Irish Home of All Ireland Hall Of Fame Online Gallery
Jim McKeever: Giant Of Derry Football of 1950's/60's Era
Derry footballer, Jim McKeever, played in an era when players profiles were not greatly promoted by the media and to reach out to fans all over Ireland, a player needed to be real star quality. Jim had quality in abundance and despite never winning that elusive All Ireland senior football medal, he was a household name all over Ireland.
Born in 1931 his career spanned three decades through the 1940's; 50's and early 60's. An adaptable footballer, Derry selectors had the luxury of selecting Jim in practically any position from 2 to 15, knowing that his performance would be crucial to the teams well being. Despite Jim's prowess in many positions, it was at midfield where he really excelled and came to national prominence.
A great high fielding artist, few midfielders could match his aerial ability and the great Kerry icon, Mick O'Connell, once described the Derryman, as the greatest catcher he ever marked. Jim was also a reliable free taker and a great solo runner from defence to attack. His iconic status in the game ensured that he was selected on a fifteen man All Ireland Team of the Greats who never captured that elusive Celtic Cross medal. Educated at the local St. Trea's Primary school at Ballymaguigan and then later at St. Malachy's Secondary school and St. Mary's Training College in Belfast, gaelic football was a major component of his young life.
On qualification as a teacher and later as a lecturer, Jim's career took him to various destinations and his warm personality was so well appreciated by so many, he became known as ‘Gentleman Jim'. He wore the colours of his native club Ballymaguigan, Newbridge, Downpatrick and Young Irelands of Leicester. When Derry contested the 1958 All Ireland final against Dublin, leading the Derry parade around Croke Park was Jim McKeever as the team captain.
In 1947 Derry had no minor football team and it was with Antrim that Jim played his first inter county match. In 1948 and still eligible for minor ranks, Jim was proud to wear the famed red and white of his native county in the Ulster championship and at seventeen, the senior selectors called him into their team for a challenge match.
By 1949 the senior selectors were now regularly handing a senior jersey to Jim, mainly in the half forward line. In 1955 Derry bridged a massive thirty four year gap without reaching an Ulster senior football final, but Cavan denied them victory. Two years later Tyrone inflicted another provincial final defeat.
In Derry football folklore, 1958 is etched in stone as the historic year when the county won its first ever senior provincial football crown. Down were the team to lose to Jim's men and in a great and unexpected All Ireland semi final, the great men of Kerry fell victim to a gallant Derry team. The 1958 All Ireland final V Dublin gave centre stage to Jim McKeever and despite losing, he was the pivot and greatest exponent of gaelic football on that memorable day. The judges for the newly installed Caltex Footballer Of The Year in 1958 awarded the prestigious title to Jim.
Success for Derry was difficult to bridge after 1958 and the loss of two league finals in 1958/59 and 1960/61 were difficult to overcome. Ulster's Railway Cup teams featured Jim for eleven consecutive years and two titles came his way. He was also chosen on Rest of Ireland teams v Combined Universities and Basketball was a sport that also captured his heart and he represented his province in that code.
CLUB & COUNTY HONOURS:
1958: All Ireland Senior Football R/Up Medal
1958/59 & 1960/61: N.F.L. R/Up Medal
1958: Ulster Senior Football Championship Medal
R/Up: 1955; 1957; 1950; 1953; 1959; 1961.
Dr. Lagan Cup Medals
1950: All Ireland Junior Football Championship R/Up
1950: Ulster Junior Football Championship Medal
1956; 1960: Railway Cup Medals
1948; 1950; 1962. Derry Senior Football Championship Medals
1948; 1949. McRory Cup Medals
1958: Caltex Footballer Of The Year
Composed by Derry JF Doody