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.
It’s tip-off time for new-look Lakers
National League Division 1
Scotts Lakers v Limerick Sport Eagles
Saturday at 7.30pm
Killarney Sports & Leisure Centre
The 2022/23 National League tips off on Saturday evening and the Scotts Lakers will be hoping to get their campaign off to a flyer at home to the Limerick Sport Eagles.
The Lakers narrowly missed out on a playoff berth last time around, mainly due to a disappointing start to the season. Playing their first four home games at alternative venues probably didn’t help; the Killarney Sports & Leisure Centre was being used as a makeshift vaccination centre at the time. That’s all ancient history now, thankfully.
With that in mind, a fast start will be a priority, beginning with the visit of the Eagles this weekend.
It’s always difficult to tell until at least a few matches have been played but head coach Jarlath Lee appears to have made some good moves during the off-season.
Godwin Boahen will be missed but Dutch point guard Esebio Strijdhaftig has come in as a replacement, and Ukrainian big man Dmytro Berozkin – all 6’10” of him – has also come on board.
American shooter Eric Cooper Jr’s time here was brief; he has moved on already with Indiana native Jack Ferguson filling his shoes. Just like former laker Seán O’Brien, Ferguson played college ball with Colgate University.
The Lakers have retained the services of Portuguese player Rui Saravia, a skilled passer who has settled in nicely.
Just as essential as the imports are the local players who make up the majority of the squad. Mark O’Shea and Paul Clarke are important figures in the squad, although their involvement is likely to be curtailed by football commitments for the time being.
Youngsters Jamie O’Sullivan, Senan O’Leary and David Gleeson could well see more game time this season after exhibiting great promise in 2021/22, and other St Paul’s graduates like Mark Sheahan, Jack O’Sullivan and Eoin Carroll will also play their part.
A player to keep a close eye on is Ronan Collins, a Gneeveguilla native who has represented Ireland with distinction at underage level.
The club will be hoping for a healthy turnout for their season opener.
Meanwhile, the Lakers’ crosstown rivals the Killarney Cougars have an away fixture to get things started. They take on SETU Carlow (formerly IT Carlow) at the Barrow Centre on Saturday evening.
The St Paul’s women’s team (who are back in the National League for the first time since 2012) are also ready for their opening match of the new campaign. They travel to Kilkenny to take on the Marble City Hawks on Saturday at 7pm.
The team is managed by well-known local coach James Fleming and will be backboned by Killarney players like Lynn Jones, Rheanne O’Shea, Cassandra Buckley and current Ireland U16 international Leah McMahon.
Canadian Sophia Paska (formerly of the Limerick Celtics) and American Yuleska Ramirez Tejeda (ex-Limerick Sport Huskies) will add some recent league experience to the squad.
Paul’s first home game of the 2022/23 season will come next Saturday, October 8 against the Celtics.
Adam Moynihan: Culture of lawlessness is partly to blame for GAA violence
Why are so many GAA matches turning violent and/or abusive to the point that they need to be abandoned?
In Kerry, two underage fixtures had to be called off this past month alone. One, an U11 hurling game in which scores weren’t even being kept, was ended prematurely by the referee who was apparently on the receiving end of persistent verbal abuse. Another, an U15 football match in Kilcummin, came to a halt after a Cordal mentor was allegedly physically assaulted. The man in question ended up in hospital.
The spate of violence has not been confined to Kerry. Far from it. Matches in Roscommon, Wexford and Mayo have also been blighted by attacks on match officials. And some referees are rightly saying, “no more”. After a ref was attacked at a minor game in Roscommon last month, referees across the county briefly went on strike in solidarity.
If GAA officials are not concerned about the same thing happening again, quite conceivably on a wider scale, they should be.
Where does it all come from, this abuse and this violence? Why is it so prevalent in Gaelic games?
While it’s true that there is invariably a negative public reaction to instances of violence at GAA matches, I actually think a significant percentage of stakeholders are too accepting of it as a phenomenon.
Take the Armagh-Galway incident from this past summer for example. When Armagh sub Tiernan Kelly waded into a melee and gouged Damien Comer’s eye, the video footage enraged the vast majority of people who saw it. Kelly was widely condemned for his actions, even by outsiders like media personalities and politicians.
But then came the counter-reaction from within GAA circles. They said that Kelly was being vilified. The response was over the top. He was a good guy who simply made a mistake. These things happen.
As a GAA lover I personally can’t stand it when people who don’t follow the sport weigh in on these issues (politicians especially) but, for me, most of what was initially said about Kelly was justified. Sticking your finger in someone’s eye doesn’t just happen. It’s a despicable act of violence. In the end he got a six-month ban, meaning he misses a grand total of zero intercounty matches. Does that punishment fit the crime?
Surely a stronger message needs to be issued that people who engage in violence are not welcome.
When it comes to anyone entering the field of play – be they a supporter, mentor or some kind of hanger-on – and physically assaulting a referee or a player or another coach, they must be dealt with in the strongest possible terms. I’m talking about lifetime bans.
As a further deterrent, clubs and teams who fail to control their members should be punished appropriately. This should include expulsion from competitions for repeat offenders. As long as violent individuals are getting away lightly thanks to disciplinary action that doesn’t go far enough, these things will continue to happen.
GAA rule-makers have to get serious about the scourge of violence before referees pull the plug. Or before someone gets severely injured. Or worse.
I can’t help but feel as though our broadly lax attitude towards the laws of the game is a significant factor also. I’ve written this sentence on numerous occasions before so you may be sick of reading it, but I’ll stop saying it when it stops being true: so many rules in the GAA are so poorly enforced, you wonder why they bothered writing them down in the first place.
You have to hop or solo after four steps, but you can get away with seven or eight. You have to wear a gumshield, but you can tuck it into your sock. You have to be 13 metres away from the referee when he throws in a hop ball, but two metres will do. Managers have to stay off the pitch, but five yards over the line is grand. You have to make a clear striking motion when executing a handpass in hurling, but you can throw it too.
There is a culture of lawlessness in Gaelic football and hurling that I don’t think exists in any other sports of their kind.
It makes the games impossible to referee “properly” because every participant and observer has their own interpretation of what’s allowed. The referee can’t be right in everyone’s eyes if the rules have multiple nebulous interpretations.
So, with that in mind, should we be surprised that referees are getting it from all angles? Is it any wonder that people who should never even dream of entering the field of play feel as though they can?
Handing down proper punishments for violent attacks is really important but we must also have far more respect for the rules on a wider scale. No more half measures.
Shock at the death of “wonderful community activist”
There was a great sense of shock over the weekend when new of the death of Yvonne Quill, a Tidy...
Jim awarded for life-long service to the community
By Michelle Crean Listry local Jim O’Shea was honoured last week as members of the community council presented him with...
New book recounts stories from the Irish Civil War
The killing of 17-year-old Bertie Murphy in Killarney in September 1922 Historian and author, Owen O’Shea recounts one of the...
Volunteers wanted for street collection
By Michelle Crean October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and local volunteers are keen to not only raise awareness but...
Calls for Council to acquire vacant Rock Road properties
By Sean Moriarty There are calls to make two vacant properties on Rock Road available to Kerry County Council’s housing...