Eamonn Fitzgerald speaks to Kerry All-Ireland winner Noel Lucey about his brother, Jimmy, who survived the infamous Siege of Jadotville
Heroes should be remembered and it is never too late to do so. I have often been critical of the need for the Irish Senate, seeing it as a talking shop and an unnecessary huge expense on the Irish taxpayer.
However, I was very heartened to read the Seanad report last week and the resolution to honour 155 Irish soldiers, whose incredible bravery as peacekeeping heroes in Jadotville in 1961 has been for the most part ignored by successive governments for the past 59 years.
More about that later but first of all let us focus on two Kerrymen who were central to the mission, Pat Quinlan and Jimmy Lucey, who are sadly both now dead. Any of our readers who have seen the film ‘The Siege of Jadotville’ will appreciate the incredible story from 1961. Commandant Pat Quinlan was the leader of the A Company of the Irish Army's 35th Infantry Battalion. Jimmy Lucey played at midfield for Kerry in the 1962 All-Ireland final alongside Mick O’Connell. His brother Noel played at centre back that day and earlier this week I spoke to Noel, living in Glenflesk, about that 1962 final win and about his late brother Jimmy.
My own memories of the 1962 All-Ireland are of listening to Micheál Ó Hehir creating those magical pictures for those of us at home listening to him on the wireless. We didn’t have a TV, even though that was the first All-Ireland televised live. I had it tuned in to Radio Éireann long before the throw-in and it was a good job, because there was an explosive start to the match. Kerry won the throw-in and unlike the modern ploy of working the ball in usually involving several inter-passing movements, the ball was dispatched route one to the forwards as Dr Eamonn coached at that time. No dilly dallying with it but send it in long to the forwards whose function is to score.
Gary McMahon was corner forward and he punched the ball past Aidan Brady in the Roscommon goal. Kerry were a goal ahead and all it took was 34 seconds, the fastest goal ever scored in an All-Ireland final and that still stands 59 years later. Gary has long since passed away but his younger brother Eoin, a solicitor in Newcastlewest, often told me that ever since then when he goes to an All-Ireland final he stands up for 34 seconds and only then can he relax and sit down on his seat knowing that his brother’s record stands for another year at least.
Johnny Culloty was the Kerry goalkeeper in 1962, when the Kingdom won the All-Ireland title for the 20th time.
My other memory of that game was of Jimmy Lucey catching a fine ball very early on in the game, then turning around and kicking it in towards his own goal providing an unexpected present for the unbelieving Roscommon forwards. Many friends said it happened much later in the game but Noel Lucey said my memory was correct. Goalkeepers were in no hurry to kick out the ball after a shock goal. Aidan Brady went long with the kick-out, as was the only game tactic of the day. No short kick out to the corner back. Jimmy Lucey fetched the O’Neills ball turned and kicked it in towards his own backs. I said to Noel that maybe Jimmy wanted to pass it to his brother. Maybe so, but he didn’t exert an accurate kick-pass. The ball landed some yards to Noel’s side, but any danger was quickly averted by that brilliant left halfback beside him, Mick O’Dwyer, who nipped into the ‘bearna baol’ and sent the leather up to either Dan McAuliffe or Jerry O’Riordan.
Just one year earlier, Jimmy Lucey and 154 of his lightly armed fellow Irish soldiers were attacked from 7.48am on the morning of September 13, and all hell broke loose. They were holed up for five days fighting for their lives, in what is remembered as the Siege of Jadotville. They were sent to protect settlers and locals as part of a UN peacekeeping mission in the hostile and volatile situation in the Congo.
They were led by another Kerryman, Commandant Pat Quinlan from Caherdaniel parish. I got to know Pat in Dublin in the late 60s/early 70s and met him on a number of occasions where Kerrymen met. There was no ‘eirí in áirde’ in Pat Quinlan’s demeanour about his incredible leadership in Jadotville on September 13-17, 1961 and he didn’t say too much about their ordeal, although he was hurt by the reception they got when they came home.
They were publicly condemned. He was referred to as a coward for calling for a ceasefire and surrendering. He had no other choice with rations and waters supplies exhausted. The Irishmen’s bravery, masterful tactics and gallantry were all forgotten. In 2008 Maurice O'Keeffe recorded an audio documentary on Jadotville for South County Dublin Council. He found that the survivors had raw feelings about how they'd been portrayed.
"Crowds would abuse them at football matches. Some turned to drink or suffered terribly in other ways," O’Keeffe said.
"They weren't recognised for their courage; they were seen as traitors for surrendering.”
Sadly so many of the heroes of Jadotville suffered in later life with post-traumatic stress. Some died by suicide, alcoholism and other ailments. It reminded me of what happened to the heroes of 1916, who were very unpopular in the eyes of the Dubliners for drawing all this trouble and fighting to the capital. That changed after the executions of the leaders and they became heroes.
Hordes of indigenous Katangese, as well as French and Belgian mercenaries, attacked the Irish, and the terrible ordeal began. The peacekeeping force, aided by Quinlan's competence and tactical strategy, kept an estimated 3,000 attackers at bay. They lived through a five-day downpour of shells and bullets but with supplies exhausted and help unable to reach them, he called surrender.
Then followed six weeks of captivity as prisoners of war, not knowing if and when they would be executed. What is remarkable is that none of the 35th Irish Infantry Battalion were killed, whereas up to 300 of the attackers were reported as killed. Five of the Irish were injured.
Leader Quinlan kept their spirits up, kept them together, and kept them alive.
Jimmy Lucey survived and I asked his brother Noel earlier this week what he remembered about his brother’s ordeal and near death on UN peacekeeping duty.
“Not an awful lot really, but I do remember my mother and father listening in closely to the reports on the radio at that time at home in Caragh Lake. There was no television there at that time, not even electricity. The reports were coming in about the Irish soldiers being ambushed, then captured and imprisoned. They didn’t know whether Jimmy was dead or alive. It went on for a long time, day after day and I remember they survived and they were home before Christmas.”
And did Jimmy talk to you about Jadotville?
“He didn’t say much about it at all. But one day he did tell me that one of the other lads was shot in the arm and Jimmy pulled him in to safety and saved his life, otherwise he would have been riddled with bullets. I also remember that when they came home they didn’t get a great reception because some people didn’t like it that they surrendered after five days in the siege.”
“We played together with Kerry,” Noel continued. “He was in the army base in Naas and I was in the Air Corps. We played in the Whit Sunday Tournament in the Park (the Fitzgerald Stadium) in May or June of 1962 against Roscommon and that was Jimmy’s first day playing for Kerry. We met them afterwards in the All-Ireland final. He played very well and was picked at midfield with Mick O’Connell. He played his first championship game with Kerry against Waterford in Listowel.”
Kerry then trounced Cork in the Munster final in Cork on July 15 and easily beat Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final in Croke Park. Jimmy and O’Connell held sway in all those games, and then on to the final where they beat Roscommon 1-12 to 1-6.
Jimmy went back on two further UN Peace missions including Cyprus. Mo bhrón, he had a short life, surviving the attack in Jadotville and the other UN missions, winning that coveted medal with Kerry, but his life was short, too short. He died of cancer while still a very young man.
His brother Vincent played at right half forward on the Kerry team beaten by Galway 0-12 to 0-9 in the 1965 All-Ireland final. Paul Lucey, the fourth brother, certainly played with the Kerry juniors and if memory serves me well the four brothers won a Kerry SFC with Mid-Kerry.
I understand that some of those 155 Jadotville heroes are still alive. Some efforts were made over the years to honour the heroes of 1961. The A Company received a unit citation in Athlone some years ago. There were also talks of individual medals for distinguished service and gallantry.
Attempts were made by successive governments but it never happened and that that gap is still there.
Noel Lucey and his late wife Mary (nee Shine) had five daughters, Karen, Linda, Saundra, Áine and Deirdre, all great runners who have won numerous titles at local and national levels. I often saw them in full flight. With the Lucey DNA and coached by their father, they were winners in several arenas. Sadly, Linda passed away recently. She was married to Pat Eviston of Eviston House Hotel.
Back to the Seanad. Thanks to the efforts of Mark Daly, the Seanad cathaoirleach, Simon Coveney, Minister for Defence, Frances Black (the singer who said that that some of those soldiers in Jadotville were as young as 15 year old) and other senators a new move is in train to award Distinguished Service Medals (DSM) and Military Medals for Gallantry (MMG) to the Jadotville heroes.
2021 will be the 60th anniversary of the siege at Jadotville. I hope there is no obfuscation in the Seanad report and urge Minister Coveney and those who have the power to officially honour the heroes of Jadotville, to do so promptly, even if most of the awards are granted posthumously. Their relatives will appreciate the much longed for recognition.
Main pic: Jamie Dornan portraying Quinlan in the 2016 film 'The Siege of Jadotville', which is currently available on Netflix.
Fossa on cusp of history as club from ‘nine square miles’ eyes senior status
Kerry IFC Final
Fossa v Milltown/Castlemaine
Austin Stack Park
Never before in the history of Kerry football has an Intermediate final attracted so much attention.
On Sunday, two clubs go head-to-head with a trophy and promotion on the line – but this high-profile encounter has far more riding on it than that.
In fact, the consequences of the outcome of this second-tier decider are going to be massive. If Fossa win, they will graduate to senior for the first time in their 53-year existence. It would represent a monumental achievement for the club from the small parish to the northwest of Killarney; few, if any, believed it would ever be possible given their lowly standing as recently as a few years ago.
With two generational talents at their disposal in the form of the Clifford brothers from Two Mile, they have rapidly risen through the ranks. Now they are seeking their second successive promotion following on from last year’s extra time win over Listry in the Junior Premier final.
And if the idea of Fossa going out on their own in the Kery Senior Football Championship wasn’t intriguing enough on its own, there’s more. A Fossa win would mean that East Kerry, winners of four of the last five titles, would lose their Fossa contingent for 2024. Most notable amongst that cohort are Paudie and David Clifford, unquestionably the district’s two most influential players.
There is plenty of intrigue from Milltown/Castlemaine’s perspective too. The Mid Kerry side are aiming to get back to senior level for the first time since being relegated in 2016 following defeat to Kilcummin in a playoff. They were not considered to be amongst the frontrunners for this competition before a ball was kicked, and possibly not after the group stage either, so victory this weekend would be sweet.
Of course, a Milltown/Castlemaine win would also have a huge bearing on the 2024 County Championship. Mid Kerry (runners-up in 2020, 2022 and 2023) stand to lose five starters if Milltown are promoted: Pa Wrenn, David Roche, Gavin Horan, Cillian Burke and Éanna O’Connor. Such a loss would greatly weaken their hand and widen the gap that already exists between them and the reigning champions. Add to that the fact that East Kerry will keep the Cliffords if Milltown/Castlemaine win, and the significance of this game is magnified further still.
There is so much at stake for all the invested parties in East and Mid Kerry, and there is plenty to consider for the neutral fan as well. Many would welcome the weakening of East Kerry’s squad as it would potentially lead to a more competitive County Championship. However, there is serious concern amongst Kerry supporters that the Cliffords are in need of a rest after a long couple of years with club and county. If Fossa prevail they will advance to the Munster Championship and possibly beyond if they manage to keep on winning. This would likely interfere with their star players’ off-season.
There’s no doubt that the nature of Fossa’s matches to date have whetted the appetite for this final. They were involved in exhilarating extra time victories over Castleisland and Austin Stacks in the previous rounds and more excitement of that nature would be more than welcome after a largely disappointing County Championship.
Milltown/Castlemaine also bring plenty to the table and although the momentum from their own semi-final heroics against Legion may have dwindled somewhat over the many weeks between then and now, they can certainly take heart from that result against one of the pre-tournament favourites.
It’s all set up to be a fascinating match-up and a large crowd is expected in Tralee for this one.
The match will also be streamed live by Clubber.
Home double header for St Paul’s and Scotts Lakers
The St Paul’s women’s and men’s teams are both in National League action this Saturday at Killarney Sports and Leisure Centre with their games tipping off at 4.30pm and 7.30pm respectively.
James Fleming’s ladies take on the Phoenix Rockets on the back of that disappointing cup exit at the hands of the Cavan Eagles a fortnight ago and they will be keen to get back to winning ways on home turf.
Paul’s have a perfect 100% record in Division 1 but they are sure to be tested by the Rockets, who gave a fine account of themselves over the course of the 2022/23 season.
They beat Paul’s in Lisburn last February, though the Killarney side exacted revenge in the playoffs in March. The Rockets have made an inconsistent start to the 2023/24 campaign picking up just two wins from the seven games played. The second of those victories came as recently last Saturday when they got the better of the Limerick Sport Eagles at home, but they fell to another defeat against the Huskies back up north the following day.
The Rockets are coached by former Ireland player Breda Dick, a woman who cites Killarney’s own Paudie O’Connor as her role model. Paudie was her first coach at international level and obviously left a huge mark on Breda.
Dick will be looking to the McGrath sisters Charly and Georgie to carry the torch for them as well as American signing Jay Ashby.
For Paul’s, Khiarica Rasheed has been building a good understanding with Sofia Paska and they will be keen to work on that partnership again on Saturday. In the absence of Lorraine Scanlon, who will be attending the LGFA All-Stars, Meabh Barry may be pushed up the ladder. Lynn Jones and Rheanne O’Shea will also be expected to play prominent roles.
Under the guidance of Coach Brian Clarke, Scotts Lakers have established a winning record of 4-2 and as a result they find themselves fifth out of 12 teams in Division 1 of the National League.
They claimed their latest win at home to the Dublin Lions last weekend (81-71) with Americans Braden Bell (26) and Terion Moss (25) accounting for the bulk of the scoring. Jamie O’Sullivan, Oisín Spring and Cian Forde also made their mark on the scoreboard.
Coach Brian Clarke was very pleased with the contribution of his subs on the night. “Our bench was ready to come on and make the difference and I can’t emphasis enough the importance of that,” he told club PRO Enda Walshe.
“Braden and Terion are great shot-makers but they also have a sharp eye for passes to their teammates. Oisín Spring, and Paul Clarke in previous games, are alive to that and make themselves available. It’s a great opportunity for our young players to make their mark and provided they continue to dedicate themselves to their craft, they will get to enjoy that.”
Next up for the Lakers is the visit of the Limerick Celtics on Saturday. The Shannonsiders are currently second in Division 1 having won five of their six matches to date.
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