Kerry’s forgotten Olympian who was inches from glory
No Olympics this year means no Irish Olympians for us to cheer on, so this week let us remember a Kerry Olympian who was forgotten for all of 45 years.
It wasn’t until the late Weeshie Fogarty stopped off for a breather in Castlecove on the 2004 Ring of Kerry Cycle and noticed a stained glass window in the local church dedicated to the memory of Eamonn Fitzgerald. He set about finding out about him and discovered with the help of Eugene O’Sullivan, Chairman of The Kerryman’s Association in Dublin, that he was an All-Ireland medal winner with Kerry in 1931 and was fourth in the Los Angeles Olympics in 1932.
He died in 1958 and for 45 years he was forgotten about. In 2004 I went to Deans Grange cemetery in Dublin where a fine contingent came from Eamonn’s native Castlecove to witness former Olympic gold medallist Ronnie Delaney unveil a fitting monument to the forgotten Kerry sports star.
Weeshie Fogarty, Chairman of Kerry GAA Seán Walsh and, fittingly, the great 102-year-old Dan Keating were in attendance in a very representative gathering of 200 or so on a bitterly cold day. Imagine only 10 attended his funeral in 1958.
When I went to UCD, one of the first things Eugene McGee, the college football manager, did was to show me the framed photos on the walls and there was Eamonn Fitzgerald winning the coveted Sigerson Cup title three years (1927, 1929, and 1931). An amazing feat. In the 1929 final he scored 3-3.
NED SEÁN ÓG
Eamonn was born in Behihane, Castlecove, in 1903 and he had three brothers and three sisters. He was known as Ned Seán Óg. He attended Bunaneer NS and thanks to the generosity and benevolence of Lady Abinia Broderick he got his secondary education in Scoil Éanna, Rathfarnham - Pádraig Pearse’s school. He was very bright and was fluent in English, Gaeilge and French. Lady Abinia paid for the education of promising young local people and he was one of these. Originally from the landed English gentry, she turned out to be a strong Irish republican, building a hospital for the Irish near Castlecove and also starting a co-operative for the locals.
Ned Seán Óg later qualified as a secondary school teacher at UCD and then went teaching in Coláiste Éanna, his former school.
At 19 years of age, Ned Seán Óg, as we knew him, played as a corner-forward on the Kerry junior team that won the All-Ireland title in 1924.
He also won an All-Ireland senior medal in 1931 playing at left half forward when Kerry beat Kildare 1-11 to 0-8 in the final at Croke Park. Dr Crokes player Paul Russell playing at right half back scored the only goal in that final.
That famous Kerry team went on to win four in a row. Fitzgerald also won Railway Cup honours with Munster in 1931, as well as a number of National League medals.
Away from football, Ned Seán Óg won three All-Ireland titles in high jump and long jump as well as hop, step and jump (triple jump).
In 1932 he went to Ballybunion with big medal hopes Dr Pat O’Callaghan and Bob Tisdall O’Callaghan in preparation for the Olympics. They trained on the sand hills and on the local greyhound track and there he twisted his ankle. His Olympic participation was in doubt. For treatment all he had was soaking in the sea water and rest.
That summer the 29-year-old set off from Cobh on the 6,000-mile trip to the Los Angeles Olympics. After a long journey by ship and then by train, the Irish team stopped overnight in Denver, Colorado, for some training and to take a break from the long journey.
They went to a high school track and Ned Seán Óg proceeded to the long jump pit to practise. However, after a jump or two he returned limping. His heel swelled up and on his arrival in Los Angeles he received treatment for it. The heel continued to trouble him throughout the Games.
It represented a remarkable feat for him, in the circumstances, to qualify for the final of the hop, step and jump with a leap of 48ft 2.75in and in the final he was just one inch outside the bronze medal position. That was, indeed, cruel luck.
Chukei Nambu of Japan took gold with 15.72m (51ft 6.75in), Erik Svennson of Sweden took silver with 15.32m, and Kenkichi Oshima of Japan claimed bronze with 15.12m. Ned Seán Óg’s jump was 15.01m. It is well worth recording that his jump in 1932 would have been good enough to take the gold in any of the first seven Games.
Some years later he fell into ill-health and my father took me to see him in 1957. He died in Dublin in 1958 at 53 years of age. Teachers Seán O’Neill, Fionán Breathnach and Dan Keating helped remove his remains from his home at Beaumont Avenue, Churchtown and then shouldered his coffin in to Deans Grange cemetery. Only ten people attended his funeral.
There is a special stained glass window installed in his memory at Castlecove Church and a commemorative plaque unveiled for him at the Black Shop in Castlecove in 1984 thanks to the efforts of Brendan Galvin and other locals.
Ned Seán Óg had a girlfriend from Valentia but he cancelled their engagement when he contracted TB, which led to his death on June 9, 1958 aged just 55 years. Perhaps we would have learned more about this Irish Olympian and Kerry GAA star only for his early death, leaving no offspring to maintain his sporting legacy.
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.
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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