Sunday 22 April 2018

Walsh dynasty the latest bloodline to reinforce Kerry ranks

Kerry's Tommy Walsh opens the scoring against Galway in the All-Ireland quarter-final
Kerry's Tommy Walsh opens the scoring against Galway in the All-Ireland quarter-final

It's one of the oldest retorts that any observation made about a promising GAA player is met with.

"Think he's good? You should see the younger brother at home," the line often goes.

In the case of Kerry's rising star Tommy Walsh, however, it's the 'two brothers at home' that are causing more fuss and excitement than any Kingdom dynasty since the production line from one O Se household in Ventry in the mid-1990s moved into overdrive.

Barry John Walsh captained the Kerry minors in their All-Ireland quarter-final win over Offaly just under two weeks ago. Not only that but he contributed 3-3 in an explosive individual performance.


After the 2-4 he scored in the Munster final replay against Tipperary and the 0-8 he delivered in a memorable All-Ireland minor semi-final against Galway last August there is only one direction he is headed in the next couple of years, perhaps with an even greater pace of advancement than his older brother.

Behind them 15-year-old Sean Walsh is also making waves, the third of the genre is also shaping up to follow the footsteps of his older siblings.

All three Walsh brothers are of course sons of the former Kerry full-back and midfielder Sean Walsh, who won seven All-Ireland medals between 1978 and 1986.

The emergence of the Walsh brothers at various levels of Kerry football stands as testament to why they are most successful Gaelic football county and why they keep churning out great players and teams.

Coolmore doesn't do bloodlines better than Kerry football! From the Walshs to the O Ses, back to the Lynes and Spillanes and O'Keeffes, Sheehys and Fitzgeralds, the breeding transcends the generations.

The family tree of Kerry football is a mammoth oak by comparison to the saplings of some of their keenest rivals.

Every other county has their share. In Dublin it's the Brogans, Tyrone have the McGuigans, Armagh the Kernans and Galway have had the Donnellans and Joyces. But in Kerry the branches soar higher and intertwine more intricately than anywhere else.

"It's the secret of Kerry," whispers Weeshie Fogarty, the former Kerry player and renowned broadcaster and analyst in the county.

Kerry has always traditionally had a strong flow in the bloodlines of its players. John O'Keeffe's father Frank captained Kerry in the Polo Grounds New York All-Ireland final of 1947 against Cavan.

John Joe Sheehy, captain and goalkeeper of the All-Ireland-winning Kerry team of 1926, had three sons, Sean Og, Paudie and Niall, all of whom subsequently won All-Ireland medals, with Sean Og captaining the 1962 team.

Con Brosnan and son Jim both have the distinction of winning All-Ireland medals and then training Kerry teams. Maurice Fitzgerald's father Ned captained Kerry in the 1950s.

The Lyne/Spillane connection has thrown up more All-Ireland medals than any other branch of the Kingdom's genealogical tree. Pat, Tom and Mick Spillane's father, Tom, played for Munster before he played for Kerry but it was their uncles on their mother's side, Jackie, Dinny and Canon Michael, who were more celebrated wearers of the green and gold.

And the connection continues in Croke Park on Sunday when Jonathan Lyne, a grandson of Dinny, turns out at centre-back on the Kerry minor team that take on Mayo in an All-Ireland semi-final.

The lineage from the team of the 1970s/80s does not stop with just the Walsh and O Se connection.

David Moran, like Tommy Walsh a member of this year's All-Ireland U-21 winning side, is a son of Ogie Moran and also off the Kerins O Rahilly's production line that is now the backbone of an impressive push, under the guidance of Jack O'Connor that the Tralee club is making in Kerry this year.

Moran has already featured in a number of league games and, in time, will provide the same versatility to future Kerry managers that his father once gave to Mick O'Dwyer.

"He's exactly the same height as I am, six foot three and a quarter. The quarter is very important," says Kerry's legendary full-forward of the past Eoin Liston, who managed Kerins O'Rahilly's to their last Kerry title six years ago.

'Bomber' can't make up his mind which of the Walsh brothers will go on to make the greater impact in years to come.


"Tommy's already there, playing in an inside full-forward line with Kieran Donaghy and I wouldn't move him from there for anything right now. He's learning in there with every game," he says.

"Like Kieran, you can see the deft hands from basketball that he has. He's a big, imposing man who can move quickly and that's some combination.

"Barry John moves out for a ball very aggressively and has great scoring ability as some of his tallies would illustrate."

Lately, Jack O'Shea's son Aidan, a member of the mid-Kerry divisional team, has returned to the Kerry training panel after a long spell on the sidelines with a broken collar bone. Before that, a debilitating virus kept him out of action at a time when he looked like making a breakthrough.

He possesses much of the toughness and energy associated with his father, if not the high degree of skill, and his progress next year is being awaited eagerly in Kerry.

Beyond that, the current minor team manager John Kennedy, who featured in the 1984 and 1985 All-Ireland winning sides, has a son, Eoin, who figured on the 2006 minor side that lost an All-Ireland final replay to Roscommon.

But two that 'got away' are John Egan junior, son of John Egan, who turned out in Listowel earlier this year with the Irish U-16 team and is pursuing a career in soccer and, of course, Tadhg Kennelly, Ireland's foremost AFL recruit.

How he would have contributed to the regeneration of Kerry football throughout this decade had he opted to stay. As it is, his brother Noel claimed an All-Ireland medal in 2000.

It may be the secret of Kerry's success but the allure of the names never allows them to hide it.

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