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Kerry’s forgotten Olympian who was inches from glory

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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).

1932 OLYMPICS

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.

TB

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.

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Séamus Moynihan tops Kerry manager poll ahead of Jack O’Connor and Peter Keane

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by Adam Moynihan

Although it now appears as though he could be a selector on the Stephen Stack ticket, four-time All-Ireland winner Séamus Moynihan has topped our ‘Next Kerry Manager’ poll by collecting over one-third of the overall vote.

Around 37% of respondents said that Moynihan should be the next Kerry boss with 23% of fans backing former manager Jack O’Connor. The team’s most recent bainisteoir, Peter Keane, received 18% of the votes.

Another former manager, Eamonn Fitzmaurice, is next in line on 10%, although it is believed that he is not willing to return to the fold due to work commitments.

In addition to the four main candidates mentioned above, readers were also invited to nominate their own preferred candidate. This open field threw up 16 more names with former Kerry and Dr Crokes manager Pat O’Shea the most popular entry. The Killarney man received around 3.5% of the vote.

Donie Buckley got roughly half as many votes as O’Shea, and the other prospective managers ended up with less than 1% each.

MOYNIHAN/STACK

Glenflesk native Moynihan enjoyed a glittering playing career for The Kingdom between 1992 and 2006, the highlight perhaps coming in the year 2000 when he captained his county to All-Ireland glory. He has since taken on coaching roles with his own club and with Fossa and was part of Darragh Ó Sé’s Kerry U21 management team in 2015.

It had been suggested that Monaghan’s defensive coach Donie Buckley would be part of the Moynihan ticket. Buckley was also a member of Peter Keane’s backroom team, but Keane relieved him of his duties in the early stages of the 2020 season.

However, after this survey was completed, Tony Leen of the Irish Examiner reported that Moynihan and Buckley are, indeed, part of the same ticket, but the manager’s name attached is that of current Killarney Legion boss Stephen Stack.

Stack himself had a long and distinguished playing career with The Kingdom and as a manager led Austin Stacks to the County Championship in 2014 and Legion to an East Kerry Championship in 2019.

The Listowel native is also rumoured to be calling on Dara Ó Cinnéide and Mickey Ned O’Sullivan as selectors, with Joe O’Connor filling the role of strength and conditioning coach.

Stack was not considered to be a realistic candidate at the time of the survey; he was one of the 14 managers who received less than 1% of the vote.

KERRY SUPPORTERS SURVEY

Q: Who should be the next manager of the Kerry senior football team?

Séamus Moynihan 36.7%

Jack O’Connor  23.4%

Peter Keane 18.1%

Eamonn Fitzmaurice 10%

Pat O’Shea 3.5%

Donie Buckley 1.6%

Others* 6.7%

(Carried out online on September 21/22. 431 respondents.)

*Mike Quirke, John Sugrue, Jim McGuinness, Jim Gavin, Jerry O’Sullivan, Maurice Fitzgerald, Tomás Ó Sé, Johnny Crowley, Stephen Stack, Kieran Donaghy, John Evans, Paul Galvin, Marc Ó Sé, Liam Kearns.

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Jordan’s new role with St Paul’s

By Sean Moriarty Killarney’s Paralympic hero Jordan Lee is to take on a new role with Scott’s Lakers St Paul’s Killarney Basketball Club. Jordan began his sporting career with the local basketball club where he created history by becoming the first amputee athlete to represent their country at international level. The High Jumper then switched […]

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By Sean Moriarty

Killarney’s Paralympic hero Jordan Lee is to take on a new role with Scott’s Lakers St Paul’s Killarney Basketball Club.

Jordan began his sporting career with the local basketball club where he created history by becoming the first amputee athlete to represent their country at international level.

The High Jumper then switched to track and field and qualified for the Tokyo Paralympics where he made history by becoming the first Kerry athlete to act as a flag bearer for an opening ceremony and lead an Irish team into an Olympic Stadium.

Now back home and preparing for the next Olympics in Paris, he has returned to his first love and will join the backroom staff at the local Division One basketball club ahead of their National League campaign which begins next month.

His father Jarlath Lee is head coach with St Paul’s.

“Jordan is joining us as our strength and conditioning coach,” Jarlath told the Killarney Advertiser.

INTERNATIONALS

Meanwhile, Scott’s Lakers St Paul’s Killarney Basketball Club National League team will have a distinctive feel to it this year after securing the services of three overseas players it for the season ahead.

The club’s biggest signing is Canadian professional Ben Miller. It was originally hoped that the former two-time Manitoba Player of the Year would play for the local side last season but the pandemic got in the way and the National League was never played. However, he did play two training games this time last year before returning to Canada until travel restrictions lifted.

“He is a good guy, very approachable and very good with the young members,” Jarlath said.

The club has also signed Bulgarian International Emilian Grudov.

The 20-year-old has already represented his home country at U16, 18 and 20 level.

“He is young, athletic and very good offensively,” added Lee.

The returning Lithuanian Dianius Varanaukus completes the club international line up for the 2020/21 season.

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