Mikey Sheehy

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Mikey Sheehy (born July 28, 1954) is an All-Ireland winning Gaelic footballer from County Kerry in Ireland.

Born in Tralee, Mikey Sheehy played for the Kerry County football team in the late 1970s and 1980s and was considered to be an extraordinary athlete, who could have played a variety of sports with success. He concentrated on Gaelic football and was well rewarded with his choice. He is one of five Kerry footballers to share the record of eight All-Ireland senior football medals in 1975, 1978-1981 and 1984-1986. He was also on the teams defeated in the finals of 1976 and 1982. His main position was at full-forward, until the emergence of Eoin Liston in 1977. Sheehy was also the recipient of seven GAA All Stars Awards. He won six National Football League medals, Railway Cup medals with the Munster team, five Kerry Senior Football Championship medals with his club, Austin Stacks, and an All-Ireland Senior Club Football Championship medal in 1977. Earlier in his career he had won two All-Ireland Under-21 Championship medals with Kerry, in 1973 and 1975.

Sheehy was named right corner forward on the Gaelic Athletic Association Gaelic Football Team of the Millennium.

Preceded by
Pat Spillane
Texaco Footballer of the Year
Succeeded by
Jack O'Shea

See also

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 On the outskirts of Tralee, there is a high wall which encircles an acre of stone crosses, providing living testimony to the memory of the dead. Within the confines of that cemetery lie interred the mortal remains of some of the
greatest gaelic footballers that ever walked the land. It is a stark if poignant reminder that Tralee always was and probably always will be, the heartland of Kerry football.

In the mid-twenties when the storied and romantic Kerry-Kildare rivalry reached its
zenith, eight men from Rock Street Austin Stacks formed the bulwark of a legendary
Kerry side that wrested All Ireland honours from the pride of the “Short Grass”. This
was the era of Stanley, Goff, Loughlin, Higgins, Gannon, Malone, Fitzpatrick, Doyle,
Curtis and their contemporaries who had often set the heather blazing on the plains of Kildare. It was also the age of Joe Barrett, Pluggy Moriarty, Pedlar Sweeney, Gal
Slattery, Bill Gorman, Jackie Ryan, Rory O'Connell and Jimmy Bailey, eight men from
''the rock” who carried the torch for Kerry to ultimate glory. It was a fabulous contribution from one small club where many of the players lived in close proximity to each other, but it did not by any means tell the full story because Dan Ryan, Marin Regan, the Landers brothers, Mike Doyle, Mick Healy and Jimmy Gorman followed to blaze a trail that stretched meteor-like across the football firmament. Barrett and Jackie Ryan won 6 All-Ireland medals each, Doyle’s three before his 21st birthday is still a record while the fame of the Landers brothers is still fevered wherever grey-beard Kerry followers foregather.


After that storm of success, the calm of more than 30 years in the wilderness was hard to fathom but in 1973 after a rousing county final, the whole world came to know that, once again, the Stacks were back. A young team had arisen to refurbish the aged glory of the black and amber. On a side that bristled with outstanding talent, four men were destined for immortality -. John O'Keeffe, Ger O'Keeffe, Ger Power and Mikey Sheehy. Cork's Denis Long later joined them to make it the famous five.


With due respects to all of his contemporaries and predecessors, there is no Rock
Street man ever who has stormed G.A.A. history with quite the same authority as
Mikey Sheehy. Not only as a great footballer but in the more mundane pursuits of everyday living, Sheehy has a place apart. The enormous popularity he enjoys has,
one suspects, a lot to do with his innate modesty, his unfailing approachability, his gentleness as a person. The old hackneyed cliché about being unspoilt by fame never rang so true of any man.


Although he is a Stacks man through and through, Sheehy's parents hail from Killorglin where he spent much of his formative years. However, he was born in the town of Tralee and grew up in St. Brendan's Park, a housing estate deep in the heart of Rock Street territory. Here it was that the young starlet learned the rudiments of the code from Michael Hayes, Jimmy Hobbart and the late Joe Mulchinock, three men who devoted themselves unsparingly to the youth of the club.


From the beginning, he had that touch of genius that was later to set him apart. The
famed Purty Landers was a near neighbour and Mikey himself tells of the inspiration
he gleaned from hearing of his exploits. Much more significant, perhaps, were the long hours of practice he was prepared lo devote to perfecting his skills. Indeed, there are residents of St. Brendan’s Park today who will testify that all his young life was filled with football activity. It still is.


Two years in the Kerry minor jersey brought little reward, and when first selected to
play at Under-21 level for the county in 1974, Michael Sheehy was a portly and grossly overweight young man who filled the left corner forward role with no great distinction
and certainly without exerting himself unduly. His skill level suffered because of lack
of fitness and consequently his great natural talent lay dormant and unfurled.


It was not until he came under the tutelage of Mick O' Dwyer that the Tralee
sharp-shooter began to appreciate the true significance of full physical and mental
well-being as the excess poundage was honed away in a welter of sweat and toil. Because he puts on weight so easily, Sheehy is permanently fighting the Battle of
the Bulge. And winning. “If I am idle for any length of time”, he says, “I start to worry
about my fitness”. It is an exposure which tells it's own story because his spells of inactivity are frequently enforced and well-documented. Indeed, his whole career has
been plagued by injury. Two heavily strapped ankles which he carries into every game are indicative of the damage that has been wrought.


But he need not worry unduly because when the heat is on, few men train with such complete and utter devotion. Besides the long, punishing sessions he undergoes as
part of Kerry's preparation, he trains religiously on his own as well, often running for
hours on end on the soft sand at Banna beach, building up those massive calf muscles that are consistent with the development of a long-distance runner. His extraordinary personal commitment to team morale was never better exemplified than during the summer of 1981 when, following a serious car accident which saw him, miraculously, crawl away from a tangled wreck, his sole concern was that he should not miss a Kerry training session four hours later. Nor did he.


Given similar circumstances, not many men would have responded with such heroic character but then Sheehy is no ordinary man, and his outstanding loyalty in a
moment of great personal trauma was deserving of an award far in excess of any All-Ireland medal. In that gesture of utter selflessness, it could be said be said he showed the true badge of courage.


To aficionados of the Gaelic code, Mike Sheehy's delicate and refined skills bear the hallmark of a true perfectionist. In him is enshrined are grace of a ballerina, the speed of a gazelle, the eye of a hawk, the cunning of a fox. No man has taken Kerry out of more tight corners, and no man since Mick O'Connell has come remotely near the peaks of excellence he has scaled. His prodigious two- footed wizardry is awe-inspiring, even for an acknowledged virtuoso of the code. But it didn't happen by mere accident. In quiet moments on his own, Sheehy works assiduously in his quest of perfection, holding be ball on his instep, juggling with it, toying with it and finally teasing it into submission. Indeed, his consummate artistry often appears singularly out of place in the hurly burly of Gaelic football where brawn not infrequently supersedes brain.


There seems little doubt now that be would have been eminently suited to a
professional career in another code had he so desired. The great goal he score in
the replayed Munster Final at Killarney when he “bent” the ball over the head of Michael Creedon, was reminiscent of the better days of Manchester United, a score straight out of the repertoire of Bobby Charlton or Georgie Best.


It wasn't the first time that a Sheehy goal claimed giddy headlines. Four yearn ago in a moment of high drama when Dublin's great goalkeeper, Paddy Cullen, vented his righteous indignation, the Tralee maestro chipped an innocent lob into an unguarded net for an outrageous score. It was said at the time that only a Tralee man and a Rock Street man at that, would have had the brazen effrontery to attempt it, but Sheehy chanced his arm to poach a goal that will forever assure him of a place in the folklore of the game.


On reflection, it is easy to see now with hindsight how the enormous pleasure that
Mikey Sheehy has conferred upon Gaelic followers might easily have been lost. In
1975 after he had won his first All-Ireland medal, a talent scout from Southampton F .C. came knocking on his door but the trial that was arranged for him across the water never materialized because of a misunderstanding. Nobody can say with absolute conviction but the likelihood is that soccer's loss was considerable because Sheehy would almost certainly have made it big at The Dell. Or anywhere else for that matter. But he has no regrets and leaves one in no doubt that he would not swap a place on the Kerry team for all the gold in the world.


Even though he is a master of every art and stratagem of the code, Sheehy’s clinical finishing power is above and beyond all his works. In 8 years at the top, he has reaped a harvest of scores. But, most of all, he is a phenomenal reader of the game. No matter now closely marked, he has that uncanny facility to be in the right place at the right time. His amazing perception of outfield play which sees him drift into open spaces with such unfailing monotony, is no mere quirk of fate. More than anything else, it stamps him as probably the most astute and devastating forward in the history of the game. Often when the Kerry attack is in full spate, he will emerge out of a blur of green and gold, coming from nowhere at the and of a defence-splitting foray to take the final pass and stroke the ball into the net with consummate ease. His talents are so numerous and so complex that any team with pretensions to nailing Kerry must abide the one basic precept from which there can be no deviation: SHACKLE SHEEHY! No easy job.


If, as we are told, the masses lead lives of quiet desperation, Kerry's No. 13 appears to take the world easily. The transient and fleeting fame bestowed by the tinsel world of high renown, he can keep in its proper place. He is always himself. A man who is totally devoid of theatricals and a most unassuming person, he will invariably come out of the square even in his most ecstatic moments with that peculiar stumbling gait of his, arms flailing easily by his side, eyes downcast, almost as if apologizing for making scoring look so simple. And when he is on song, nobody makes it look easier.


It would be no more than fitting if history could record that Michael Sheehy had achieved immortality in the year of Five-in-a-Row. But it was not to be. The great odyssey that had seen him scale the dizzy heights of fame over eight years of unsurpassed endeavor was halted temporarily, in the rain, stifled by a fine team and the hand of fate.


It was the end of a chapter only, not of the story because the story of Sheehv and of
Kerry will go on.


Ger Power 

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