Humphrey Kelleher the Footballer

Humphrey Kelleher was undoubtedly one of the most under-rated full backs to play for Cork. He did not play inter-county minor or under-21, but once he broke into the Cork senior football team, he made the full back position his own. Although Humphrey was renowned for his great strength and fearless tackling he was also an excellent footballer. He was the perfect foil for any slick moving attack and he only had to look west from his home in Millstreet and the whole of Kerry shook with fright Diarmuid O’Donovan

INTER-COUNTY: By the late 1960’s Kelleher had joined the Cork senior team, however, the team was forced to play second fiddle to Kerry. In 1971 Cork were back. A 0–25 to 0–14 trouncing of back-to-back All-Ireland champions Kerry gave Kelleher a coveted Munster winners’ medal. Cork, however, were later defeated by eventual champions Offaly in the All-Ireland semi-final.

Two years later Kelleher secured his second Munster winners’ medal. The 5–12 to 1–15 defeat of arch-rivals Kerry showed the traditional football powers that Cork were coming. The subsequent All-Ireland final pitted Cork against Galway. Teenager Jimmy Barry-Murphy scored the first of his two goals after just two minutes before scored a third for Cork after switching to left wing-forward. At full-time Cork were the champions by 3–17 to 2–13. This victory gave Kelleher a coveted All-Ireland winners’ medal. 

Cork continued their provincial dominance in 1974. A 1–11 to 0–7 defeat of Kerry gave Kelleher a third Munster winners’ medal. This victory resulted in Cork being installed as the favourites to retain their All-Ireland title. An air of overconfidence crept into the side as Kelleher’s side were defeated by eventual champions Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final.

INTER-PROVINCIAL: Kelleher also lined out with Munster in the inter-provincial football competition. He first played with his province in 1974, however, success was slow in coming. In 1975 Kelleher was a key member of the team again and he captured a coveted Railway Cup winners’ medal following a high-scoring victory over Ulster. Kelleher was a non-playing substitute when Munster retained the title in 1976.

HURLING: Not limited to the big ball, Humphrey was on the Millstreet team that won the 1962/63 Duhallow Junior Hurling Championship [ref]

CLUB: Humphrey continued to play with Millstreet until 1980.

DEATH: Humphrey Kelleher died on September 21, 2005, after a short illness.

MEMORIAL CUP: The Humphrey Kelleher Cup was launched in 2007 in memory of the former inter-county star. Two teams from Cork in addition to teams from Kerry North, Kerry South, Limerick, Waterford, Clare, and Limerick take part in the Competition with games being held in Knocknagree, Cullen, Dromtarriffe, with the finals held in Millstreet. It is hosted by Duhallow GAA, and is played at the start of July each year.

1973 All Ireland Final – Humphrey launches himself to block the ball


Cork footballer Kelleher dies (Irish Times – Fri, Sep 23, 2005)

Cork football is mourning the loss of former great full back Humphrey Kelleher who has died, aged 59 (1946–2005), after a short illness.
Kelleher won an All-Ireland senior medal in 1973 when Cork defeated Galway in the final, and he also won Munster medals in 1971 and again in ’74.
He was one of four Millstreet players on a Cork team captained by Billy Morgan in ’73. The others were John Coleman, Connie Hartnett and Dinny Long.
Cork manager Morgan paid tribute when he said: “I am shocked and saddened at the news. We go back a long time and had a special relationship.
“Humphrey, being the full back, always looked out for me in goal and he was as good a defender as I ever played with.
“He was a giant on the ’73 team and all of us who played that year have happy memories. Humphrey was a great full back, but very underrated.”
Kelleher, who worked for John A Wood Ltd, is survived by his wife May and daughters Elaine, Caroline and Monica.


A humerous story: “One time when we beat Kerry down in Killarney the Kerry fans were trying to get into the Cork dressing room to attack the Cork players. Humphrey was in the dressing room with his shirt off. Come on in lad’s yells out Humphrey. The Kerry fans opened the door to be met with the sight of a bare chested Humphrey Kelleher yelling bring it on lad’s! The Kerry supporters fled for their lives!”from the Peoples Republic

All Ireland Football Final 1973 (Humphrey is in the front, on the right)
1975 Munster Railway Cup winning team. Humphrey is again at the front right of the photo ! Millstreet man Dinny Long is in the back row on the right also (click the photo for a larger photo)


A close-up of the Humphrey Kelleher Memorial Cup


Before the 1993 All-Ireland Football Final, he was interviewed in for the Evening Herald newspaper:

Address: Ballyclough, Co. Cork
Job: Fitter mechanic with John A Wood Ltd, Mallow.
Family: Wife Mary; daughters Elaine, Caroline and Monica
Age: 47.
Club: Millstreet
Inter-county career: Cork Junior 1968-69, senior 1970-76
Honours: One All-Ireland SFC medal (’73 v Galway), three Munster SFC medals, one Munster JFC medal, two Railway Cup medals with Munster, one Cork SFL medal with Millstreet.
Highlights: The 1973 final. “It’s every boyhood dream to win an All-Ireland. You had great players on that Cork team – we should have achieved a lot more.”
Favourite past player: Dual star Ray Cummins (Cork). “He had a great brain. He never did the same thing twice.”
Favourite Current Player: Teddy McCarthy (Cork). “A colossal loss. On his day he can win a game single-handed.”
Most admired Managers: Donie O’Donovan (Cork boss in ’73) and current supremo Billy Morgan.
How the game has changed: “The game itself is OK, but there’s too much pulling and dragging. THe umpires and linesmen should do a lot more to help the referee.”
Favourite other sports: Hurling and soccer.
Prediction for Sunday: ” I think it will be close, but Cork have players with more all-round ability and Colin Corkery could be the turning point.”
[Evening Herald (Dublin) – Friday 13 August 1993]

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