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Former Limerick hurler and hero of the 1955 Munster Final Dermot Kelly and his son Sean accept the signed Clare jersey from Club Clare secretary and former TD Tony Killeen.

Twist of fate as Limerick legend of ’55 wins Club Clare prize

SIXTY-SEVEN years ago Dermot Kelly broke Banner hearts, when he delivered an incredible Munster final performance, scoring 1-12 to propel Limerick to a hugely unexpected victory.

These days Dermot is based in north Clare and ironically with his home county about to face the Banner on Sunday, he was the winner of a Club Clare draw for a signed Clare jersey.

Dermot will be turning 90 on Christmas Day and his son Sean said that while still a Limerick man first and foremost, he does have an affection for Clare.

“Yeah, he does, he lived in Ennis for 20 years and he’s spent an awful lot of time in Lahinch and Liscannor,” his son told The Champion.

While he has revelled in Limerick taking three of the last four All Ireland’s he also enjoyed Clare’s triumphs.

“He’s very happy with all Limerick have won, very much so. But the last time that Clare won the All-Ireland in 2013 he wrote a song about that and recorded it, Come On the Banner. He might write another one when they win it again this year!”

Seán, who acts as Dermot’s carer and runs a bookshop in Miltown, has a foot in both camps.

“I was born and raised in Ennis and a lot of people say ‘ah you’re Limerick’, but I’m not, I’m born and reared in Ennis. When Limerick and Clare play I have a split personality, I’d kind of be rooting for both of them!”

Clare tasted disappointment every year in the Munster Championship between 1932 and 1995, but losing the Munster final in ’55, with the old firm of Tipperary and Cork already beaten, was almost certainly the most painful defeat.

“Back in 1955 the bonfires were ready for the team to come home with the Munster championship. Limerick were complete outsiders. My father had an unbelievable day, it’s a record for a 60-minute Munster final, he scored 1-12.

“The Clare people would be cracking jokes and talking to him about it. Jimmy Smyth was a very good friend of his, Dan McInerney a personal friend. All these fellas that he played against he ended up becoming great buddies of. A lot of those older hurlers were very friendly after they retired.”

“Seemingly it was a very hot day, Limerick were a very young and fast team. They were known as Mackey’s greyhounds afterwards. Mick Mackey was the manager. That Clare team were fantastic, but it just didn’t happen for them on the day.”

His father still watches hurling all the time, but he feels the modern day players have a lot of advantages.

“He thinks it’s like tennis now, the bas on the hurley is the size of a tennis racquet!” Sean laughs.

Having a Limerick legend win the prize might seem like an unfortunate omen for how the rest of the Munster Championship will play out, but Club Clare secretary Tony Killeen has a different view.

“The interesting thing about 1955 is that Clare were raging hot favourites and Limerick were the underdogs. If there were to be a Clare Limerick pairing in 2022, which is by no means certain, Clare would be absolute underdogs. I’m taking it as a great omen, the underdogs won that time and if Clare face Limerick this year it’ll be as underdogs!”

Tony said that Club Clare is still open for membership and he was very happy with how it’s recent golf classic went, with almost 70 teams taking part.

About Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.