The Kingdom, the power and glory of Sam


HEART BEAT:Putting medical problems aside in favour of a little praise for the Kerrymen

I AM IN fatalistic mood and am putting national and medical problems aside for now. Fata viam invenient, wrote Virgil in the Aeneid; so I suppose we can chicken out and leave it to the Fates. Last week I had other things on my mind.

I returned to Kerry on the Friday before the All-Ireland final. Crossing the county boundary at the river Feale it was apparent that the county was on war footing. Green and gold was everywhere. Houses, shops, telegraph poles, schools, were festooned with the Kerry colours. The population was mobilised. This was not any old All-Ireland, God knows Kerry takes them in unbroken stride. This was against the old foe across the border, the Boys of Fair Hill, the Corkmen. Furthermore, they had beaten us in the Munster final and were favourites to avenge their defeat of just two years ago.

Raiding parties had already crossed the border and painted red and white graffiti through- out the Kingdom, even putting a red jersey and hat on the sacred goat of Killorglin, guarding the crossing of the Laune. Such bravado, indeed arrogance, was intolerable. Favourites indeed; we’ll see about that.

A word of explanation here. My Kerry qualification comes from my paternal grandfather who was Kerry born. The Highest Authority’s father was from Ballylongford in North Kerry. By my reckoning that leaves her only about 200 years and me about 400 years before we re-establish ourselves amongst the clans. However, the genes run true and we figure it’s well worth the wait.

The HA’s brother Brian never missed a Kerry match in over 30 years. He attended the semi-final win over Meath and then sadly and suddenly slipped away before the final. We buried him with a Kerry jersey. I trust the Good Lord allowed him attend the final.

The day before the final I played golf on past captains’ and presidents’ day in Dooks. This, the most scenic golf course in Ireland, was at its very best, bathed in warm sunshine and caressed by a gentle breeze. Nature’s omens were auspicious and we assumed it was raining in Cork. At our dinner that evening there was one thing on everybody’s mind. This was up close and personal. Kerry were to be led on the morrow by a member of Dooks, Darran O’Sullivan, and three other members of the panel came from the Glenbeigh/ Glencar club or from Cromane, our immediate environs. I polled my companions about the outcome. They were staunch to a man.

Final day was bright and clear. Kerry flags flew in the church grounds in Cromane. Kerry jerseys were everywhere in the congregation. Defeat was not an option. I remembered a late great friend and Kerry footballer Colm Kennelly, then county engineer, big brother to Brendan. Colm was driving me through Killarney on a day when Cork had triumphed in a Munster final in Fitzgerald stadium. The streets were awash with red and white, The Banksand the Boys of Fair Hillwere heard on every side. The native population had disappeared in the face of such triumphalism. “Jaysus,” said Colm, “I hate losing to Cork, Corkmen are lousy winners.”

Mid-afternoon the world stopped. God only knows what tourists and visitors thought as the population vanished and an eerie silence fell over mountain, valley and coast. A little pressure on our hearts early on was followed by a growing feeling that things were going to be alright, the world was not ending.

Kerry people are good winners and magnanimous in victory. Cork were worthy opponents and when their turn comes, as it assuredly will, I ask God to let it be in the distant future in a year when Kerry are taking a rest. The cup came to Glenbeigh on Tuesday night, borne by the captain and the men who won the day. The vast crowd assembled will never forget the evening. Finn, sitting on his mountain Seefin (Suí Finn) above Glenbeigh, will have been happy with the champions he sent forth, and who, unlike the incompetents he sent to capture Diarmuid and Gráinne, were successful in their quest. Ceann Comhairle John O’Donoghue was to have been MC at the homecoming but reluctantly the people decided they couldn’t afford him.

Maybe we can give our Cork friends a new verse for Fair Hill?

“The lads from Cork were full of glee

They’d bring Sam back to the Lee

Here’s up them all, said the boys of Ciarraí”

I can go and vote Yes to Lisbon with a light heart.

  • Maurice Nelligan is a cardiac surgeon