seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Birth of Gaelic Footballer Mick O’Connell

Michael “Mick” O’Connell, retired Gaelic footballer, is born on Valentia Island, County Kerry, on January 4, 1937. His league and championship career with the Kerry senior team spans nineteen seasons from 1956 to 1974. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest players in the history of the game.

O’Connell is raised in a family that has no real link to Gaelic football. His father is a fisherman who also works on the family’s small farm on the island. From an early age O’Connell shows his footballing talent and “inimitable signs of excellence.” He excels at the game in his youth and also at Cahersiveen CBS.

O’Connell begins his club football career with neighbouring Waterville. When a football club, Valentia Young Islanders, is founded on Valentia Island, as per GAA rules he switches allegiance to his local parish team. He wins three Kerry Senior Football Championship medals with the South Kerry divisional side.

O’Connell’s career with Kerry begins in 1955 when he lines out in the Munster Minor Championship. Kerry loses the replayed Munster final to Tipperary.

O’Connell quickly joins the Kerry senior football team, making his debut in 1956 against Tipperary in the Munster Championship. He later lines out in the Munster final against Cork, but loses out in a replay. In 1958 he wins the first of eight consecutive Munster Senior Football Championship titles, however, Kerry suffers a shocking defeat by Derry in the All-Ireland semi-final. In 1959 he is captain when Kerry wins the National Football League. He later guides his native-county to another Munster title, however, he has to retire due to injury in Kerry’s All-Ireland victory over Galway.

Following a second National League victory in 1961, O’Connell captures his second All-Ireland medal in 1962 when Kerry defeats Roscommon in the final. A third National League victory quickly follows at the start of 1963. After two All-Ireland defeats by Galway in 1964 and 1965 Kerry surrenders their provincial crown to Cork in 1966 and 1967. He wins a ninth Munster title in 1968, however, Kerry loses out to Down in the All-Ireland final. This defeat is followed by a great year of success in 1969 as he adds a fourth National League medal to his collection before winning a tenth Munster title. He later wins a third All-Ireland medal following a victory over Offaly.

In 1970 O’Connell enters the third decade of his inter-county football career, winning an eleventh Munster title in the process. A fourth All-Ireland medal quickly follows after a victory over Meath in the first 80-minute All-Ireland final. He claims two more National league medals in 1971 and 1972, before winning his twelfth and final provincial medal in 1972. That year Offaly later defeats Kerry in O’Connell’s last All-Ireland final appearance. In spite of this loss he is still presented with an GAA GPA All Star award. He retires from inter-county football in 1973.

In 1972 O’Connell marries his wife Rosaleen. They have three children, Máire, Mícheál and Diarmuid. Mícheál marries Emma, daughter of then President of Ireland Mary McAleese in December 2009.

In retirement from playing O’Connell publishes his autobiography, A Kerry Footballer, in 1974. Ten years later in 1984, the GAA’s centenary year, his reputation as one of the all-time greats is recognised when he is named in the midfield position on the GAA Football Team of the Century. In 2000 he is also named on the associations Football Team of the Millennium.


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Cork Hurling Team Strike

cork-hurlingHurling in Cork is thrown into chaos after the county’s senior squad goes on strike on November 29, 2002.

When the Cork hurling team paraded before the National League final the previous May with socks down and jerseys hanging out it seemed a petty protest. Any discontent, said the county board officials, would be quickly forgotten come the championship.

Instead it is Cork’s championship that is quickly forgotten, and the protest is merely the start of the deepest crisis ever to hit the state of hurling in the county. The players throw down their hurleys, leaving the split with the county board as a gaping chasm.

Details of the fallout start to appear from the players after their exit from the championship at the hands of Galway. Goalkeeper Donal Óg Cusack and the 1999 All-Ireland winning captain Mark Landers begin a series of revelations that come as a shock not just in Cork, but to hurlers all over the country.

The players, who are seeking better conditions, refuse to play or train with the county again until the dispute with the county board is resolved. Central to the crisis is what the players perceive to be the poor treatment from the county board. The players demands include having their own doctor at all Championship and League games, resolving disputes over travel arrangements and providing players with free gymnasium access. There are also complaints about the warnings sent to younger players that joining the Gaelic Players Association will jeopardise their chances of playing with the senior team.

Running parallel to the dispute is the search for a new Cork manager. Bertie Óg Murphy announces that he is stepping down in late September after one year in charge, although he refuses to get drawn into the controversy over the treatment of players.

At the same time, the unrest of the players is compounded by the decision of the Cork selectors not to follow Murphy’s suit. Three of the four selectors, Pat McDonnell, PJ Murphy and John Meyler, remain in place as they are half-way through a two-year term while county champions Blackrock have yet to officially reaffirm county secretary Frank Murphy as their nomination to the selection committee.

The players previously state, however, that they never saw it as their right or function to interfere with the choosing or workings of selectors or managers for hurling in Cork.

The strike is eventually resolved and all the demands are met.

(From “Cork hurling in deep state of crisis” by Ian O’Riordan, The Irish Times, November 30, 2002)


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Birth of Ciaran Fitzgerald, Former Rugby Union Player

ciaran-fitzgeraldCiaran Fitzgerald, Irish former rugby union player, is born on June 4, 1952 in Loughrea, County Galway. He captains Ireland to the Triple Crown in 1982 and 1985, and the Five Nations Championship in 1983. He also captains the British and Irish Lions on their 1983 tour. After the conclusion of his playing career, he serves as coach of the national team.

Though most widely remembered for playing rugby union, Fitzgerald is an accomplished sportsman, winning two All-Ireland boxing championships. He also plays minor hurling for Galway GAA with his team reaching the minor final against Cork GAA in 1970.

Fitzgerald first plays rugby while at Garbally College, and is chosen to play the position of hooker by teacher and priest John Kirby. He studies at University College Galway, where he plays for University College Galway RFC and gains a Bachelor’s degree in 1973. He then goes on to play senior rugby for St. Mary’s College in Dublin.

Playing in the amateur era, Fitzgerald also maintains a career in the Irish Army. He also serves as the aide-de-camp to President Patrick Hillery during his career.

Fitzgerald rises to prominence in the game of rugby, making his test debut for Ireland against Australia on June 3, 1979, during an Irish tour of Australia. His last test comes against Scotland on March 15, 1986 in the 1986 Five Nations Championship. In total, Fitzgerald receives 22 competitive and three friendly caps for Ireland. He scores once, a try against Wales, in the 1980 Five Nations Championship. He also captains the British and Irish Lions team on their 1983 tour, when the team travels to New Zealand and is beaten in each test against the All Blacks.

Following his retirement from playing, Fitzgerald continues to be involved in the game. He serves as head coach of Ireland from 1990 to 1992, leading the team to the 1991 Rugby World Cup, where they reach the quarterfinals. He also had a career in media, appearing on Setanta Sports and RTÉ, the Irish national TV and radio service, as a rugby pundit.


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Birth of Michael “Babs” Keating, Hurler & Footballer

michael-babs-keatingMichael “Babs” Keating, retired hurler and Gaelic footballer who played as a forward for the Tipperary GAA senior teams, is born on April 17, 1944 in Ardfinnan, County Tipperary.

Keating first plays competitive Gaelic games during his schooling at CBS High School Clonmel. He arrives on the inter-county scene at the age of sixteen when he first links up with the Tipperary minor teams in both codes, before later joining the under-21 sides where he heavily practices yoga. He joins the senior football panel during the 1960 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship before being added to the senior hurling panel four years later. Keating is a regular member of the starting fifteen on both teams, and wins two All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship medals, four Munster Senior Hurling Championship medals and two National Hurling League medals. He is an All-Ireland runner-up on two occasions.

As a member of both Munster GAA inter-provincial teams on a number of occasions, Keating wins a combined total of three Railway Cup medals. At club level he is a five-time Tipperary Senior Football Championship medalist with Ardfinnan. Keating plays his club hurling with Ballybacon-Grange GAA.

Throughout his career Keating makes 27 championship appearances with the senior hurlers. He retires from inter-county hurling following the conclusion of the 1975 All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship, however, his inter-county football career lasts until the end of the 1980 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship.

Keating is widely regarded as one of the greatest players of his generation. In 1971 he is named on the inaugural All-Star team, while he also collects the Texaco Hurler of the Year award. He is also chosen as one of the 125 greatest hurlers of all-time in a 2009 poll.

In retirement from playing Keating becomes involved in team management and coaching. At various times he serves as manager of the Galway GAA, Offaly GAA and Laois GAA senior teams, however, it is with his own native Tipperary that he enjoys his greatest success, guiding the team to two All-Ireland victories.


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Birth of Michael James O’Hehir, Commentator & Journalist

michael-james-ohehirMichael James O’Hehir, hurling, Gaelic football and horse racing commentator and journalist, is born on June 2, 1920, in Glasnevin, County Dublin. Between 1938 and 1985 his enthusiasm and a memorable turn of phrase endears him to many. He is credited with being the “Voice of the Gaelic Athletic Association.”

His father, Jim O’Hehir, is active in Gaelic games, having trained his native county to win the 1914 All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship title in hurling. He subsequently trains the Leitrim football team that secures the Connacht Senior Football Championship title in 1927 and he also serves as an official with the Dublin Junior Board.

O’Hehir is educated at St. Patrick’s National School in Drumcondra before later attending the O’Connell School. He later studies electrical engineering at University College Dublin, however, he abandons his studies after just one year to pursue a full-time career in broadcasting.

At the age of eighteen O’Hehir writes to Radio Éireann asking to do a test commentary. He is accepted and is asked to do a five-minute microphone test for a National Football League game between Wexford and Louth. His microphone test impresses the director of broadcasting so much that he is invited to commentate on the entire second half of the match.

Two months later, in August 1938, O’Hehir makes his first broadcast – the All-Ireland football semi-final between Monaghan and Galway. The following year he covers his first hurling final – the famous “thunder and lightning final” between Cork and Kilkenny.

By the mid-1940s O’Hehir is recognised as one of Ireland’s leading sports broadcasters. In 1947 he faces his most challenging broadcast to date when he has to commentate on the All-Ireland Football Final from the Polo Grounds in New York City with over 1,000,000 people listening to the broadcast back in Ireland.

In 1944 O’Hehir joins the staff of Independent Newspapers as a sports sub-editor, before beginning a seventeen-year career as racing correspondent in 1947.

In 1961 Ireland’s first national television station, Telefís Éireann, is founded and O’Hehir is appointed head of sports programmes. In addition to his new role O’Hehir continues to keep up a hectic schedule of commentaries.

O’Hehir’s skills do not just confine him to sports broadcasting and, in November 1963, he faces his toughest broadcast. By coincidence he is on holidays with his wife Molly in New York City when U.S. President John F. Kennedy is assassinated. O’Hehir is asked by Telefís Éireann to provide the commentary for the funeral. The live five-hour broadcast proves a huge challenge for him, as he has had no association with political or current affairs broadcasting up to that point and lacks the resources available to more established television stations. O’Hehir’s commentary, however, wins widespread acclaim in Ireland and shows a different side of his nature.

In August 1985 O’Hehir is preparing to commentate on the All-Ireland hurling final between Offaly and Galway. It would be a special occasion as it would mark his 100th commentary on an All-Ireland final. Two weeks before the game he suffers a stroke which leaves him in a wheelchair and with some speaking difficulties. This denies him the chance to reach the century milestone. He hopes to return to broadcasting one day to complete his 100th final, however, this never happens.

In 1987, the centenary All-Ireland football final takes place Croke Park. The biggest cheer of the day is reserved for O’Hehir when he is pushed onto the field in a wheelchair by his son Peter. Nobody expects the standing ovation and the huge outpouring of emotion from the thousands of fans present and from O’Hehir himself.

Over the next few years O’Hehir withdraws from public life. He returns briefly in 1996 when his autobiography, My Life and Times, is published. Michael O’Hehir dies in Dublin on November 24, 1996.