Templenoe's high bar: How a small club in Kerry produced six players lining out with three different counties

Donnchadh Boyle

Around Templenoe, they know a thing or two about time. They know that time gives and they know that it takes away.

In time, part of their ground could be swallowed up by the sea as coastal erosion slowly claims more earth.

They know too that once upon a time Templenoe – as home of the Spillane brothers – was a famous club in GAA circles.

They know too what it is to be forgotten. They know that sometimes survival is success in itself.

Around the time of Mick, Pat and Tom Spillane, Templenoe were within touching distance of Division 1 football in Kerry. Heady heights.

But for much of the last 20 years and more, they have had to be content with keeping the show on the road. They also know that this is their time.

Tomorrow night, they’ll send four of their best off with Kerry as they face Cork in Páirc Uí Rinn in a Munster semi-final. And their interest in the championship doesn’t end there.

Pat Spillane Jnr is a St Jude’s clubman now who plays with Sligo, but he’s Templenoe to the core. Teddy Doyle is a former club captain who only recently threw his lot in with David Power’s Tipperary side after a switch to the Ballina club.

In what must be a record, the small Kenmare district club, with north of 100 members and maybe 30 players, will see six of its products tog for three different counties.

As one of just eight senior clubs, they are keeping illustrious company.

The current group, powered by the Kerry quartet of Tadhg Morley, Gavin Crowley and Adrian and Killian Spillane, are officially the club’s golden generation.

Those around the club knew they were coming. Morley, Crowley, Teddy Doyle and the Spillanes were born within a couple of years of each other. Templenoe knew they had to make hay and looked to the South Kerry board for help.

“Back in 1980s when the Spillanes were in their prime we won a Novice and junior county championship. And we played up in Division 2 and had a chance to go Division 1 at one stage,” club chairman Pat O’Neill explains.

“But after that we went down for a while, we were in the novice championship and Division 5 for a long time. We had very good underage teams then but in the Kenmare district we weren’t getting much underage competition, it was only ourselves and Kenmare basically.

“So we applied to join the South Kerry board for underage around 2006 and 2007. We had all these Crowleys and Spillanes and the boys we have now.

“And in fairness to South Kerry, they let us in. They could have easily told us to buzz off, because we did take a hell of a lot of medals out of South Kerry around that time.”

In the meantime, the club had to hold firm until that group came along.

O’Neill explains that depopulation and the resultant loss of schools hit them hard. Sometimes, fielding a team in itself was a victory.

Eventually the worm turned but Templenoe had to start at the bottom, winning the novice shield championship, roughly the equivalent of junior C. They followed that up with a novice championship win, a run all the way to the junior All-Ireland club title in 2016 followed by the Kerry intermediate crown in 2019.

With that win came the rarefied air of senior club status.

“When they came on to adult we literally went up the leagues like a ladder. Division 5 on to four, then into three then two and into Division 1. We flew up the leagues and we won the junior All-Ireland in 2016 and the intermediate in Kerry 2019 and lost the All-Ireland semi-final.

“Winning the intermediate we were promoted to the senior club championship. And that’s what anyone in Templenoe looks at. In senior they’re the eight best teams in Kerry and we are one of them. I don’t think people realise (how big of an achievement it is) really.

“This year we are in a group of four, Austin Stacks, Dr Crokes, Kerins O’Rahillys and Templenoe. And we have a membership of just over 100 people and we have one senior team.”

In the meantime, Morley put Templenoe back on the map in the context of the Kerry team. From 1974, when Pat Spillane first came on the scene, to 1991 when his brother Tom played his final match, the club were a continuous presence in the Kingdom set-up. But thereafter they were unmapped until Morley’s graduation in 2016.

Now they also have an interest in the fortunes of Sligo and Tipperary with Spillane and Doyle. Should Tipp beat Limerick and Kerry take care of Cork, the club would have representatives on both teams in this year’s Munster final.

O’Neill won a county championship with Kenmare district as one third of a half-forward line that also included Mickey Ned O’Sullivan and Pat Spillane.

The following year he badly injured his knee.

“I didn’t go down the Pat Spillane route with it,” he smiles. “And run up and down hills with lead tied to my ankles. What that man did to come back was unbelievable. Spillane was some footballer. And a good clubman too. The young fella (Pat Jnr) is gone and it’s a pity, a pity for the whole club.

“Teddy Doyle was our captain up to last year. He got married, was a guard up there and he was a great servant in fairness to him. It’s understandable.

“You’re a married man, you can’t be coming down to training and games. We lost a few more too.”

Still, they’ve kept thriving with two on the Kerry U-20 set-up this year. There have been enough barren times to know the good times are rolling just now. And this summer it could get even better.

“You never know – we might have Sam Maguire down before the end of the year with the four boys. That would be the icing on the cake.”

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