A Kerryman And A Hurling Legend Is Honoured
Causeway’s Maurice Leahy played a huge dual role in Kerry hurling for almost four decades
Tradition cannot be purchased. It is earned and it takes a long time and more often several decades to secure. Tradition is almost always respected and tradition is a word often used in GAA language.
It requires respect and most importantly preservation and that leads me on to my subject matter in this All Ireland Hall Of Fame Tribute to one of Kerry’s greatest ever hurlers.
North Kerry is the real home of hurling in the Kingdom and around the barony of Causeway, the name Leahy rings thousands of bells with Kerry hurling folk. Amongst the Leahy family of hurlers is Maurice, former legendary player, manager, mentor and renowned coach.
In a lifetime of dedication to hurling, Maurice Leahy has laced his boots side by side with many famous county hurlers and the exuberant passion he displayed for the Green/Gold hurling jersey of Kerry in an extensive inter county career, is well respected by Kerry gaels and also much further afield.
The road to fame in a Kerry hurling jersey bears no comparison to a Kerry football jersey. Hurling in Kerry is more than secondary to football. It was for years almost a forgotten ball game and yet the county has produced its own fair quota of hurling legends.
It was in the early 1980’s when visiting Causeway on a holiday trip I first heard about the Leahy brothers, Maurice and DJ. The small to middle size Kerry village was at that time a hurling stronghold and now in the second decade of the 21st century, stroll into any Causeway pub and hurling will be on the main agenda.
Causeway have a proud hurling tradition to preserve and uphold. However the spirit of endurance of hurling in Causeway has great resources and with maestros such as Maurice Leahy setting very high standards for the hurling youth of the parish to emulate, elevating Maurice’s profile into The All Ireland Hall Of Fame Online Gallery, will now put the Causeway legend side by side in our gallery with profiles of a historic collection of hurlers and footballers from all over Ireland.
Born in 1952 Maurice played club and county hurling with distinction from his teens and from the 1970’s until 1989, a long span and when he finally hung up his final jersey, he was all of 37 years old. Not too many hurlers have stood for such longevity in senior hurling.
To achieve that hallmark, something extra must be inbuilt and that’s called passion.
It is as a player we initially focus on te Kerryman's hurling career. Crossing over the county bounds of Cork/Kerry in the mid 1970’s, Maurice donned the Newtownshandrum, Co. Cork, intermediate hurling jersey with distinction and won a county championship title in that grade, when Newtown beat my own home club, Passage West, in the final decider at Castletownroche.
1979 was a landmark year and Maurice at 27 won his first ever Kerry senior hurling championship medal. This historic victory also bridged a mighty gap of 47 years since Causeway’s last claim to fame as county champions in 1932. In the succeeding years Maurice annexed a further four senior county titles, his final silverware coming in 1989.
1977 is stated as the year of Maurice Leahy pulling on a Kerry senior hurling jersey for the first time and Kerry had the previous year claimed the All Ireland “B” Championship. Come 1980 Maurice was both a Kerry senior hurler and also the team manager at 28 years of age.
Playing alongside your peers, laying down tactics and orders of the day, is a mighty task and Kerry hurlers responded by winning another “B” All Ireland Championship crown in 1983 with Maurice as a player and player manager. London fell to the Kingdom in the 1983 All Ireland final.
Taking time out in 1984 from the managerial role, Maurice was back in the hot seat again for the 1985 season of hurling and again in 1986 he masterminded another “B” All Ireland title as player/manager.
Maurice was now 34 years old, a lot of hurling endured and management also, but the Causeway warrior had a huge appetite for hurling. His decision to bow out of inter county hurling came in 1989 and again he came back to the Kerry hurling cause to manage the county in 1989 but by the tail end of 1990, he made a decision to hand over the reins to a fresh face.
When Wexford’s and Cork’s former hurler, John Meyler, took over the Kerry managerial reins in hurling in 1992, standing by his side as a selector, was the long serving Maurice. Few hurling fans would have any reason to believe that Waterford, with such a great pedigree, would crumble to Kerry in a red hot Munster arena of championship action and especially on Waterford's home soil.
That was 1993, Waterford had suffered a sensational exit to Kerry, no back doors to remove the stain at that time and Kerry’s victory was recorded in the annals of hurling history.
As the hurling years rumbled on into the 1990’s, Maurice was again extending his loyalty to Kerry senior hurling as a selector and amazingly he resumed at the helm once more in 2001 as manager for his fourth sojourn. Again success flowed as Kerry defeated Westmeath to land the Division 2 National Hurling League title.
Stepping down in 2002 he was back once more in 2003 as manager and for the record books he served his sixth managerial reign in 2006 and 2007 hurling seasons. With such vast sideline experience, Maurice was in demand and he also guided Lixnaw and Ballyheigue to memorable county title victories in his native Kerry.
Other clubs to benefit with Maurice at the helm were Kilcummin (football) and Causeway Comprehensive School. He won two All Ireland Vocational Schools titles with the latter academy in 2009 and 2010. At a higher colleges grade, Maurice also managed Tralee IT Sigerson footballers in 2008.
When we search for possible Inductees to the All Ireland Hall Of Fame Online Gallery every year, our focus and concentration is about individual names that come to mind. Whilst Kerry is unquestionably a football Kingdom, in north Kerry there’s more hurlers than footballers and they are all residing in a small pocket of the north county Kerry threshold.
Maurice Leahy in Kerry hurling is as famous and respected as any of the greatest Kingdom footballers and that admiration is not solely in Kerry. The Causeway legend has just retired in 2017 as a county board hurling development official after many years sevice, but with such craft under his radar, Maurice will not get too much leisure time away from hurling, simply because it has been such a wholesome part of his entire life and a vital part of the fabric that now enrolls him in our All Ireland Hall Of Fame Online Gallery.
In appreciation of the Causeway mans contributions to hurling in Kerry, in October 2017, Maurice was accorded a SportsLife Tribute in his home village.
And now in 2018, where ever in the world you may be browsing this historic tribute to a famous Kerry hurling legend, let’s hope you get as much enjoyment as myself in bringing this unique hurling story to a global audience of gaelic games fans.
Derry JF Doody