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GAA Hall of Fame - Jimmy Keaveney

By Cian O’Connell

In the glory years of the fabled Kevin Heffernan era, Jimmy Keaveney was Dublin's prolific talisman.

Few, though, were better placed to assess how far Dublin had travelled.

Following the Leinster title of 1965 a degree of expectation accompanied Dublin, but they didn't hoist silverware again until Heffernan was on the sideline in the next decade.

By 1974, Heffernan's first year in charge, Keaveney had stepped away from the inter-county game. St Vincent's was his focus, but Heffernan persuaded Keaveney to return to the Dublin panel.

In the All Ireland final that year the great former Galway goalkeeper Gay Mitchell could spot Keaveney’s genius.

“Dublin came out of nowhere that time when Heffo came in,” Mitchell recalls. “Jimmy Keaveney was on the Hill before that and he brought him back in as freetaker, but he was more than that.

“He had great feet, his movement in a short space would leave you for dead even though he was a big man.

“He could come off his man so well. He'd be gone. The thing about Heffo is that he brought a new dimension into the game at the time.

“Bobby Doyle was playing corner forward, he was roving all over the field which was against tradition at that time where everyone held their positions. It was 1-3-3-2-3-3 everyone took their positions, the old cry about man on man, stay in your own position to mark your man.”

Bringing Keaveney back proved to be one of Heffernan’s many masterstrokes as Dublin reclaimed the Sam Maguire Cup.

Jimmy Keaveney was inducted into the GAA Hall of Fame in 2015.
Jimmy Keaveney was inducted into the GAA Hall of Fame in 2015.

Keaveney gleaned a first All Star award too and the second instalment of his inter-county career was packed with memorable performances and medals.

Five further provincial crowns were added to Keaveney's collection which finished with seven Leinster successes.

All Ireland glory was sampled once more in 1976 and 1977 as Heffernan and Tony Hanahoe inspired a generation with Keaveney a central character throughout the decade.

It turned into a thrilling spell for Dublin, who suddenly were a key part of the Irish sporting landscape.

“They wouldn't have been rated as such, they'd have been a hard team to play, but you wouldn't have feared them,” Mitchell says about Dublin before the arrival of Heffernan as manager.

“They were hard to play, club football was always tough in Dublin. Heffo was unbelievable, what he brought to it.”

In the capital St Vincent's so frequently set the standard. During a glittering stint for Vincent's Keaveney won 10 Dublin Senior Football Championships adding an All Ireland club in 1976 when defeating Roscommon Gaels.

Mitchell always admired Keaveney’s style and skill. “Jimmy was a great character, he was one of the really nice guys on the Dublin team,” Mitchell adds. “They were guys you'd meet afterwards.

“I would never have met Jimmy before 1974, it was all after that. I remember the Rest of Ireland played Dublin in a match at Croke Park in a fun game.

“Dublin got a penalty, I said to Jimmy 'give us a chance, tell me where you are going to put it.' So he goes 'alright Gay, I will tell you, I'll put it to your left side'. He still scored.”

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