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All Blacks the inspiration for Kiskeam's 64 success

A switch to black and white jerseys helped unlock Kiskeam's potential in the 1960s

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Kiskeam winners of the 1964 Co. Junior A Football Championship. Back Row: Jerh O Connell, Tom Flynn, Johnny O’Sullivan, Mickey Joe Murphy, JJ Cashman, Billy J O’Keeffe, Timmy O’Sullivan, John P Murphy, Dan Joe Casey. Middle Row: Denis Murphy (selector) Joe O’ Keeffe, Christy Herlihy, John Joe O’Connor, Billy O’Keeffe, John P Angland, Tim Joe O’Connor, Denis Angland, Jimmy Collins; Front Row: DD O’Sullivan, Sean Fitzgearld, Josie McLoughlin, Jerry Cremin, Brendan O’ Keeffe, Con O’ Connor, Jerh Scannell

Kiskeam winners of the 1964 Co. Junior A Football Championship. Back Row: Jerh O Connell, Tom Flynn, Johnny O’Sullivan, Mickey Joe Murphy, JJ Cashman, Billy J O’Keeffe, Timmy O’Sullivan, John P Murphy, Dan Joe Casey. Middle Row: Denis Murphy (selector) Joe O’ Keeffe, Christy Herlihy, John Joe O’Connor, Billy O’Keeffe, John P Angland, Tim Joe O’Connor, Denis Angland, Jimmy Collins; Front Row: DD O’Sullivan, Sean Fitzgearld, Josie McLoughlin, Jerry Cremin, Brendan O’ Keeffe, Con O’ Connor, Jerh Scannell

Kiskeam winners of the 1964 Co. Junior A Football Championship. Back Row: Jerh O Connell, Tom Flynn, Johnny O’Sullivan, Mickey Joe Murphy, JJ Cashman, Billy J O’Keeffe, Timmy O’Sullivan, John P Murphy, Dan Joe Casey. Middle Row: Denis Murphy (selector) Joe O’ Keeffe, Christy Herlihy, John Joe O’Connor, Billy O’Keeffe, John P Angland, Tim Joe O’Connor, Denis Angland, Jimmy Collins; Front Row: DD O’Sullivan, Sean Fitzgearld, Josie McLoughlin, Jerry Cremin, Brendan O’ Keeffe, Con O’ Connor, Jerh Scannell

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Team colours are often a source of huge pride and Kiskeam can vouch for a new black strip inspired by the New Zealand rugby team that brought immediate good fortune in 1964 with a historic divisional football triumph bettered by a glorious county voyage.

Fuelled by passion and a thirst for rare success, Kiskeam scaled new heights that compensated for a miserable run from a founding in 1945 and its fair to day that the club struggled during post war years owing to emigration as a recession took its toll.

For years, the Kiskeam outfit comprised of a blue jersey and a yellow sash but from apart from a Novice title won in 1947 on affiliation to Duhallow division, what followed were lean times. Though often competitive, they lacked guile and confidence, Kiskeam failed to perform consistently to outwit experienced opposition such as Castlemagner.

The latter had captured one county hurling and two county junior football titles to their credit in addition to winning back to back divisional football honours in 1960/61. From the 1960 decider, Kiskeam in their first final, actually enjoyed an eight points advantage during the second half but a patient Castlemagner revival was rewarded that generated a power surge that blew several fuses in Kiskeam's brave bid.

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Faces of dejection told Kiskeam's story and what followed was a further disappointing adventure of hard knocks and losses, Kiskeam failed to rise to the occasion on incurring a hefty defeat to Castlemagner in the opening round to the 1963 championship. The future didn't augur well, its said, one of the players coming off the field against Castlemagner suggested the club should burn the jerseys.

Doubts about the future of the club was offset by promising talent coming on board, yes, Kiskeam did discard the existing jersey replaced by a black jersey with a white colour with player, club treasurer at the time and current President John P Murphy outlining the process.

"It came up at a club meeting, we needed to turn matters around, somebody spoke of the All Black rugby success in their familiar colours. Though, there wasn't too much money in the kitty, it was proposed and accepted to opt for a black jersey," said John P.

What a transformation, a fairytale season of 1964, seventeen consecutive wins provided the backdrop for Kiskeam to dominate Duhallow Junior Football to collect three Cups with the icing on the cake applied on winning a county championship. Years of fruitless endeavour and many a frustrating season ended for Kiskeam supporters when their football team swept off quality opponents with impressive play.

Kiskeam were walking tall, taking the County by storm as were the Beatles, Roy Orbison and Jim Reeves musically and one channel black and white TV audiences were engrossed by The Avengers, The Virginian and School Around the Corner.

The fortunes of Kiskeam football was a regular conversation at social gatherings at The Radiant Ballroom, Knocknagree; Vaughan's Hall. Ballydesmond and Daly' Hall, Scartiglin where away from the football, patrons enjoyed the music and song of The Vanguard Six, The Pat Burke Seven and the Shandrum Ceili Band.

History books show football was played in Kiskeam back in 1870 prior to the founding of the GAA in tournaments against Coolclough (Dromtariffe), Millstreet and Clondrohid.

In the subsequent years, players from Kiskeam operated with Boherbue, Dromtariffe and Millstreet before Kiskeam came into existence during 1945 and formally affiliated to Duhallow division for the 1947 season.

Apart from a Novice title won in their debut year, times were tough in post war years yet green shoots were emerging in Western Duhallow, a combination underage team Na Piarsaigh landed a County Under 14 Football championship title in 1954 with players drawn from Kiskeam, Ballydesmond, Boherbue, Glenlara and Knocknagree.

Progress onto Junior level was full of bumps, Kiskeam contesting the 1960 Final forefeited an eight point lead during the closing 10 minutes to favourites Castlemagner. Worrying for Kiskeam, that scenario emerged a common trend, good enough to be able to compete but the knack of closing out games was sadly missing.

Still experience was gained and with the input of young talent coming into the side such as the three O'Keeffe brothers in attack, it provided Kiskeam with a cutting edge that damaged the reputation of many an opposing defence. Even with limited possession, the delightful accuracy of Billy, Joe and Brendan delivered telling scores.

Named as team captain for 1964 was Jerry Cremin, a powerful motivator, a colossal in defence, managing to keeping opponents under wraps. A man for all seasons who later became a respected referee, Jerry led by example on the field, regularly standing into goals when a penalty was conceded and pulling off crucial saves.

The 1964 GAA season dawned, an unfamiliar looking Kiskeam took to the field sporting a new jersey but on their initial outing, the same old story on three goals conceded to Dromtariffe in the Nevin Cup.

A false start in so many ways only for Kiskeam to recover and during the following eight months, seventeen straight wins helped complete a grand slam of divisional and county triumphs much to the delight of team panellist John P Murphy.

"Attending Millstreet secondary school in 1949, I saw how much it meant to Millstreet people to win a county senior football the previous year. By chance, I got involved, sitting on a bridge, Kiskeam were short numbers for a game and I stood into goals, it was my first taste of playing on the team, progressing in later years to claim county success meant so much to Kiskeam people," said John P.

From 1964, an impressive opening round allowed Kiskeam overcome Boherbue, but much closer in a semi-final, Kiskeam made to work by Dromtariffe. Denis Herlihy's goal before half-time proved crucial to the outcome.

That secured Kiskeam a return to a Divisional Final against familiar rivals Castlemagner and having been second best on previous occasions, Kiskeam emerged the better side by showing hunger and more composure in their play.

Favoured by the breeze in the opening half, Kiskeam stamped their authority on the game, Josie McLoughlin caught the eye in defence as did Tim Joe O'Connor and Christy Herlihy at midfield. And in attack, Kiskeam prospered, the O'Keeffes' posting points for a 0-6 to 0-2 advantage.

The anticipated Castlemagner surge materialised on the restart, a breakthrough looked on the cards once Johnny O'Connell won a penalty . Not for the first time, Kiskeam team captain Cremin volunteered his services to temporally replace regular 'keeper JJ Cashma, the tactic put pressure on Castle's Donal Harnedy and his effort went wide of the post.

Still Castle' hung in and a Pat O'Callaghan goal narrowed the arrears to just two points. If Castlemagner sensed potential frailties, it never materialised for the Kiskeam response was emphatic to shoot the closing three points for a 0-11 to 1-3 victory.

No wonder Kiskeam supporters celebrated a long awaited triumph from a competent team performance where the three O'Keeffe brothers contributed to all of Kiskeam's tally. The county awaited, Kiskeam entering new ground made light work of Beara representatives St. Marys in the opening quarter final.

A new force was surfacing from Carbery, just five years in existence, Newcestown had replaced traditional strongholds O'Donovan Rossa and Dohenys to win their first West Cork championship.

Backboned by the Kehilly brothers. Newcestown added richly to a fiercely contested semi-final encounter only for goals by Billy and Joe O'Keeffe tilt a delicately poised clash in Kiskeam's favour.

That pitched Kiskeam up against Crosshaven in the decider who were defeated by Millstreet in the previous season's semi final and John P Murphy referred to Kiskeam's resources were being drained from a long campaign.

"Injuries had upset a small panel, a cartilage had stopped me playing, in effect by the county final, we had just two subs., 16 year old Timmy O'Sullivan and Jer Scannell in his 40s. But we had a brilliant team out on the field, the O'Keeffes and Johnny O'Sullivan were outstanding forwards capable of winning games," he said.

"The team trained in a rented inch field beside the banks of the Araglen River near the Village and the lead up to the final was full of anticipation," said John P.

From a tough battle in Macroom, Kiskeam weren't found wanting and as the contest aged, the Duhallow champions looked the more formidable side to claim a 1-10 to 1-1 victory. Kiskeam possessed great leaders in Seán Fitzgerald , O'Connor, Herlihy and the O'Keeffes got scores more easier.

Crosshaven grabbed a lifeline from a goal by Mick Lucey that narrowed the 0-7 to 1-1 at the break. Though facing into the wind, Kiskeam resumed primed for a powerful effort, rewarded on Brendan O'Keeffe showing a clean pair of heels to finish expertly to the net.

That score shook a labouring Crosshaven, failing to create an impression as Kiskeam tacked the additional points to rubberstamp victory and allow fans revel after an epic journey.

"I never thought of seeing Kiskeam win a county, 'twas very special to be part of a breakthrough team that put the club on the map. Those that played were an outstanding team and there was terrific camraderie in the group," said John P.

The Kiskeam GAA Victory Social was the first of its type in a hotel setting and began a new trend of acknowledging a landmark season with tickets costing 15 shillings each. On view were the County and Duhallow Junior Football Championship Cups complimented by Examiner Cup and Nevin Cup silverware.

The legacy of any group is important, the achievements of the 1964 Kiskeam team prompted the club to invest in property, the subsequent development of club facilities now evident in Kiskeam on a magnificent playing field, dressing rooms, meeting rooms and Hall adjacent to the ground.

Such facilities in a rural community surfaced because of confidence and inspiration the team of 1964 gave to others, creating a pride of their own place and of course earning Kiskeam senior status in modern times.

A case of a change of colours becoming permanent to bear success, Kiskeam fans applauded the foresight of those that proposed the New Zealand model to follow and deliver on the field of play!

The triumphant 1964 panel captained by Jerry Cremin included Denis Angland, J J Cashman, Sean Fitzgerald, Christy Herlihy, Benny Kiely, John P Murphy, Con O'Connor, Tim Joe O'Connor, D D O'Sullivan, Johnny O'Sullivan, Timmy O'Sullivan, Jer Scannell, John P Angland, Tom Flynn, Denis Herlihy, Josie McLoughlin, Mickie Joe Murphy, John Joe O'Connor, Billy O'Keeffe, Billy J O'Keeffe, Brendan O'Keeffe and Joe O'Keeffe.

Team mentors featured Dan Joe Casey, Denis C T Murphy, Joe O'Callaghan and Jer O'Connell.

*News of the recent death of team member Christy Herlihy was received with great sadness. A key figure to the 1964 winning team, a young Christy operated at midfield and provided a key link to a productive Kiskeam attack.

Ar Dheis Dé go raibh a anam.


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