« Co. Kildare Online Electronic History Journal Home »


Leinster Leader, May 19th 1956
Passing Of Great Footballer
The Late Mr. Joseph Rafferty, Naas
The tragic death last week of Joe Rafferty (76) one of Kildare’s greatest football heroes, came as a great shock to Gaels not only in County Kildare but all over the whole country. Strangely enough Joe was not born in Kildare, but in Lambay Island off the coast of Dublin, where his father was employed at the time, before coming to a job in Osberstown, Naas.
    Joe, it is stated, was not christened for six weeks due to the difficulty of reaching the mainland owing to storms.
   From his earliest years Joe Rafferty took a keen interest in athletics, and he was only fourteen years when he took up Gaelic football. The first team he played with was Sallins, known as “John Manderville’s” at that time, but it wasn’t very long until Clane then ruling the roost in Kildare football heard about his abilities and had him enrolled. They did not regret their decision as Joe won three county championships with Clane; incidentally it was Joe’s habit to walk from Osberstown to Clane weekly either for a match or practice.
     Speaking to a well-known Gael and sportsman, Mr. Jack Lawler, Obserstown, Naas, who knew the late Mr. Rafferty very well and recalled playing football against him, he mentioned some prominent teams that Joe played against including Mountrice then known as “The Blunts,” “Crom Abus” from Maynooth, and the “Sons of Rest.”
   Before going to Kilcock he played for a time with “The Rags” a Kilcullen team. He have trojan service to Kilcock where that evergreen Gael Tommy Kelly too him under his wing and he was with Kilcock for years and won a championship with them.
   He never played football with Naas and his last game was about 1921 when Naas just promoted from junior ranks defeated his adopted team.
   Of course Joe’s fame as a footballer went far beyond the confines of Kildare, and even the youngest boy in the county speaks with both awe and respect of that grand old warrior of the playing fields of half a century ago. He led Kildare (Clane) to their first Leinster title in 1903, and it was he who captained the All-Whites in their three memorable clashes with Kerry (Mitchel’s) in the All-Ireland Final of that year before the Kingdom won their first game.
   Two years later Joe achieved the great prize for which all footballers yearn-an All-Ireland medal-when Kildare (Roseberry) overcame the same Kerry Mitchel’s in the All-Ireland Final. Joe’s contemporaries at that time included Bill Bracken, “Joyce” Conlon, “Steel” Losty, Jim Wright, Willie Merriman, “Hussey” Cribben and Eddie Kennedy.
    Apart from the memorable games with Kerry, Joe had fond recollections of the great games with Louth in the Leinster Championship which he was of the opinion made Kildare the peers of the football world at that time. Substitutes were then unknown and the All-Whites played the same seventeen players in their three matches against Kerry and Louth.
     The late Joe Rafferty usually played at midfield, but if required could play in any position with distinction and could use both feet with equal accuracy. He had a powerful kick, a Gael who watched him in many matches told a Leinster Leader Representative, and he knew where he was placing the ball. He had a great admiration for the Kerry men and the Jubilee dinner which the “Kingdom” celebrated after their 1953 All-Ireland triumph he was the honoured guest and those veteran Kerry footballers of other days vied with one another in making him feel at home. “Kerry,” he used to say, “were the most honourable lads I ever met. They would give and take and they never whimpered. I never saw one of them say a word to a referee.”
     Of latter years Joe who was in the best of health lived quietly near Naas, honoured and respected by all. An amiable good-natured man he had a kind greeting for everyone, and his popularity was lasting.
   His wife died about twelve years ago he is survived by two sons and three daughters. His tragic passing will be sincerely mourned.
    There was a very large attendance at the removal of the remains to the Church of Our Lady and St. David on Friday evening and to Dean’s Grange Cemetery on Saturday last. Included amongst the Gaels in attendance were Larry Stanley, Mick Buckley, Tom Keogh, “Gus” Fitzpatrick, Jack and Tom Lawler, Tim Clarke, Secretary of the Kildare County Board of the G.A.A. Eddie Marum, T. Kelly.
      The chief mourners were Joseph and John Rafferty (sons); Mrs. Mary Kealy, Mrs. Rose O’Sullivan and Mrs. Nancy McDonald (daughter) and other relatives.
     At the meeting of the Naas Urban Council on Tuesday night sincere sympathy was voted to the family and relatives of the late Mr. Rafferty, and many tributes were paid to his sterling qualities as a Gael and patriotic Irishman.


The Leinster Leader of May 19 1956 reports on the tragic death of one of Kildare's greatest football hero's (thought to be the result of a bicycle accident on Main Street Naas)  Our thanks to Roy O'Brien

Powered by
Movable Type 3.2