Monday 22 July 2019

A true Meath Gael...

Hubert Murphy

It was a dream and he just loved it.

It was a November evening in 1954 and Kevin Lenehan had arrived back in his native Duleek after helping Meath to All-Ireland glory.

Led by the Duleek dance band, the hero, who carried the Sam Maguire Cup, was borne shoulder high from the end of the street to the Abbeylands hall amid the cheers of hundreds of people.

At a supper which followed, Mr. Christy Reilly, chairman of the Duleek club, presided, and among the members of the Meath team present was Mr. Peter McDermott, Secretary of the County Board.

Following the toast to the Gaelic Athletic Association, Mr. Reilly introduced Mr. Paddy O'Brien, who thanked the club for the reception accorded to Kevin Lenehan, who had done so much to help Meath win the All-Ireland title. In former years, he continued, Duleek had also had great representatives on the Meath team including Jim Clarke, Christy Reilly, Willie Brien and Paddy Gogan, all of whom had been unlucky in not sharing in the annexing of the premier award. He was glad that this time, Duleek, represented by Kevin Lenehan, had been fortunate.

Just a few short hours earlier, Kevin had lined out at Croke Park against Kerry and famously inspired commentator Michael O'Hehir to remark, 'Kerry midfielder John Dowling got a sting of a wasp on the jaw last week and he has got another one just now' . It came about after the Meath right half-back fly-kicked a ball that hit the Kerry man flush in the face.

That accidental incident necessitated the Kerry midfielder having to go off later in the game and Meath went on to claim only their second All-Ireland title.

Kevin, who joined St Patrick's the following year, often spoke about the glory days,. 'It's a milestone in your life and something you will always be remembered for,' he remarked once.

'I always got a great welcome wherever I went and people would always be pointing you out and saying that's a fella with an All-Ireland medal.'

Kevin lined out with the county seniors from 1953 to 1958 and also played minor and junior for Meath. He also collected an All-Ireland junior medal in 1952 when playing as a forward. He was Duleek captain when they beat Slane in the 1955 IFC final.

'Football was different in those days and there was far more high fielding. I was only a little lad and could never match some of the high catchers, I had to be content with collecting the slobbers. I would probably be more suited to the modern game, I chased anything that moved above ground.

'You got rid of the ball as soon as it came to you but I remembered during the final against Kerry attempting a fancy pick-up. It almost ended as a goal for Kerry as the ball went off the toe of my boot but luckily hit the post. It frightened the life out of me and 50,000 Meath supporters as well.'

Both team that day had some outstanding footballers and Kevin was marking one of them - Paudie Sheehy.

'My instructions were to keep the ball away from Sheehy and I think I succeeded as I kept him scoreless from play. Micheal Grace had a great game for Meath that day and we celebrated the victory for a long time afterwards.'

Kevin also recalled during his playing days marking his neighbour, Mayo's Jimmy Curran (they both lived in Julianslown at the time) in an NFL match in Castlebar, also in 1954.

As a nine-year-old, Kevin attended the 1939 All-Ireland final between Meath and Kerry accompanied by his father. He took great pride in seeing Red Collier winning against Cork in 1967 and Mickey McQuillan in 1987 and 1988.

Kevin Lenehan passed away last week in Balbriggan, predeceased by his beloved son Laurence and deeply missed by his wife Mary and family, Mary, John, Phyllis and Yvonne, sons-in-law Roy, Brian and Tony, daughter-in-law Bridget, grandsons Darragh, Kevin, Ronan and Sean, great-grandson Drayden. Sadly missed by his sisters Bridie Lennox, Marie McDonagh, Una Bell, Margaret Lund, brothers Willie and John, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, nieces, nephews, cousins and a large circle of friends especially St. Pat's GAA, Stamullen.

Drogheda Independent