'Heffo', All-Ireland winning Dublin captain and manager
Kevin Heffernan, Born: August 20th, 1929 Died: January 25th, 2013Kevin Heffernan, who has died aged 83, was a Dublin All-Ireland winning captain who enjoyed further success as a manager, guiding the county’s Gaelic footballers to three All-Ireland titles between 1974 and 1983.
A renowned player, he was selected for the An Post team of the millennium in recognition of a career that began with his emergence in the 1940s as an outstanding intercounty corner-forward.
Undoubtedly the pinnacle of his playing career was leading the Dublin football team to All-Ireland victory over Derry in 1958. He also won numerous county championships, in both hurling and football, with his club, St Vincent’s.
Born in Dublin in 1929, he was the son of John and Mary Heffernan and grew up on Turlough Parade, off Griffith Avenue. He received his early education at Scoil Mhuire, Marino, and later attended St Joseph’s CBS, Marino.
A bright pupil, Heffernan made his senior intercounty debut the same year he did his Leaving Certificate, breaking his jaw three days before he sat the first exam.
He completed his formal education at Trinity College Dublin, where he helped re-establish Gaelic games.
He returned to the intercounty scene in 1974 when he joined a three-man management team, along with Lorcan Redmond and Donal Colfer.Dublin football was at a low ebb, and Offaly were the dominant force in Leinster.
Heffernan persuaded two former county players to return to the squad: David Hickey, who had switched to rugby, and Jimmy Keaveney, a gifted free-taker, who was playing club football with St Vincent’s.
Dublin went on to become All-Ireland champions that year, defeating Galway by 0-14 to 1-6 in the final.
The team’s success led to a surge in support that found expression in “Heffo’s Army”. Dublin, however, fell at the final hurdle in 1975, losing to Kerry. But Heffernan’s men turned the tables on the Kingdom the following year, winning the final 3-8 to 0-10.
Heffernan was delighted. “Beating Kerry in the all-Ireland was always a double all-Ireland to me,” he said later.
Having stepped down as manager in 1976, he returned in 1978 when Dublin reached the final only to lose to Kerry.
He had to wait until 1983 before winning his third and last title as manager with a rebuilt team when Dublin won a bad-tempered match against Galway. Four players were sent off, including three from Dublin. The winning team was dubbed the “twelve apostles”.
Former Kerry manager and arch rival Mick O’Dwyer said: “He defined my life, I wanted to beat him as much as I ever wanted Kerry to beat Dublin. We were never what you might call bosom pals and we never exchanged hugs after the games, but in Kerry we always knew we were facing the brainiest football man in the game when we opposed Heffo.”
He spent 36 years working for the ESB, during which time he worked in Dublin, Sligo and the Middle East; he retired as personnel manager. He is remembered as a balanced and reasonable chairman of the Labour Court, to which position he was appointed in 1989. He subsequently served as chairman of Bord na gCon.
Awarded an honorary degree by the NUI in 2004, and made a Freeman of Dublin in 2005, he received a GAA President’s award in 2006.
He spoke in 2004 of his life-long commitment to Gaelic games. He could not envisage Ireland without Gaelic games, he said, which he considered part of his sense of identity.
His wife Mary, daughter Orla and son-in-law Paul survive him.