Dr Ea­mon O’Sul­li­van’s con­tri­bu­tion to Fitzger­ald Sta­dium and Kerry GAA

The Kerryman (North Kerry) - - OPINION -

SIR, I wish to con­grat­u­late Dr McEl­lig­ott and The Ker­ry­man on

Tadhg Evans’s ex­cel­lent ar­ti­cle (Septem­ber 6 edi­tion) on the I937 all Hurl­ing fi­nal in Kil­lar­ney.

I was pleased to note Dr Ea­mon 0’Sul­li­van’s pres­ence as the Bishop of Os­sory threw in the ball to com­mence the game, as he cer­tainly made a no­table con­tri­bu­tion to the de­vel­op­ment of Fitzger­ald Sta­dium which com­mem­o­rates the leg­endary Dick Fitzger­ald, foot­baller politi­cian and au­thor.

Fitzger­ald Sta­dium has served both Kerry GAA and the com­mer­cial life of Kil­lar­ney over a pe­riod of some 80 years. Even by to­day’s stan­dards the de­vel­op­ment of this sta­dium over a pe­riod of six years was a great achieve­ment – much of the work was done with pick and shovel and much credit is due to all con­cerned.

Af­ter Dick Fitzger­ald’s un­timely pass­ing in Septem­ber I930 the Dr Crokes club pro­posed that the Sta­dium be de­vel­oped in his mem­ory as, prior to I930, most games were played in the Old Cricket grounds on the Muck­ross Road.

Dr Ea­mon, who was the Res­i­dent Med­i­cal Su­per­in­ten­dent in St Fi­nans Hos­pi­tal, played a ma­jor role in both pur­chas­ing the land and the de­vel­op­ment of the sta­dium. Much credit is also due to the 60 res­i­dents of the hos­pi­tal and a num­ber of staff mem­bers who worked there on a daily ba­sis to en­sure that all would be in readi­ness for the of­fi­cial open­ing in May I936.

Seventy years later a mass was cel­e­brated in the hos­pi­tal chapel and a plaque ercted on the press box by St Fi­nans His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety in ap­pre­ci­a­tion of their con­tri­bu­tion to the de­vel­op­ment.

Cer­tainly Dr Ea­mon 0’Sul­li­van had a unique sport­ing record and, as well as his con­tri­bu­tion to the sta­dium, he trained Kerry se­nior teams from I924 to I964 and dur­ing that span, whether Kerry won or lost, he was al­ways re­turned as trainer. He also oc­cu­pied the roles of psy­chol­o­gist and di­eti­cian and af­ter Kerry won that his­toric 1955 fi­nal against Dublin he pro­vided a di­etary list in which toma­toes were highly rec­om­mended and this cere­tainly boosted sales of toma­toes among the sport­ing fra­ter­nity of the King­dom.

Dr Ea­mon was also in­stru­men­tal in the found­ing of col­leges foot­ball and had a long in­volve­ment with the NACAI in the county and I can re­call large crowds at­trend­ing sports meet­ing in the sta­dium and cy­clists us­ing the cin­der track, which was later re­placed by the ter­races. He was a keen ad­vo­cate of col­lec­tive train­ing, whereby the en­tire panel was ac­co­mo­dated in Kil­lar­ney over a two week prior to the All-Ire­land se­ries to en­sure they were fully fo­cused on both the train­ing ses­sions and the up­com­ing game.

Be­fore the sta­dium had mod­ern fa­cil­i­ties, St Fi­nans hos­pi­tal fa­cil­i­ties were reg­u­larly used for chang­ing, show­er­ing and the treat­ment of in­jured play­ers and staff mem­ber De­nis Hur­ley was the team masseur. All of this work was done on a vol­un­tary ba­sis, the value of which is put in per­spec­tive when one con­sid­ers the cost in­volved in the train­ing of in­ter-county teams nowa­days.

It was re­greftable that, when Kerry trav­elled to play Cavan in the I947 fi­nal in the Polo Grounds, the ge­nial Dr Ea­mon was left at home much to the re­gret of many of that team panel who felt that his pres­ence in New York would have en­sured a Kerry vic­tory.

He had a cer­tain mys­tique and large crowds, in­clud­ing tourists, would flock to the sta­dium to watch train­ing ses­sions and, on the day of the fi­nal trial, thou­sands of spec­ta­tors would fill the ter­race to make their own ob­ser­va­sions on how the play­ers were per­form­ing. Dis­cus­sions sub­se­quently con­tin­ued long into the evening in the lo­cal pubs on the im­pend­ing se­lec­tions.

Dr Ea­mon led a very or­di­nary life which re­volved very much around sport , the GAA, the NACA, Kil­lar­ney Golf Club of which he was a founder mem­ber, and a weekly game of Bridge.

In recog­ni­tion of the con­tri­bu­tion St Fi­nans Hos­pi­tal res­i­dents made to the sta­dium, he en­sured they had reg­u­lar ac­cess through was called ‘The Green Door’, which opened on to the ter­race. Each Sun­day evening Dr Ea­mon would sit on his stool inside that door to watch club play­ers per­form­ing in the pitch and it was from such ob­ser­va­tions that po­ten­tial county play­ers were drafted onto the panel.

To­day this ex­tra­or­di­nary man is re­mem­bered in his na­tive Firies with the lo­cal pitch named in his hon­our and the Stand in Fitzger­ald Sta­dium named the 0’Sul­li­van Stand. He will also be re­mem­bered for his con­tri­bu­tion to the men­tal health ser­vices , es­pe­cially in the pro­mo­tion of oc­cu­pa­tional ther­apy and the de­vel­op­ment of com­mu­nity ser­vices.

Sadly he passed away in I966, aged 7I years. Sport­ing and com­mu­nity per­son­al­i­ties from all over the county and be­yond came to Tralee for his fu­neral, which was a trib­ute to his pop­u­lar­ity. Sin­cerely,

John Kelly,

Chair­man St Fi­nans His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety.

Dr Ea­mon O’Sul­li­van

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