I HAD the privilege last Saturday week of accepting the Munster GAA media award at a banquet held in the Malton Hotel Killarney and what an amazing event it turned out to be. It was thanks to my work with this paper and also Radio Kerry which resulted in I being chosen for this media award. I was in good company with other Kerry winners, David O'Callaghan (Junior Football), Donal O'Leary (Supporter of the Year) and Dr Crokes (Club of the Year).
In total 23 awards were given out and all the Munster counties were represented. I have no doubt that each and every person just as I did when notified of their award felt greatly honored and privileged because human nature being what it is every individual appreciates being recognized and rewarded in some small way for whatever they may have achieved in their chosen sport or indeed in any other facet of their lives. It also fell to me to reply with thanks on behalf of the recipients to the council, a singular honour indeed.
And this superbly organised event by the Munster Council and Bord Gais Energy has certainly set massively high standards particularly in the manner in which they have honored all facets of Gaelic Games in this province. And for me this was the real beauty of the evening, workers from every single facet of Gaelic Games in Munster were represented. The term "honoring the grassroots" was never more appropriate than what we had there that night. My late grand mother had a great saying, "you must always be praising the young" she would say and all those brilliant young players both male and female who were honored will I have no doubt remember the event as a massive vote of confidence in their budding skills and go on to become the next generation of GAA stars thanks to these Munster Council awards.
While Patrick "Bonner" Maher (Tipperary) and Donncha O'Connor (Cork) selected as senior hurler and footballer of the year respectively are two brilliant players and both have reached the pinnacle of their careers they two felt hugely honored as they remarked to me having being chosen ahead of the hundreds of outstanding players in this province. Handball, camogie, ladies football, refereeing, football and hurling Hall of Fame, managers, dedicated service were all under the one roof thanks to the Munster Council and Bord Gais Energy.
It was for me especially pleasing to have met two of the great gentlemen stars of Munster hurling and football, Denis Coughlan and Pat Hartigan. I have vivid memories of seeing both in action at the peak of their careers in the 1960s and 70s and without fear of contradiction I will say they were as great as any of the present stars of the game.
I had a long chat with one of my heroes, the towering Pat Hartigan of Limerick. He was being honoured with the Hall of Fame.
A huge underage star with county and college, Pat played on all underage teams with Limerick, and amazingly in 1968 played on eight different Limerick teams in six months. He played in five Munster hurling finals winning two and capturing the precious All Ireland medal in 1973.
To copperfasten his greatness Pat won five successive All Star awards from 1971 through to 1975.
A powerfully built athlete, the South Liberties man also won All-Ireland titles in the shot putt and discuss. A serious eye injury when he received a belt from a sliotar while training cut short a magnificent career.
But for me it is no great surprise that Munster Council would lead the way with such a glittering event as this because during my life time involvement Munster has always been blessed with outstanding officials, men who literally devote their life to the promotion of the game some of whom I had the privilege of befriending or meeting either as a player, referee and now later as a member of the media.
People like Frank Sheehy of Listowel, Pat Fanning from Waterford - who of course went on to become President of the Association and oversaw the abolition of the infamous ban in 1971 -, Michael Frawley the very gentle and courteous Tipperary man, Big Donal O'Sullivan from Cork who did so much for refereeing in this province and the Dr Crokes man Michael O'Connor who died so young and who would probably have gone on and become Kerry's first president of the Association.
The legendary John Joe Sheehy, who was treasurer of the council for many years, and former secretary Tadge Crowley who with the ball minder Jacques Guerin was always there to meet and greet the referees at the big games.
Fr Seamus Gardner was, in my time, a great friend and advisor of all referees in this providence and, of course, Donie Nealon the former Tipperary great, and then Sean Kelly in latter years. All Munster administrators just like the present day officials there that evening who continue on the magnificent work year after year since the Council was first founded back in the late 1800s.
And finally I must pay tribute to a former very special and indeed unique Munster Council secretary. When refereeing for the Council back in the early 70s hand written cards notifying me of the forthcoming game would drop through the letter box. They were sent by the late Sean McCarthy one of the longest serving administrators in the GAA.
Sean ran the Munster Council as secretary from his little room in Tralee town where I often visited him. Now, of course, the Council is run from its superb new headquarters in Limerick, a far cry from Sean's room in Strand St, Tralee. He was Munster Council secretary from 1931 until his death in 1977, an unbelieveable 46 years. He also found time to train the Kerry team to win four All Irelands in a row, 1929-32. He was 79 when he died.
Kerry's Sean Walsh, Chairman of the council, has done a magnificent job during his term and if I was a betting man I would put my money on the Moyvane native becoming Kerry's next President of the Association. No man deserves that honour as much as he.
Fogra: I will be in Wolfs book shop Listowel next Saturday 15th between 2-4 pm signing copies of my book, My Beautiful Obsession-Chasing the Kerry Dream. Why not drop in for chat.