Nicknames are rampant in Ireland and it’s hard to say exactly why.
Maybe using pet names is our way of showing affection. Maybe we just love making fun of one another - certain sobriquets seem to have their roots in funny stories or amusing likenesses. In some instances, alternate names are simply functional, a way of differentiating this John O’Sullivan here from that John O’Sullivan down the road.
Whatever the reasons, nicknames are everywhere and naturally our national games are no exception. Our playing fields have been graced by some superb examples down through the years. Babs. Bomber. Bubbles. Brick. The Rock. The Man. Star. Nudie. Cake. Jelly. Woolly. Fingers. The list goes on and on. I’m not sure where they all came from, and maybe in some instances I don’t want to know.
The dressing room environment is surely a factor in all of this. When 20-plus young men get together three times a week, the storytelling and slagging is bound to produce nicknames, and some of those nicknames are bound to stick.
Killarney (and East Kerry) is no exception.
THE BIG ONE
Let’s address the most famous one first (not just around here but perhaps in the entire sport): The Gooch (Colm Cooper). The man many consider to be the greatest to ever do it got his nickname from his Dr Crokes clubmate Peter O’Brien (aka Head), apparently due to the young mascot’s resemblance to the popular ‘Goochie’ dolls of the time.
Speaking of Crokes, Gooch himself lined out alongside a number of players throughout his career who are perhaps better known by their nicknames. Smiler (Michael Moloney, who inherited the name from his father, Smiler Sr), Melon (David Moloney), Socky (Alan O’Sullivan) and Boo-Boo (James Fleming) are some of the more notable ones, alongside current half back David O’Leary who is widely known as Buddy. The late Martin Beckett was the one who gave O’Leary that moniker: he thought that the toddler from Woodlawn looked like American singer Buddy Holly.
Staying in Lewis Road, the O’Sullivan family boast three famous nicknames: the great Eddie Tatler O’Sullivan, his son Patrick The Bag O’Sullivan, and his other son (current senior manager) Edmund Fox O’Sullivan. The latter and the former are fairly self-explanatory. The Bag, perhaps, less so.
Apparently when Patrick’s father was a selector with the Kerry team he was given an Adidas kitbag which he passed on to Patrick, who was a young lad at the time. He was proud of the bag and carried it everywhere, prompting his friends to say, “Look at Patrick with the bag, it’s as big as himself”. The bag became synonymous with Patrick and that was that.
THE NICKNAME KINGS
As many bynames as there are above in Crokes, they simply cannot compete with the undisputed kings in this particular domain: Gneeveguilla. The small parish just the right side of the Cork border is a veritable hotbed for cognomens. To be honest, I feel bad for anyone back there who doesn't have a nickname. They must feel left out.
Forgie, Slug, Lobster, Spider, Rats, Pebbles, Fuzz, Mops, Bawnie, Stones, Blondie Mike, Curly, Horse, Fox, Badger, Mosquito and, believe it or not, Chesty La Rue have all represented Gneeveguilla with distinction, as has a player with one of the more interesting nicknames around, Pharaoh (Donie O’Connor). The man himself explains how that one came about.
“The GAA club in Gneeveguilla used to run a drama competition called Tops of the Parish in the local hall and in the 1980s, as part of one of the comedy sketches, my father was doing a scene where he was a pharaoh.
“After that everyone locally started calling him Pharaoh and subsequently I became known as Young Pharaoh. It has stuck with us since then. It’s funny now how many people wouldn't even know my real name, and just call me Pharaoh.”
Over to Rathmore and another unusual leasainm catches the eye: the club’s captain when they won the East Kerry Championship in 2015, 2016 and 2017 is affectionately known as Bonze (Brendan O’Keeffe). Again, I’ll let the player himself enlighten us.
“My dad runs a hardware shop in Rathmore and we had a forklift that was in the business for years called The Bonzer. He claims that I was a little wrecker when I was a young lad, tearing around the place like the forklift. So, I was christened after a forklift, and it has stuck to this day.”
Not to be outdone by their neighbours with their Egyptian, Rathmore also have some Italians in their ranks. Back in the eighties, Zoff (Donal O’Connor) was named after fellow goalkeeper Dino Zoff and later his clubmate Brendan Nagle came to be known as Baggio after legendary striker Roberto Baggio.
Speaking of Rathmore, another star from the eighties (and also my uncle-in-law) Dan O’Leary is more commonly known as The Knife. Meanwhile, his son, Dan Jr, is known to his friends as The Dagger. A similar pattern can be found in Gneeveguilla where you have the aforementioned Stones (Michael Murphy) and his younger brother Pebbles (Donal Murphy), and out in Firies where you have Bush (James O’Donoghue) and his younger brother Shrub (Shane O’Donoghue).
Heading back towards town and Legion have Beano (Kevin Breen), Shadow (Danny Sheahan), the great Mixie (James) Palmer, and of course not forgetting the legendary Weeshie (Aloysius Fogarty), who got his famous nickname from his pals on New Street who were unable to correctly pronounce his “posh” first name.
Spa have no shortage of nicknames either. Chief amongst them is veteran forward Stam (Mike O’Donoghue), and I can tell you the origin story of this one myself because I was actually present when he got it.
Mike was a teammate of mine underage at Killarney Athletic and he turned up for training one morning wearing a Manchester United jersey and sporting a buzz cut. Skinheaded Dutch defender Jaap Stam was at United at the time, so Mike really walked into that one.
Other well-known Spa nicknames include Batt (Eoin and Cormac Cronin, a name they inherited from their father, Johnny) and The Kid (Ryan O’Carroll), and an honourable mention must go to what is surely the cleverest and most delicious nickname around: Chili (Con Kearney).
Kilcummin have Todd (Shane McSweeney) and Dodge (DJ Fleming), Currow have Buff (Michael McCarthy), Glenflesk have Shaky (Michael O’Shea), there’s a Spoon (Jerh O’Sullivan) from Firies and in Fossa you’ll even find Snakes (Kenneth Clifford).
There are scores more at the clubs mentioned above and elsewhere but the names are far too numerous (and, in some cases, far too inappropriate) to share.
So, with all that in mind, what makes a good nickname? In truth, I don’t really think there’s such a thing as a “good” or “bad” nickname. There are simply nicknames that stick and nicknames that don’t. Some are funny, some aren’t. Some make sense, some don’t. Either way, plenty of them tend to stick around these parts - whether the bearer likes it or not.
As one player who has a funny-but-slightly-embarrassing-if-you-know-the-whole-story nickname told me this week: “It’s funny how someone can come along one day and just change your name, but there really isn’t a whole pile you can do about it.
“If it sticks, it sticks.”
Kerry will need more intensity, more physicality and more collaboration to bounce back from Dub drubbing
by Adam Moynihan
In the 22nd minute of last Saturday night’s league match in Croke Park, Lee Gannon collected a pass on his own 65 and carried the ball unchallenged right into the heart of Kerry’s defence. Brian Fenton took over and a tackle by Diarmuid O’Connor slowed the attack.
Then Fenton looked up and saw that Niall Scully was standing at the top of the D, completely unmarked. It was a simple five-metre handpass to the centre, and Scully had all the time in the world to steady himself and shoot. His point made it Dublin 2-8 Kerry 0-5. Ten shots for Dublin. Ten scores. One-way traffic.
The Dubs deserve credit for their accuracy in front of the posts – Con O’Callaghan was particularly excellent – but the ease with which they were creating their openings was startling from a Kerry perspective. For Scully’s score, the resistance was non-existent. If the same thing happened in a training match, the manager would be well within his rights to call off the session and send everyone home.
The cameras may have been trained on Kerry’s full back line and, yes, Jason Foley and Dylan Casey were struggling against O’Callaghan and Paddy Small, but Kerry were found wanting all over the pitch. You could have sailed the Titanic down the centre of their defence and O’Callaghan exploited that space to great effect for his third goal. Foley got hoodwinked by a lovely piece of movement by the Dublin full forward, but where was the help?
Centre back Tadhg Morley was pushing up on Dublin dangerman Seán Bugler but that’s the thing with Dublin: all their forwards are dangerous in one way or another. Maybe Tadhg was following instructions but you wonder if he could have cheated off Bugler when the all-action centre forward was outside the 45.
Whether it’s Morley or someone else, that gap in front of the goal needs to be filled – especially against teams of Dublin’s calibre.
What we saw in Croke Park last Saturday was a far cry from the solid defensive structure that won Kerry an All-Ireland in 2022, that’s for sure. You can be certain that Jack O’Connor will be demanding a far more intense, more physical and more collaborative performance against Tyrone on Sunday (1.15pm).
Speaking after the Dublin game, O’Connor said that his side “malfunctioned” on the kickouts. While Dublin keeper David O’Hanlon was firing out his kicks like a machine gun, Shane Ryan was far more measured with his. Dublin’s press was brilliant in fairness to them but you’d have to question Kerry’s appetite for making honest, hard runs and receiving the ball in potentially tight areas.
Graham O’Sullivan and Brian Ó Beaglaoich (who is currently injured) are outstanding when it comes to breaking free and accepting that responsibility. You’d like to see one or two more backs getting in on the act.
As for Ryan himself, could he be a bit quicker and a bit more adventurous with his distribution? Look, if there’s nothing on, there’s nothing on, but I think at times he could back himself more resolutely. He has the range and the accuracy.
Of course, if he takes a risk and it gets intercepted he’ll be in line for even sharper criticism, so you can understand him being cautious when the kick isn’t 100% on.
Whatever the solution, on the evidence of the Dublin and Derry games, Kerry do need to try something a bit different to beat the press. Tyrone are unlikely to be as aggressive as Dublin were but when they do push up, it will be fascinating to see how Kerry deal with it.
Kerry’s midfielders also need to compete aerially against whoever they’re up against when it goes long – even if that’s Brian Fenton or Conor Glass or Brendan Rogers. It’s not easy to get the better of these guys in the air (or to break even, which would do) but that’s the level required.
Joe O’Connor showed that his ball skills have improved markedly by taking his goal and his point so cleanly, and he is doing well in general, but he and his namesake Diarmuid will have to be more impactful both from kickouts and without the ball if Kerry want to be a real force this season.
Personally, I would like to see Seán O’Brien getting some more game time. He has only played six minutes since being taken off early on his debut against Derry five weeks ago. Kerry will need back-up at midfield as the season goes on and O’Brien has a lot of potential.
Up front, the main positive is that Cillian Burke continues to make his presence felt. Even when his more experienced teammates were faltering the last night, Burke stood tall and played his usual game. And he swung over a great score for good measure.
David Clifford will be disappointed that he didn’t convert one of his goal chances – the first one was definitely there for the taking – but you know that over the course of the season he’ll finish more of those than he misses. I wouldn’t be one bit surprised if he comes out and strokes one in on Sunday.
It’s nice to see Tony Brosnan back on the pitch as well. He deserves some kind fortune following a tough spell with illness and injury.
Tyrone coming to Killarney gives the players the perfect opportunity to bounce back quickly and show supporters – and themselves – that the Dublin game was a glitch and nothing more. Improvements are needed all over the pitch but the sight of the Red Hand should bring focus and resolve.
A good performance, a win and two points would put a lot of minds at ease.
Killarney girls will answer Ireland’s call
A trio of talented young Killarney rugby players have been called up to the Ireland U18 squad for the upcoming Six Nations festival in Wales.
Ava O’Malley, Fia Whelan and Emma Dunican have all been included in Matt Gill’s panel for the tournament, which will take place between March 29 and April 6. They will link up with their new teammates for three weekend training camps at the IRFU’s High Performance Centre on the Sport Ireland Campus in Dublin during the month of March.
Gill, the current Women’s Provincial Talent Coach for Leinster, will be assisted by Sana Govender, who has previously coached Munster Women’s teams.
“I’m really looking forward to continuing our Irish U18 Women’s Six Nations preparations and getting our camps underway,” the head coach said. “I’m excited to work with Sana and our management team, and to work with this incredibly talented group of players.”
O’Malley, Whelan and Dunican are products of Killarney RFC’s blossoming youth set-up and all three were on the U18.5 team that recently won the Munster League.
Including the Killarney girls, there are seven Munster-based players on the 35-woman squad with 15 hailing from Leinster, eight from Connacht and five from Ulster.
“It’s a very proud day for the girls, their families, teammates and coaches, and for Killarney RFC,” the club commented. “Best of luck, girls!”
Credit Union launch a new collaboration with Gilroy’s Green Energy Ltd.
Building on recent success the Credit Unions of Kerry and West Limerick have launched a new collaboration with Gilroy’s Green...
Racegoers Club to host Cheltenham Preview Night
Killarney Racegoers Club will host its annual Cheltenham Preview Night in Corkery’s Bar on March 7. Admission is free and...
The actor to play Michael Collins revealed
Killarney Musical Society has revealed that the renowned Keith Dwyer Greene will take the lead role in ‘Michael Collins A...
Gleeson Dental now offering facial aesthetics
Gleeson Dental, located on St Anthony’s Place, is now offering facial aesthetics. It is the latest offering from the town...
Killarney postcode V93 home to the county’s most-expensive properties
With properties both for rent and for sale in short supply, prices in the Killarney area have remained strong. In...