Jack O’Shea was the special guest at the Louth Supporters’ Club’s annual get-together, and aside from making presentations, signing autographs and standing for photographs with just about everyone at the Carrickdale, he had some very interesting things to say.
The great Kerry midfielder is one of the most decorated in the game. Take a look at his medal haul, for starters – seven senior All-Irelands, three National Leagues, a minor and three U21 All-Irelands and ten Munster seniors. He has six All-Stars, was Footballer-of the-Year four times and, in 1984, made it on to the Team of the Century.
He took a drink on the night of Kerry’s minor 1975 All-Ireland final win, having played at full-forward in the defeat of Tyrone, but didn’t take another for 24-years, long after departing a game to which he had contributed so much.
As a youngster growing up in Cahirciveen he was in the shadow of giants, retrieving the ball at training for Mick O’Connell and Mick O’Dwyer and, no doubt, taking on board all that was being played out before him. Long-time colleague, Paudie Lynch, was the most difficult opponent he ever came up against, when, of course, they lined out against each other in club football, O’Shea playing with St Mary’s, Cahirciveen.
When asked if Seamus Darby pushed Tommy Doyle before scoring the goal that won Offaly the 1982 All-Ireland final, O’Shea was circumspect: Kerry didn’t complain, he said.
But he made the point that had Kerry won that game, giving them a record five titles in-a-row, they might not have done the three in-a-row soon after that, the inference being the desire would have been gone.
Dublin won the title in 1983, when, captained by Tommy Drumm, they finished one of the most contemptuous of finals with Galway with just 12 players. Kerry regained the Sam Maguire 12 months later, and went on to win again the following year and the year after that. O’Shea partnered Ambrose O’Donovan at midfield for each of those three wins, completing his medal-haul.
The question might be asked: why did Jack O’Shea never turn his hand to management, given his experience as a player. Well, actually he did, taking charge of Mayo in 1993 for a two-year period. In his first year, Mayo won the Connacht title, but got hammered by Cork in the All-Ireland semi-final.
Then, in the following year’s provincial series, Mayo fell to Leitrim, and it was no consolation when Declan Darcy’s side went on to win the title. O’Shea packed it in after that, saying he felt management wasn’t for him.
But he is still in the public eye, writing a column for a Sunday newspaper. His most abiding memory of Kerry’s All-Ireland U21 semi-final win over Louth was the huge crowd present at the Gaelic Grounds. The official figure was given at around 10,000, but opinion is there was nearly half that again present.