Saturday 1 October 2016

Johnno could have made it at any sport

Published 25/08/2016 | 02:30

Kerry legend John O’Keeffe with President Aogán Ó Fearghail and Mary Earley,
wife of the late Dermot Earley, at the GAA’s Hall of Fame in Croke Park. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Kerry legend John O’Keeffe with President Aogán Ó Fearghail and Mary Earley, wife of the late Dermot Earley, at the GAA’s Hall of Fame in Croke Park. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

No other player got as many roastings from John O'Keeffe as I did and it was fitting to see him inducted into the GAA Museum's Hall of Fame last week.

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I had the misfortune of marking him every night in Kerry training from '77 to '83, he just had everything. He was a superb fielder of the ball from a standing jump and leapt over me with ease.

Off the celebrated 'Rock Street' production line of Austin Stacks, he was a Munster champion weightlifter and could swat me aside with his hand. I've lost count of all times he left me on my arse but it was always by the book. He never used a foul stroke.

It's an awful insult to me but Páidí Sé christened Johnno 'Big Bird' because he was so dominant playing against me like Big Bird was on 'Sesame Street'. It was only when you marked other full-backs that you realised that training really stood to me in matches.

With his speed and skill he could've made it any sport, be it full-back in rugby or centre-half at soccer. I competed with him in many different sports; he always had my measure in every one - except cards!

He's the best full-back I've ever seen and an absolute gentleman.

Irish Independent

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