The late Sean Kelly KERRY people love football and their footballers. Anyone with an All- Ireland medal holds a special place in the hearts of all Kerry folk forever. You will find a great expression of this if you ever visit the Clubhouse of Kilcummin GAA.
For as you enter the clubhouse you will notice tablets of stone dedicated to Kilcummin's All-Ireland medal holders - Eugene Moriarty (1924), Dee O'Connor (1929 - 32), Sean Kelly 1953 and Mike McCarthy (2000, 04, 06, & 09).
Eugene and Dee are long since gone. Sadly on 10th August last Sean Kelly went on "slí na fírinne", slipping away as he had lived - quietly and graciously - to his eternal reward.
So for the most of 70 years 1932 - 2000, Sean Kelly was Kilcummin's only winner of a Celtic Cross. He played full- forward for Kerry for three years during which time, he was one of the leading scorers from play with a penchant for scoring goals, and won many honours including "Sports Star of the Week" on many occasions.
For such a gifted player, one would ask how come he didn't make his debut for Kerry until he was 27 years of age? Sean worked in the Civil Service in Dublin and eventually was persuaded to throw his lot in with the Civil Service Club.
Kerry went through a crisis between 1946 - 52, they won no All-Ireland!
And with the Golden Jubilee of Kerry's first AllIreland ( 1903) fastapproaching, panic set in. The Kerry selectors decided to cast the net far and wide in search of talent. They particularly targeted Kerrymen domiciled outside the county that had reputations of being "good at football". They contacted Tom Wolfe (Ballybunion) the doyen of the Civil Service Club in Dublin mentioning a few players they wished to try out. Tom gladly agreed but when he heard the names they mentioned he replied
"They are good but there is another Kerry fellow here who is better than any of those mentioned. His name is Sean Kelly. Ye should give him a trial as well."
And so they did, and the rest, as they say, is history. Kerry won the All-Ireland in the Golden Jubilee year with Sean being one of their star players. He is remembered as being a strong, intelligent player who could adapt to the opposition's tactics readily, and was not only a great scorer himself but also a great distributor of the ball. Kerry went on to contest the All-Ireland Final of 1954 but were beaten by Meath and as Sean's 30th birthday was coming into view he decided to call it a day subsequently. He never lost interest in Kilcummin or Kerry and was delighted with their many successes.
Prior to joining the Civil Service he would travel for home for games for Kilcummin - albeit in those days few and far between! One Saturday night he travelled home on the old mail train. There were two passengers on the train; Sean Kelly going home to play for Kilcummin and former Taoiseach Jack Lynch going home to play for Glen Rovers.
Sean had to get off at Mallow around midnight and cycle the 40 miles to Kilcummin. Unfortunately, he wasn't long on his bike when he got a puncture. Due to the lateness of the hour, he had no choice only to walk through the night.
Towards morning, as he approached Rathmore, an early-rising farmer helped him fix the puncture. Off Sean went, on his bike again. He headed home, played the game and cycled back to Mallow where he met up again with Jack Lynch. Both Kilcummin and Glen Rovers won!
Away from football, Sean worked hard and made his way up the ranks of the Civil Service, reaching the very top, becoming Secretary General of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs. While he lived in Clontarf, about four miles from the GPO, Sean walked or cycled to work every day - never bothering to drive a car. He was hugely regarded by successive governments for his efficiency, discretion, dedication, loyalty, wise counsel and speech writing, as Gaeilge agus as Béarla.
In his spare time, apart from a life passion for Gaelic games and an Ghaeilge, Sean was an avid gardener. His back garden was a fruit and vegetable paradise. He tended not only his own garden but the back gardens of some of his immediate neighbours as well, ensuring that their gardens were well cultivated, supplying them with a stunning variety of fruit and vegetables as every inch was utilised and every weed banished to oblivion.
He married Eileen O'Hanrahan, Ballyduff confections (the Leen family), and they had seven children, five girls and girls boys, Marie, Breda, Fionnuala, Brian, Noreen, Niamh and Michael. Every summer was spent in Kerry, where Sean spent many a long day, cutting turf, trimming hedges, mowing the lawn, painting windows or whatever job that required doing.
Sean was naturally a quiet man, who shunned the limelight and rarely mentioned his own achievements. He was far happier helping others, giving them good advice and especially during his retirement years encouraging his grandchildren and helping them with their homework - especially mathematics at which he was particularly gifted.
He kept himself fit always and never drank or smoked. Unfortunately, despite looking the picture of health, his inner body gave way to the march of time and he slipped away as quiet as a lamb, without fuss or fuadair, just as he would have wished.
This great son of Kilcummin is sadly missed by family and friends but the positive impression he made and the wonderful effect he had on all who were privileged to know him will long live on.
Peileadóir iontach, Gaiscióch gleoite, tír ghráthóir, ard- fhear ba ea Seán Ó Ceallaigh.
Ar dheis lámh Dé go raibh a anam uasal.