Kerry people have been coming to and living in Dublin for centuries. Kerry men and women have been playing and winning on the hallowed field at Croke Park for almost 100 years. In 1951 a group of Kerry ‘emigrants’ in Dublin decided to set up an organisation to mark these connections. The Kerry Association in Dublin, or the Kerrymen’s Association as it was initially called, was established to celebrate the people, culture and, most importantly, the sporting achievements of Kerry people.
The Kerry people who lived and worked in Dublin felt that these sporting occasions should be marked in the capital. As many early members of the Kerry Association put it, organising the functions for All-Ireland finals meant that members of the association would ‘get to meet the great players they had only heard about or read about in newspapers’. This was in the time before saturation coverage on TV, when sporting heroes seemed like distant giants, men who could perform feats of awe-inspiring skill. To have a winning All-Ireland team, complete with the Sam Maguire, at a function on the night of the final was an incredible experience for many Kerry people living in Dublin. The initial and fundamental aim behind the foundation of the Kerry Association in Dublin was to welcome and entertain Kerry teams and their supporters on the occasion of major games in Croke Park.
The Kerrymen’s Association grew from a chance meeting between two Kerry men on a Dublin street. Tim O’Donnell, originally from Camp, met with Farranfore man Tom Murphy. It was in September, just a week before the All-Ireland Semi-final between Mayo and Kerry. According to O’Donnell, Murphy was ‘rather challenging’ to him at that meeting: ‘You are a nice Kerry footballer!’, said Murphy, ‘What do you do to entertain the Kerry team?’ Never one to run from a challenge, O’Donnell discussed the matter with Murphy and they agreed to hold a reception for the team on the night of the match.
The pair had to organise two receptions that first year because Kerry and Mayo drew the first game. Kerry lost the replay, but the team and supporters turned up at the post-match reception. Members of the victorious Mayo team were also present, and according to the Mayo captain, Sean Flanagan, everyone had a great night.
O’Donnell and Murphy made a profit of approximately £49 from their two receptions. A few days later O’Donnell suggested that
they should found an association which would take over the job of welcoming Kerry teams to Dublin. This fledgling organisation would arrange functions and events to coincide with these visits, particularly when Kerry were in an All-Ireland final. O’Donnell was made Chairman of the association and Murphy became the first Secretary.
O’Donnell and Murphy had done some intensive canvassing of Kerry people in Dublin and found great support for their proposed organisation. They were more than pleasantly surprised when over 200 people turned up for the first general meeting, which was held in Clery’s Ballroom in early 1952. From that meeting came the first elected committee of the Kerrymen’s Association: President Fr. Senan, Chairman Declan Horgan, Secretary Tom Murphy, Assistant Secretary Joan Murphy, Treasurer Tim O’Donnell and Vice-Chairman Jackie Horgan.
At the first meeting of the newly elected committee, held in the Kevin Barry Memorial Hall, 44 Parnell Square on December 2nd 1952 it was agreed that the rules of the Donegal Men’s Association be used as a basis from which to construct a set of their own.
From the very beginning several aspects that were to be integral to the Kerry Association over the next six decades were already in evidence. At the second meeting on December 16th 1953 it was agreed to donate £13 to the Ned Ward Benevolent Fund from the proceeds of a dance that was held on December 8th in the Crystal Ballroom. Providing for the social and cultural life of Kerry people in the capital and fund-raising for deserving Kerry people and causes quickly became very important functions of the association.
Fundraising was a very important part of the Kerry Association from the earliest days. The association has provided the Kerry County Board with a welcome source of income from the proceeds of All-Ireland functions held over the years and raised funds for the training of the Kerry team. Moreover, in the last 60 years it has helped dozens of charitable organisations, benevolent funds, church-building funds, cultural events and individual Kerry people.