At the age of sixteen, I played my first match with Tarbert, against the Army who were stationed in Fort Shannon in the year 1946. At that time football boots were very scarce, so I played with a pair of Army boots and my togs were made out of a flour bag with T.V. Rank written on the back of it. Playing the same evening was the great Kerryman Joe Keohane at full back and marking him was our star man, Ned 0′ Donnell. A very enjoyable evening was had by all and after the match we were treated to buns and drinks, buns at that time were a real novelty as all we had to eat during the late forties was black bread.
In 1947 things dis-improved dramatically as alot of the local lads emigrated, but in 1948 Tarbert again shone gloriously with the introduction of new blood. Henry 0′ Donnell R.I.P. and Doctor 0′ Connor formed a G.A.A. Committee and organised a Senior and Minor team. To enter a team in the competitions 12/6 had to be raised, so John Coleman and myself started collecting 1p and a halfpenny off the teams, one particular man who did not get his place on the field at our first match asked for his money back.
The Minor team had to play six matches, these were against Duagh, Listowel, Ballylongford, Ballydonoghue, Moyvane with the Semi Final being played in Tarbert against Ballylongford, which Tarbert won by two points. The stars for Tarbert on the day included Denis Connell, Wim Connell, John Coleman, Morgan Burke and the Mc Carthy brothers, while Ballylongford had Colm Kennelly, Drops Enright, and Tommy Hennessy.
The following Sunday, in the middle of November, we played Ballyduff in the Senior Final and won by six points. Three Minors were picked to play on the day, John Coleman in goals, myself at right half back and Denis Connell at right corner forward, the rest of the team consisted of Ned 0’Donnell, Sean Wren, Eric Guerin, Pakie Mulvihill , Brendan Cregan, Michael Sullivan ,J. Sullivan, Paudie Dillane, Bill Lavery, Mick Sullivan, Henry 0’Donnell and Dan Casey, Subs : Frank Lavery, Danny Kelly, Jack Car roll , John McGee, Noel Kennedy, Dermot 0’Connor.
The Semi Final game against Ballydonoghue, in Ballylongford, is the game I remember best, when Ballydonoghue had three County players, the Dowling brothers, the Finucane brothers and the Cremins brothers and we still won. On that day Sean Wren saved a penalty from Gus Cremins, the cheer from the crowd could be heard in Tarbert. When the final whistle blew we were carried shoulder high through the street in Ballyiongford down to Eddie Hanrahans bakery to where the dressing rooms were.
MY two pallbearers were the late Paddy Carrig and pat Mulvihill home from England at the time, with only a half crown to spend all we were able to buy was sixpenny ice creams.
At the time we were being trained by a man named Mr Sharkey home from the States, he originally came from Donegal and was assisted by Martin Kelly. Our training consisted of a run to Tarmons school wearing a pair of heavy boots, being carefully watched by the late John Sheehan (R.I.P.) who followed on his bicycle. Afterwards we were given a rub down with embrocation by Martin Kelly. In those days after training we had to content ourselves with a bottle of lemonade as one could only get a bottle of stout when they were nineteen and in the company of an older relative (what changes ! ) .
The following years were again dismal ones with the younger fellows going away and the older ones retiring. I did however, get the opportunity of playing with Clounmacon at Centre half forward, along side Bobby Buckley and Joe Shanahan who both went on to play with Kerry. We won fourteen matches in all including a final, but received no medals as Listowel raised an objection.
In the fifties Tarbert reached the Championship final but lost. In total I lost eight North Kerry Finals and also a County Final on a replay by South Kerry who had fine players like Mick O’Connell, Mick O’Dwyer, Jerome O’Shea, Ned Fitzgerald.
In those days it was very hard to make a County team of any grade and I remember four of us going to Tralee for a Minor Trial. John Coleman, Wim Connell, Denis Connell and myself walked to Ballylongford, to be told on arriving that they could only take two of us, rather than be split up we decided to walk home again, but they changed their minds and took us to Tralee. John Coleman and Denis Connell got a game while Wim Connell and myself were left on the side lines. John Coleman got his place at right half forward on the Kerry Minor team but they were beaten in the All Ireland Final.
Tarbert’s best team that decade came in 1958, when we won twenty three matches out of a possible twenty four, including six tournaments. Eugene Mulcair, Tom Langan, Francie Guerin, Ritchie Lyndon, John Coleman, Tim Kiely, Finbar Carrig and Franco Kelly all played with the 1958 team.
I have seen great football and footballers pass through Tarbert too numerous to mention and some of them should have made it to the top had they been given half a chance. Hopefully those days will come again in the 1990’s and some of the present and future young men from Tarbert will make the breakthrough to the Kerry ranks.
Written February 1991