Joachim Kelly inducted to the Hurling All of Fame

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Plain of the Herbs
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Joachim Kelly inducted to the Hurling All of Fame

Post by Plain of the Herbs » Fri Jan 13, 2017 6:47 pm

Here's a piece I wrote on Joachim's career

Joachim Kelly’s induction to the Offaly GAA Hall of Fame is recognition of a career that saw the Lusmagh Garda win two All-Ireland Senior hurling medals (1981 and 1985), seven Leinster Senor medals and an NHL (1991) with his county in a playing career that spanned 19 years. He also won a SHC and JHC with his club, and with 171 appearances for his county (46 championship, 125 NHL) wore the tricoloured jersey more times than any other hurler.

Along the way there were the triumphs – the groundbreaking 1980 Leinster Final when Offaly defeated Kilkenny 3-17 to 5-10, the 1981 All-Ireland win over Galway, appearing in the Centenary All-Ireland Final in Thurles in 1984, and recovery from that Thurles defeat to claim a second All-Ireland title a year later. There later followed a Leinster Senior three in a row as the team of the 1980s gradually made way for what would become the team of the 1990s

Born in 1955 he was brought to the local church to be christened by the Parish Priest Fr John Fahy, when the rebel cleric persuaded his parents Annie and Paddy ‘PK’ Kelly not to name their fifth child Gerard as planned. And so begat the name that would see RTÉ commentator Michael O’Hehir refer to him as “the only Joachim in the game of hurling” during broadcasts.

His hurling career began with Lusmagh, then a Junior club and for whom he first appeared in 1971’s Junior championship against Coolderry when aged 15, probably the only occasion the five Kelly brothers lined out together before Michael’s emigration the following year.

He blossomed at Presentation Brothers College Birr, then the county’s de facto hurling academy before the term became commonplace. Left full-forward on the 13-a-side team that won the 1973 All-Ireland ‘B’ Colleges with a 5-10 to 5-3 Croke Park Final win over St Mary’s Belfast, he was joined by fellow club men Brendan Birmingham and John Kelly. Notably, Pat Fleury partnered John Kelly in the full-back line.

Returning to Croke Park with Offaly Minors short months later, dreams of a Leinster Final appearance and a crack at Kilkenny were dashed with a 2-10 to 2-8 defeat by Wexford. Also on that team were future stars Pat Fleury at full-back and Pat Delaney at centre half-back.

1973 saw Lusmagh break ground with a first ever Junior hurling title win. Joined by his brothers Patrick, Seán, and Jim on the team in a final played a week before his 18th birthday, the young wing-forward was to the fore, helping himself to a personal tally of 3-1 in the clubs’ 6-3 to 3-5 win over Ballinamere.

An Offaly Senior debut followed in November 1974 in a NHL match against Antrim at Birr, the debutant scoring a point in a 5-3 to 3-8 win, and he held his place for the remainder of that league campaign. The following summer he made a first championship appearance against Kildare at Portlaoise. Sited at corner-forward, a draw was the outcome. The replay was won, and Joachim was moved to the half-forward line for the Croke Park semi-final against Wexford.

Offaly hurling began to emerge from the shadows as graduates emerged from Birr’s Presentation Brothers College in increasing numbers. Promotion to NHL’s top flight was secured during the 1976-77 season with Joachim regularly lining out on the right flank of the Offaly attack.

Chosen at right half-forward by the Leinster selectors for the 1979’s Railway Cup, he won an interprovincial medal with his province. And another significant milestone was reached in April of that year when he was first selected at midfield for an NHL quarter-final against Tipperary at Kilkenny. It was a position he would make his own for over a decade.

Midfield duels were a feature of the 1980s – with Frank Cummins and later, Ger Fennelly against Kilkenny, Wexford’s George O’Connor, Steve Mahon of Galway, and Pat Critchley from Laois. And there were the towering performances, particularly against Galway in 1984’s All-Ireland semi-final, which won a second All-Star award (he was previously honoured, along with Pat Carroll, on the 1980 selection).

Then there was Lusmagh. A first Senior final appearance was made in 1982 with a semi-final win over Kinnitty. A mighty midfield performance, despite a bad head wound, in an early round 2-10 to 1-9 win over St Rynagh’s, is still fondly recalled locally. The final saw the first time finalists’ title hopes dashed by an opportunist late St Rynagh’s goal, though Joachim was voted the final’s Man of the Match.

Seán Robbins success came to the club in 1989. Joachim assumed the role of player-manager of his club’s Senior team. As summer gave way to autumn, Lusmagh hurled increasingly in the image and likeness of the player-manager, a drive and determination that was manifest in the 0-13 to 1-9 semi-final win over neighbours St Rynagh’s.

Again that spirit was called on in the second half of that memorable Final win over Seir Kieran, first when the Reds were in 0-5 to 1-6 arrears early in the second half, and again in the Final’s dying moments when, two points behind, a move from defence initiated by Jim Kelly led to John Kelly’s winning goal, for a 1-11 to 1-10 win.

The contrast of sporting triumph and tragedy was manifest in 1990 when that serious knee injury dashed the Reds’ hopes of title retention. But the recuperation period would open other avenues and Westmeath came calling in search of a manager for their Senior team. Maroon and white were rewarded with a 1991 All-Ireland ‘B’ championship win.

The comeback from injury was completed during the latter stages of Offaly’s 1991 League winning campaign, before the curtain came down on his Offaly career in 1993 when, then aged 37, he lined out in the centre half-back position against All-Ireland champions Kilkenny.

He continued as a club regular until 1997, took a year to manage Kilcormac-Killoughey, returning for one more year in a playing role as an impact sub in 1999’s Senior championship, a team he also managed. His last game was in the 2003 Junior ‘B’ final defeat by Tullamore, some 32 years after his first.

With previous management experience, the Bainisteóir’s bib would always beckon following retirement. At intercounty level, he served as an Offaly selector in 1995 and 1996 (a role he again filled in 2006). He managed Wexford Senior hurlers for a year in 2000. And there was a training role with Portumna Seniors in their breakthrough year when the east Galway club won a first ever Galway Senior championship in 2003.

He assumed the management of the Offaly camogie team in 2008. Camogie in the county was at a low ebb with frequent early championship departures, and the momentum of 2001’s Junior All-Ireland Final appearance had been lost. In his first year in charge, they reached the All-Ireland Junior Final and seemed set for victory, only to be denied by a devastating late Clare goal. In his second year they returned to Croke Park and atoned for previous disappointment in the Junior Final win over Waterford. In his third year they maintained progress, winning the All-Ireland Intermediate crown with a September win over Wexford. And in his fourth and final year, operating in Senior grade for the first time, there were championship wins over Dublin and Clare.

In recent years he managed Shinrone Seniors to a rare SHC semi-final appearance in 2012 and an U21 championship win in 2014.

A tribute in the programme for the official opening of Lusmagh GAA’s new grounds and dressing rooms in 1990 read “possessed of extraordinary stamina and unquenchable spirit, he has often lifted club and county at times of low ebb. Twice honoured with All-Star awards, his performance in the 1984 All-Ireland Semi-final against Galway was only one of his playing highlights.” A perfect summary.
Pat Donegan. Signed out of respect for players and all involved with Offaly.

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Re: Joachim Kelly inducted to the Hurling All of Fame

Post by allstar2010 » Fri Jan 13, 2017 8:38 pm

Great read, thanks. Well deserved honour for Joachim.

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Re: Joachim Kelly inducted to the Hurling All of Fame

Post by Kevin » Sat Jan 14, 2017 6:32 pm

Thanks POTH for this good news and excellent article!!

My one time experiencing the man play was confined to Gaelic Park in 1990, 1992 or 1993 (not positive on then year obviously) helping Westmeath win the Senior Championship.

Gaelic games had been on the wane from their heights in the 80's, but the games were still very entertaining and the business end of the championship was well worth the journey to the Bronx. At the time Gealic Park still had Tommy Smyth doing the 'play by play' over the PA which was generally entertaining. With Joachim it was funny in that the way Tommy said his name you would swear he was saying Joe Akimkelly. This prompting a few in the stands to comment jokingly thst they never heard of the name Akimkelly before.

Anyway, you would never know that Joachim was a weekend blow in that day. He acted as though he has the captain of the team. Over the top demonstrative, fighting for ball like he was trying to break into a team, picking out runners and scoring a few times. You'd have thought it was the All Ireland. It was intense, he was a real beast. Between himself and Willie Lowry (a longtime Westmeath NY) stalwart they controlled the midfield and won the game. It was a long time ago so the rest of the game itself was a bit of a blur.

My understanding is that Joachim took/ or takes a no holds barred approach to his endeavors. It is no mystery why he has been so successful over such a long period of time.

Congrats to Joachim Kelly on this honor!!
Kevin Clancey. Signed out of respect for players and all involved with Offaly.

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Re: Joachim Kelly inducted to the Hurling All of Fame

Post by kingscounty » Sun Jan 15, 2017 10:28 pm

A legend, grew up watching Offaly in the mid to late 80s a super hurler.

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