Dr Eamon O’Sullivan’s contribution to Fitzgerald Stadium and Kerry GAA
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,
Chairman St Finans Historical Society.
Dr Eamon O’Sullivan