ORATION DELIVERED BY NOEL TREACY, COUNTY GALWAY G.A.A. CHAIRMAN AT THE FUNERAL MASS OF CYRIL KELLY, R.I.P.
The late Cyril Kelly
A Athreacha Uirrime Uí Fhearchair & Uí Floinn, A Décon Uí Gallachóir, A Chlann Uí Cheallaigh, A Aoidh speisialta, A Pheiladóirí, A Iar-Pheiladóirí & A Phobal dílis Dé:
Ní bheadh sé ceart ná coir dúinn scarradh ón Ard-Eaglais naofa seo, gan cúpla abairte a rá, faoi shaoil Coireall Uí Cheallaigh, go ndeána Dia grásta ar anam uasal dílis. Fáilte Uí Cheallaigh roimh gach duine anseo.
Fear mór, ard, cróga, cneasta, láidir ab ea Cyril Kelly. D’Oibhrigh sé go dian dícheallach ar son a Chlann agus ar son an Phobail, ar feadh blianta fada. Peiladóir d’on céad scoth ab ea é freisin ar son a Scoil, na-Bráithre Críostí; ar son a Chumann-Reálta Thuama cáiliúil agus ar son na Gaillimhe, ar fud na Tíre.
Táimid go léir bailithe le chéile ar an maidin seo, chun omós pearsanta, príobhádeach agus poiblí a gabhail d’Eachtraí agus Saol Cyril Kelly agus iad sin a thabhairt dá Chlann iontach, atá croí briste ag an t-am seo.
It would be unfitting that we should depart this sacred Tuam Cathedral, without paying due tribute to the memory of the late Cyril Kelly. I am honoured to be asked to do so, but I am also very conscious that I am speaking in this Holy Place. I wish to thank Fr. Pat Farragher for facilitating my contribution here in the Cathedral, due to the inclement weather of the past few days.
We are all gathered here today, to pay both private and public respect to the memory of a wonderful man, Cyril Kelly. He was a powerful dignified gentleman, who worked hard throughout his life and who was a dedicated Husband and a wonderful Father to his Wife, Mary and their five Sons.
A quiet man of unassuming and pleasant disposition, he never sought the limelight, but his exploits, especially on the Football field, often ensured that the limelight illuminated on his Team Colleagues, whether that was in the famed Red and White of Tuam Stars, or the Maroon and White of Galway.
Cyril Kelly first came to prominence as a Schoolboy Footballer, at the Christian Brothers Secondary School, Dublin Road, Tuam – the School, that later became known as St. Patrick’s and is now amalgamated with St. Jarlath’s College.
In 1947, the late great Seán Purcell inspired St. Jarlath’s to the first of their twelve Hogan Cup all-Ireland Senior Football Colleges victories. However, just two years before that, in 1945, Tuam C.B.S. had such a talented bunch of Players together, at the same time, that Brother Murphy, a fanatical Gaelic Football Man, was given permission by Tuam Stars to enter a Team for them, in the County Minor Football Championship. They went on to win the 1945 County Final against Ballinasloe, with fourteen of the Team Players, being Students at Tuam C.B.S. and the fifteenth Player would become another Tuam and Galway legend, as St. Jarlath’s sole representative, the great Seán Purcell, whose late Mother was from my own Parish. The Team also included the brilliant Frank Stockwell and the powerful Cyril Kelly, both C.B.S. men, along with their twelve other C.B.S. Colleagues.
In the County Minor Semi-Final of that Competition, the Tuam Stars Team had a great win over a Galway City Club - Erin’s Hopes, by 3-4 to 2-1. The Connacht Tribune report of that Game, which was played at Turloughmore, stated: “A feature of the Game was the brilliant fielding and lengthy clearances of the winner’s full-back, Cyril Kelly”.
Cyril went on to wear the Number 3 Jersey of Galway in the Connacht Minor Football Championship of 1947, but Mayo were the Winners at Castlebar, on July 6th. A year later though, Galway were crowned Minor Football Champions, when they defeated Sligo by 3-6 to 1-3, with Cyril Kelly, once again a key Man in defence. Next time out, Galway had to bend the knee to the then reigning All-Ireland Football Champions Tyrone, in the All-Ireland Semi-Final, a Game in which Sean Purcell and Iggy Jones of Tyrone, are reckoned to have given the two greatest displays by Minor Footballers, ever in Croke Park .
Cyril Kelly actually played County Minor Football for three years in a row for Galway, during this period. He won his first County Senior Football Championship Medal on the Field of Play in 1952, when Tuam Stars defeated Oughterard, who were powered by the five Keogh Brothers and their uncompromising Team Mates, in the County Senior Final, which was played at Clarinbridge. That Game came after a great win for Tuam Stars in a County Semi-Final Replay clash with the Army Team, “An Céad Cath Gaelach”, Renmore. After that win, the late distinguished Journalist, Jarlath P. Burke, in his Tuam Herald Report, stated: “Cyril Kelly in the centre of the full back line, was never beaten”.
After a fiercely contested and physical battle with Oughterard in the County Final, at the same venue, the Tuam Herald Editor wrote: “Another to earn his County Medal, the hard way, was the Tuam Stars Full-back, Cyril Kelly”. After this Game, it was discovered that Cyril Kelly had played throughout the Game with a broken jaw and earned the popular nickname thereafter “Stone Wall” Kelly. One of his Colleagues on the 1956 Galway Team was corner back Sean Keeley, from Ballinasloe, whose wife Ronnie is a first cousin of Cyril Kelly’s wife, Mary. Cyril and Sean have something in common, not just in Footballing terms, but both of them played in Finals with broken jaws, as Sean Keeley played throughout the 1956 All-Ireland Senior Football Final, with a broken jaw also. Such are the vagaries of contact Sport.
If we jump forward two years, an exciting new chapter in G.A.A. history was about to be written – a magnificent Seven County Senior Football Championships-in-a-row, from 1954 to 1960 inclusive, and indeed the great Tuam Stars Team of that golden era, were also the dominant force in the County League, losing only one League Final, to St. Patrick’s, Clonbur – ‘An Fhairche’, back in 1956. On 15th. August, 1956, Tuam beat Ballinasloe by just 2 points in an outstanding game and if there were All-Ireland Club Championships in vogue at that time, this outstanding Star’s Club Team would probably have won Seven of those Finals also. The late Journalist, Raymond Smith, wrote in his Book – “The Football Immortals” – “Tuam, the Town of the Stars, where you can breathe the Football air”. Cyril, Seán, Frank and Jack and all of their colleagues, were the Players who created this special atmosphere and environment, not alone in Tuam, but throughout our County.
The Tuam Stars rock at Full-back in all of that time, over all those years, was Cyril Kelly. He had started his Senior career with a place on the Panel in the 1947 Championship, which they won when he was just 17 years of age. He soon won a starting place in that wonderful Team, one of the greatest Club Teams of all time went on to win eight County Senior Championship Medals, on the field of play.
After the long run of success was broken in 1961, Cyril had done his job and he passed the No. 3 jersey on to John Lynch, who manned the goalmouth, when Tuam Stars won back the Frank Fox Trophy in ’62. John Lynch, of course, played for Roscommon in the All-Ireland Senior Final against Kerry that same year, a game which Roscommon should have won!
Nine County Senior Championship Medals – eight on the field of play and one as a 17 year old Member of the Panel – that’s Cyril’s legacy, for his Family and his Club to be immensely proud of which is an unique feat and rarely achieved at any level, by any Player.
At County level, Cyril was a loyal, 100% committed Member of the Galway Senior Football Panel, through frequently making first Team appearances in the National League and in the big Tournament and Competitions of the time, and always there, willing and able, to step in for Gerry Daly at Full-back, if he was needed. It was often said that Galway had two of the best full-backs in the Country at the time.
On that glorious day – October 7th. 1956 – and we are coming up to its 60th. Anniversary – Cyril Kelly joined Jack Mangan, Seamus Colleran and those two all-time legends, Seán Purcell and Frank Stockwell, to bring the Tuam Stars representation on the Galway Panel to five Players, as a gallant Cork Team were defeated and the Sam Maguire Cup came back to Galway in triumph, for the first time since 1938, making up for three All-Ireland Senior defeats of the early 1940’s. The 1956 victory was to lead to the renewal and renaissance of Galway Football, culminating in the glorious 3-in-a-row, in the mid ‘60’s.
That was Cyril Kelly, the Footballer – and the story of his major involvement in the formation of St. Aloysius Youth club in Tuam, many years ago, was evidence of Cyril, the kind, caring gentleman that he was, who wanted to ensure that the Youth of Tuam had on-field and off-field facilities at all times, for future generations.
His many Friends will miss him greatly, the likes of Willie Gleeson, that fine gentleman, whose iconic Shop and meeting place, hosted the legendary Morning Sessions of chat and discussion on the state of Galway Football and Hurling, the state of Ireland, and the state of the World, whether that be Apple, Brexit, the Olympics, or whatever was topical at any and all levels at all times.
Cyril liked to call in there for the daily great debates but, true to his nature, he preferred to listen, rather than dominate the cut and thrust of the arguments. His Friend and Club and County Team-mate Hauleen McDonagh said a few nights ago: “Cyril was the quiet man at the back and at times you might not even notice him there, but the minute he was gone you would miss him dearly”. How apt a statement by one great colleague, about another legend.
On my own behalf and on behalf of County Galway G.A.A. and our Association at all levels, I wish to express our deepest sympathy to Cyril’s Wife, Mary and their Sons - Liam, Padraig, John, Eamon and Paul, to Cyril’s Daughters-in-law, Brother-in-law, Grandchildren, Great Grandchildren, Nephews, Nieces, Relatives and Friends; to Tuam Stars G.A.A. Club; to the surviving Members of the 1956 All-Ireland winning team and to the wider Tuam Community, on the death of a wonderful Man, a towering figure and a loyal and trusted Friend. May Cyril Kelly Rest in Peace.
Ar dheis Lámh Dé go raibh sé.