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Mike Sheehy: One Of The Kingdom's Greatest Legends
Kerry football legends are in abundance and many is the number that can be selected for special inclusion in any hall of fame. Mikey Sheehy, though many years retired, is still a household name across Irish generations of football fans. His club was Austin Stacks of Tralee, a club that spawned many more greats of Kerry football fame. By the year 2009 Kerry have won a glorious 35 All Ireland senior football titles and Mike played in nine finals, winning eight in 1975/78/79/80/81//84/85/86.
The football rivalry in his native Tralee has traditionally been intensively competitive between the three local senior football clubs. None of the teams have geographical boundaries when seeking members. Families may have divided loyalties with some sons playing with one club and more with the other club. The tension in championship battles is the breeding ground for many of Kerry’s greatest stars through the decades and Mike Sheehy was fermented in that amphitheatre of football.
At club level Austin Stacks and Mikey bridged a thirty seven years oblivion from county senior football honours in1973. The nineteen year old budding legend was a central figure in attack. Further county honours came his way in 1975/76/79/86 and the elusive All Ireland club title came to Austin Stacks with the 1976/77 St. Patrick’s Day title. All Stars flowed regularly to the Sheehy household in 1976/78/79/81/82/84/86.
Coming from minor county ranks in 1970 and 1971, without a Munster crown, was not a good omen for any player with aspirations to hold the Sam Maguire Cup aloft and Mikey believes Cork legend Jimmy Barry Murphy had a big bearing on this factor. The debut match for the Austin Stacks man was 1973 against arch rivals, Cork, in Killarney, in the National Football League.
He was not chosen on the starting fifteen against the reigning All Ireland champions but appeared as a sub. However the Kerry selectors were already on his trail and had picked him in a few challenge matches prior to his debut. The under 21 grade was a great battlefield to blossom a raw talent and in 1975 Mike Sheehy picked up an All Ireland title in that grade.
The year 1975 is synomonous with Mick O’Dwyer taking the helm and the young lions who created chapters of scripts for the football history books, had one special talent who was everyones favourite footballer. But if you happened to be from Cork, the name of Mikey Sheehy on the match programme, spelt disaster from 1975 to 1987.
Spectators came to see Kerry play, but the Austin Stacks player was the leading light and seldom disappointed his fan club with premier scoring performances. Frees were converted from the tightest of angles and Mike perfected this art from his days playing around his own streets as a schoolboy in St. Brendan’s Park,Tralee.
For a player to put 2 - 6 on an All Ireland final scoreboard is a true signal of a genius talent and Mikey had the gift of two scoring feet reserved only for the perfectionists who devote the required time to master such artistry. His cheeky lob over Paddy Cullen also made him famous, but this Kerry players fame was built on many years of thrilling football fans with spectacular displays.
Derry JF Doody