Chairmen of the Kerry County Board of the G.A.A., there have been many and others will come, but when the history of the Association is written, Din Joe’s name will stand out from all others.
In the dangerous years after the fight for freedom, when an unthoughtful word would have had an atomic bomb effect in Kerry, Din Joe steered the destiny of this county and kept it clear of pitfalls which a lesser man might have fallen into.
“His consideration and kindliness were well known. Down and out Gaels had a good friend in him and most of us had personal experience of that. As Board Chairman he followed the spirit rather than the letter of the law. Possibly it was the best thing if one could do it. Certainly with him it worked miracles.”
This fine and well-merited tribute to Denis Baily of Rathanny, Ballymacelligott, was paid by the ViceChairman of the Board following the sudden death of Din Joe on the strand in Ballyheigue on Sunday evening, August 31 st. 1952.
From his length of service as Honorary Secretary, and later as Chairman, he had a very long and honourable
connection with Kerry County Board, dating from 1914 and that, as Frank Sheehy said, makes him “stand out from all others”.
He became Secretary at the most difficult period of the G.A.A. in Kerry which included the Black and Tan War and later the Civil War which divided players and followers of our games and led to tensions in the council room and in the running of the Board’s competitions. In containing these feelings and limiting the disruption of the games, Din Joe preserved a calm, reasonable, friendly approach and a tact that acted as oil on troubled waters and prevented many a flare-up.
This gift of his enabled Kerry to resume its inter-county competitions and in 1923 the Kingdom qualified for the Senior All Ireland final against Dublin. However, after a few weeks in training 4 a team was asked not to lay as Austin Stack, the esident of the Board, was still imprisoned. It was largely due to Din Joe that a serious split in the G.A.A. ranks was avoided. Also, after the stand down during 1935, it was due to his efforts mainly that the county resumed the games e following year with such success that saw Kerry contest five Senior All Irelands in a row, beginning in1937 and the winning of four titles.
In 1941 he received the recognition due to him when e was elected as one of the two Trustees of the Central Council of the G.A.A., a position he held for a number of years.
Many a follower of our games knew Din Joe only as an official of the G.A.A. and it may come as a surprise to hose who read this article that in his younger days he took a prominent part in organising football in Ballymacelligott. He was one of six brothers who were excellent players, four of whom – John, Jimmy, Patsy and Din Joe, were members of the local team that won the Kerry Senior County Championship in 1918. Din Joe, who played at midfield, captained the team, while John and Jimmy played as corner forwards and Patsy guarded the goal.
I have been told that Din Joe’s father was well pleased with his footballing sons and may have told them about the great traditions of football they were heirs to.
It is remarkable that the first championship games in senior football which were played under the auspices of the new County Board in 1886, that Ballymac was one of the five or six teams that took part and their opponents in Tralee in October of that years were the famous Laune Rangers team which won rather easily. This was the first game under the auspices of the G.A.A. in Kerry. So Ballymac has the honour of being there at the beginning.
Prior to that, however, football was popular in the district and as evidence of that it is recorded that Jack Hussey – a great athlete and son of the notorious Sam Hussey, the land agent who lived in nearby Edenburn, took a team of Ballymac footballers by long cars to Ballyvourney and returned victorious over the Corkmen. Jack met all the expenses of the journey.
Din Joe’s father could have told him of that game and of Ballymac’s victories in the County Football Championships of 1891 (when they beat Laune Rangers) and in 1894 and `95.
It may not also be well known that Din Joe was, for a number of years, one of the principal referees in the county. A man of many parts, he gave of himself and his time in fullest measure during his spell of sixty years. The day he died he had, in the afternoon, attended Kerry’s Day Out Open Sports in the Austin Stack Park. Semper fidelis!
During his term of office with the Kerry G.A.A., the senior football team of the Kingdom won eleven All Ireland titles. During that period of victories, the Kerry team visited America in 1927, ’31, ’39 and played the All Ireland final of 1947 in New York. As Chairman or as Secretary of the Board he could have availed of his position to travel free with our footballers, but did not take advantage. He gave all and took nothing.
Personally I have, as Joint Hon. Sec. of the Board with Jerry Myles from 1937 to 1950, treasured memories of a very great man whom I hold very dearly in my heart today, as always.