March 13, 2009
The late Frank Stockwell
Another great Galway football legend has passed away following the death of Frank Stockwell at his home in Tuam on Monday afternoon as the town mourned one of its favourite sons.
And his death, after a lengthy illness, comes three and a half year after his great friend and footballing colleague Sean Purcell was laid to rest in the autumn of 2005.
Best remembered for his performance in the 1956 All Ireland final, Frank Stockwell will be laid to rest in Tuam Cemetery.
In that final he scored 2-5 from play which remains a record for a 60 minute final. He was outstanding that day and his performance was the toast of the print media.
The Connacht Tribune reported the following week: "Yes, the smallest player there played the biggest role in Galway's victory. His display of football virtuosity, as he masterminded Galway's victory plan, stamped him as sports star of the week and of the year."
The report continued: "The wiles of this elusive will-o-the-wisp had the Cork backs running around in circles - generally the wrong ones - as he foxed his way through their ranks to rattle up a sharp shooting tally of 2 goals 5 points - a grand total which will not be easily duplicated."
During the latter years of his life, 80 years old Frank had been bedevilled by poor health but still remained passionate about Galway football and regularly recounted the days when himself and Purcell in the superstars category.
The story of 'Stocky' dates back to the 1930s when himself Sean Purcell sat in the one classroom of the Presentation junior national school. Like most young lads in the town they had kicked ball in their back gardens but the most dramatic early influence on their lives came from a somewhat unlikely source - a Presentation nun.
Headford nun Sr. Mary Fursey had an incredible passionate interest in Gaelic football and ordered a set of goalposts for the field opposite the cathedral - that was the start of history in the making.
Stockwell and Purcell became inseparable friends and as seven and eight year olds they kicked points, sold dummies and dreamed that one day they might play in Croke Park.
After primary school Frankwent to the local CBS while his friend went to St. Jarlath's but they continued to be firm friends as they were involved in swimming, boxing and even hurling. They even marked each on a hurling pitch.
They played together in a successful All-Ireland colleges provincial side - apparently a regular features of the schools scene at the time.
Frank Stockwell made a rather strange debut to the inter-county scene when he was chosen in goal for the county minors with Jack Mangan at full back.
It was by no means a successful introduction to county football and after conceding three or four goals, he was whisked from between the posts and put into the forwards while Mangan was afforded the duties as goalkeeper.
Stockwell made it on to the county team before Purcell in 1947 - the Master was away on teacher training at the time - while there was also a Railway Cup appearance in 1948 for Stocky when he remembered as a young lad being slightly overawed at lining out beside players like Jimmy Murray.
Around that time Tuam picked up another of their county titles with Purcell lining out at right half forward and Stockwell in the corner but at inter-county level, it was the era of Mayor's two in a row in 1950 and 1951.
He won Connacht title with Galway in 1954 but were beaten by Roscommon the following year. That same year's league campaign was a defining moment for Stocky. He had been dropped for the opening game but was brought in when a player was injured and played a stormer.
He sealed his p lace on the team and under the guidance of John "Tull" Dunne they powered their way to All-Ireland glory in 1956. They dished out big defeats to Mayo and Sligo but were brought back to earth with an unimpressive two point win over Tyrone in the All-Ireland semi-final.
That final of '56 was to prove to be Stockwell's greatest hour and he always recalled it with great clarity and particularly his personal tally of 2-5 for a 60 minute All-Ireland final in match delayed until October 7 because of a polio outbreak in Cork.
Galway won by three points and Stockwell recalled in an interview over eight years ago: "I remember Cork's Eric Ryan hitting the post with a free and we broke upfield.
"I got possession around 21 yards out and was fouled but Purcell's free hit the crossbar - the ball fell into my path again and once more the Cork backs fouled me and this time Sean pointed the free. We made it in the end but it was close."
He went on to win a league title with Galway the following year but during all of that, at club level, Tuam Stars were enjoying their golden era at the helm of Galway club football winning a seven in a row of county titles from 1954 to 1960 thanks to a tough defence and the wizardry of Sr.Fursey's pupils of the 1930s, Purcell and Stockwell.
At that stage they had been christened in the national media as the "Terrible Twins" which was a reference to their combination play and possibly due to the fact that both were born in December 1928.
During his football days he went to work in a drapery shop in Dundalk and in fact, played for the Young Ireland's club as well as lining out for Louth. Football also took him to play with the Taras club in London.
During the 1960s, Stockwell played a key role in the training and preparation of the three-in-a-row team along with John Dunne and Brendan Nestor.
Through the seventies and even up until 1984, Stockwell had a selectorial role at different stages with Galway including one particular turbulent time of 'players versus the board' confrontation around 1980 in the wake of Liam O'Neill not being reappointed.
Heart trouble and chronic back problems curtailed his involvement with football but he still remained an avid fan and was incredibly proud of the achievements of the 1998 All-Ireland winning side - he was in awe of the skills displayed by Michael Donnellan and Padraic Joyce at the time.
In his final days he was visited by his many friends and footballing colleagues including another Tuam team mate of the 1956 team, Seamus Colleran who was in his company for several hours last weekend.
Connacht Tribune, 13th March 2008
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