May 31, 2003
The Late Mick Kenny
A man whose name was legendary in the town of Callan passed away quietly.
This was the great Mick Kenny. Mick was born during the Civil War and was still a teenager when he joined the Irish Army at the start of the Second World War.
Mick was stationed in Clonmel and it didn't take long for his hurling abilities to become evident.
As a number of the Marlfield club he played many outstanding games in the Tipperary Co. Championship.
In 1948-49 Mick declared for Graigue (now Graigue/Ballycallan). This was the time of the three parish rule, and the Kilkenny senior championship was a cauldron where every game was contested with a ferocity that had to be seen to be believed.
Three clubs dominated - Eire Óg, Tullaroan and Dicksboro. Between them these clubs had a combined total of 24 players who had played at inter-county level with either Kilkenny, Tipperary or Waterford.
In 1949, however with no small help from Mick Kenny, Graigue made the breakthrough and won the championship.
In 1950 Mick Kenny captained the Kilkenny team in the All-Ireland final against Tipp. They lost by a point, having failed to score from seven close in frees in the second half.
It will forever remain a mystery why Mick an expert free taker, wasn't asked to hit any of them. In the early fifties Mick declared for Tipp and was selected on the panel.
This, however, was a period of Cork dominance when they won five Munster titles in a now (1952-56). During this period Mick did win a national league medal with Tipp, playing at right half back.
In 1956 Mick declared for his native Callan (John Lockes) who were now in the Senior Championship, having won the junior title in 1952.
Under Mick Kenny's leadership, John Lockes toyed with most opposition that year and in the county final they could be considered unlucky to have lost to one of the best Bennettsbridge teams ever.
The duel that day between Mick Kenny and the late great Dan Kennedy will never be forgotten by those who were privileged to enjoy it.
In 1957 the Kilkenny selectors could no longer ignore Mick Kenny and he was one of the 16 that marched around Croke Park in that year' All-Ireland final against Waterford.
The odd man was the actor John Gregson as they were making the film "Rooney" at the time and it included some hurling scenes. Once again Mick Kenny was the star.
He scored 2-5 from play of Kilkenny's total of 4-10, as they went on to take the title by a point.
On the next night, the first Monday in September 1957 the largest crowd ever, thronged the streets of Callan as Mick returned in triumph.
At this time in 1957 Callan had once again reached the County final. Slieverua were the opposition and their lineout included three of the recent All-Ireland winning team- Paddy Buggy, Mick Walsh and Dick Rockett, Slieverue were hot favourites, especially in South Kilkenny and Waterford, and I will remember walking in to a bookmakers in Waterford City and getting 5/2 against John Lockes.
In the game, John Lockes toyed with Slieverue. Kenny gave a masterful display at centre back and his long frees found the target with unerring accuracy.
Callan took their first and only senior title by a country mile and the man that made the difference was Mick Kenny.
In 1958 Mick was the non playing captain as Kilkenny toiled against Tipp in the All Ireland semi-final.
He then retired from hurling and he and his wife and children moved from Green Lane, Callan, to live in Kilkenny where, having now retired from the Army, he took up a position with TV rentals.
In later years he trained and guided St Brigid's College camogie team to County Championship success.
In recent years whenever I met Mick, the subject was always hurling and he had tremendous admiration for the Kilkenny teams of the past 40 years.
He rarely spoke about himself and never blew his own coal. Perhaps he deserves the little bit I have blown for him here.
May he rest in peace.
By Gar Freaney
Courtesy of the Kilkenny People.
Most Read Stories