kelliher, Stephen McCarthy and Trpimir Vrljicak – to the Kerry FC project, the Celts won 12 of their 14 matches and ended up with an imposing goal difference of +34.

Athletic were not far behind, however; Stuart Templeman’s team only lost one league game all season en route to 35 points – one behind Celtic and 11 clear of Castleisland in third.

Interestingly, both of Celtic’s losses came at the hands of Athletic. The Woodlawn outfit impressively beat the old enemy 3-2 and 0-1 over the course of the regular season.

Goals by Roko Rujevcan, Pedja Glumcevic and a 90th-minute winner by Brendan Moloney clinched that dramatic 3-2 win in October of last year. It was a result that signalled Athletic’s intentions for the rest of the season.

Rujevcan was also on the scoresheet when Athletic snatched a rare away win at Celtic Park on April 30.

Celtic’s imposing record in finals probably makes them slight favourites and in the likes of John McDonagh, Brendan Falvey, Wayne Sparling, Kevin O’Sullivan and Witness Odirile they have a potent mix of steel and skill.

But Athletic will take heart from their recent results in this fixture and they will be hoping that two of the stars from the 2017 team – Shane Doolan and Shane Lynch – can lead the current crop of players to glory.

Meanwhile, the Division 2B final between Killarney Athletic B and Atletico Ardfert that was also due to take place tonight has been cancelled. Athletic have received a walkover.


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