Witty Kenny a hit on streets of Tralee

YOU are not in Kerry long before being reminded of football, as Enda Kenny, who is himself steeped in the GAA, quickly learnt yesterday.

He had only moved a few paces on a walkabout in Tralee with local Fine Gael TD Jimmy Deenihan when he bumped into an elderly American couple who moved to shake his hand.

“Welcome to the land of poets and playwrights,” beamed the Fine Gael boss.

“And football,” interjected Mr Deenihan, an All-Ireland winning captain with gabháils of medals.

Also in the entourage was Leo Griffin, Kerry team attendant from the glory era of the ’70s and ’80s and a strong Deenihan supporter. “You broke thousands of hearts,” was the salutation from Mr Kenny.

“And Mayo ones, too,” someone chimed in.

Then it was into a barber’s shop from which Mr Kenny emerged a few seconds later with Paddy Prendergast, one of the living legends of Mayo football, in a bear hug. He was a member of the Mayo side that won All-Irelands in 1950 and 1951 and has lived in Tralee for many years. Mr Kenny described him as the “greatest living full-back of all time”.

And, as if to prove there is really no escape from football in Kerry, the next stop was John Dowling’s shoe shop. Mr Dowling was a famous Kerry footballer and his daughter, Mary, is married to Mr Deenihan. While in the shop, Mr Kenny decided to make a purchase. “Filling Bertie’s shoes, Enda!” a voice from the crowd suggested.

“It’s runners Bertie would want and he’d have to run very hard to keep up with me,” he retorted.

A pair of black leather shoes were just the right fit and he bought them. Up again through the Mall and into Castle Street strode the FG leader and his followers. He gladly posed for photographs, spoke to everyone and looked comfortable pressing Kerry flesh.

Then it was back to the Grand Hotel to give a final pep talk for supporters. Among those to clasp Mr Kenny’s hand was former Tralee FG councillor, John Blennerhassett, who spent a fortnight working the Mayo by-election, in 1975, when the would-be-Taoiseach was first elected. Following warm handshakes, the two men exchanged pleasantries, with Mr Kenny dubbing Mr Blennerhassett the “most famous” man around.

“You haven’t changed much, but you were a shy young fella then,” the veteran Fine Gaeler said.

But, there was nothing shy about Mr Kenny as he matched quick-witted Kerry folk, quip for quip.

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