How Duhallow club Kiskeam turned to All Black colours and entered a golden age

How Duhallow club Kiskeam turned to All Black colours and entered a golden age
Kiskeam's Michael Casey under pressure from Mallows' Pa Herlihy. The Duhallow club are now well-known for their All Blacks style jersey. Picture: Gavin Browne

THE All Blacks team colours provided inspiration for Kiskeam’s success in 1964 when the team donned the famed New Zealand rugby jersey for a historic divisional football triumph and a glorious county voyage.

For years, Kiskeam wore a blue jersey and a yellow sash, but from apart from a novice title won in 1947, they endured lean times. After a heavy loss defeat to Castlemagner in the first round of the 1963 championship, it’s believed that one of the players suggested the club should burn the jerseys.

Doubts about the future were offset by promising talent coming on board, but Kiskeam did discard the existing kit replacing it with a black jersey with a white collar. Player and club treasurer at the time and current president, John P Murphy outlined the process.

“It came up at a club meeting, we needed to turn matters around, somebody spoke of the All Black rugby success in their familiar colours. Though there wasn’t too much money in the kitty, it was proposed and accepted to opt for a black jersey,” said Murphy.

What a transformation! A fairytale season of 1964, 17 consecutive wins provided the backdrop for Kiskeam to dominate Duhallow football, winning three cups with the icing on the cake being a county championship title win.

An unfamiliar looking Kiskeam took to the field in 1964, sporting a new jersey, but in their first outing is was the same old story with three goals being conceded to Dromtariffe in the Nevin Cup.

Kiskeam recovered and 17 straight wins helped them complete a grand slam of divisional and county triumphs.

“Attending Millstreet secondary school in 1949, I saw how much it meant to Millstreet people to win a county senior football the previous year,” Murphy recalled.

“By chance, I got involved, sitting on a bridge, Kiskeam were short numbers and I stood in goal. It was my first taste of playing on the team. Progressing later to claim county success meant so much to Kiskeam.”

Kiskeam winners of the 1964 County Junior A Football Championship. Back: Jerh O’Connell, Tom Flynn, Johnny O’Sullivan, Mickey Joe Murphy, JJ Cashman, Billy J O’Keeffe, Timmy O’Sullivan, John P Murphy, Dan Joe Casey. Middle: Denis Murphy (selector) Joe O’Keeffe, Christy Herlihy, John Joe O’Connor, Billy O’Keeffe, John P Angland, Tim Joe O’Connor, Denis Angland, Jimmy Collins; Front: DD O’Sullivan, Sean Fitzgerald, Josie McLoughlin, Jerry Cremin, Brendan O’Keeffe, Con O’Connor, and Jerh Scannell. Picture: John Tarrant
Kiskeam winners of the 1964 County Junior A Football Championship. Back: Jerh O’Connell, Tom Flynn, Johnny O’Sullivan, Mickey Joe Murphy, JJ Cashman, Billy J O’Keeffe, Timmy O’Sullivan, John P Murphy, Dan Joe Casey. Middle: Denis Murphy (selector) Joe O’Keeffe, Christy Herlihy, John Joe O’Connor, Billy O’Keeffe, John P Angland, Tim Joe O’Connor, Denis Angland, Jimmy Collins; Front: DD O’Sullivan, Sean Fitzgerald, Josie McLoughlin, Jerry Cremin, Brendan O’Keeffe, Con O’Connor, and Jerh Scannell. Picture: John Tarrant

An impressive opening round to the JAFC saw Kiskeam overcome Boherbue. It was closer in the semi-final as they were made work by Dromtariffe.

Victory secured, Kiskeam faced familiar rivals Castlemagner in the decider.

The anticipated Castlemagner surge materialised on the restart and a breakthrough looked on the cards once Johnny O’Connell won a penalty.

Not for the first time, Kiskeam team captain Jerry Cremin temporally replaced keeper JJ Cashman, the tactic put pressure on Castle’s Donal Harnedy and his effort went wide to allow Kiskeam win 0-11 to 1-3.

No wonder Kiskeam supporters celebrated a long-awaited triumph from a competent team performance where the three O’Keeffe brothers contributed to all of Kiskeam’s tally.

The county awaited. Kiskeam made light work of Beara side St Mary’s in the quarter-final.

A new force was surfacing from Carbery, Newcestown, backboned by the Kehilly brothers who added richly to a fiercely contested semi-final only for goals by Billy and Joe O’Keeffe to tilt the clash Kiskeam’s way.

That pitted Kiskeam against Crosshaven in the decider. Crosser lost to Millstreet in the previous season’s semi-final and Murphy referred to Kiskeam’s resources being drained after a long campaign.

“Injuries had upset a small panel, a cartilage had stopped me from playing. By the time of the county final, we had two subs, 16-year-old Timmy O’Sullivan and Jer Scannell in his 40s. But we had a brilliant team on the field, the O’Keeffes and Johnny O’Sullivan were outstanding forwards."

After a tough battle in Macroom, Kiskeam weren’t found wanting and the Duhallow champions looked the more formidable side and won1-10 to 1-1.

it was a case of a change of colours becoming permanent to bear success. Kiskeam fans applauded the foresight of those that proposed the New Zealand model to follow and deliver on the field of play.

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