The word legend can be bandied about all too often in sporting circles but in the case of the late Tom Long, whose funeral will take place this Wednesday and Thursday, it is a description that is more than merited and very richly deserved.
The Kerry great, who won two All-Ireland medals with his county, in 1959 and 1962, was one of the best and most influential players of his generation and whenever the topic of the finest players that graced the game comes up for discussion, the Kilcoman, Ventry native’s name is always part of the conversation.
He was part of great Kerry teams, lining outside alongside the likes of Mick O’Connell, Jerome O’Shea, Marcus O’Neill, John Dowling, Mick O’Dwyer, Tiger Lyons, Tadghie Lyne, Paudie Sheehy, Colm Kennelly, Ned Roche and Dan McAuliffe and, for all their own strengths and qualities, they all knew just how good their team-mate was.
He wore the green and gold with distinction and he played 26 championship games for his county, over an eight-year period, from 1954.
Tom, who passed away in University Hospital Kerry on Saturday, at the age of 86, was a proud Ceann Trá man but he lived for most of his life in Killarney, based in Ballydowney, and he made the town his home where he was a teacher and principal in the two schools in Fossa over several years.
Educated in Ventry and Coláiste Iosagáin in Ballyvourney, during his time in Dublin, where he completed his teacher training, Tom was a member of the great St Patrick’s Training College, Drumcondra (Erin’s Hope) team that caused a major sensation when they denied eight-in-a-row-chasing St Vincent’s in the 1956 Dublin senior football championship final.
On his arrival to Killarney, he joined the Dr Crokes club, with whom he won four East Kerry SFC medals, before winning two county championship titles with East Kerry but, on establishing the need to create a more active and involved community in Fossa, where he was then based, he became a founder member and the first chairman of the club.
He served as an administrator and coach for many years and he was proud that his sons lined out in the red and black during their own playing days, with Cian playing at minor and under 21 level for Kerry.
At the time if his passing last weekend, Tom was vice president of Fossa and it was wonderful that he lived long enough to see the club he founded being crowned All-Ireland champions this year.
A great friend, ally and first cousin of the late Páidi Ó Sé, Tom was part of the astute An Ghaeltacht management team that reached the All-Ireland senior club final in 2004. Loyal, solid and supportive, he sat right alongside Paidi at a press conference in Killarney when he was announcing that he was stepping away from the Kerry job.
In his professional career, Tom spent two years on the teaching staff in Fossa National School in 1961 and 1962 before becoming principal at the nearby Two Mile School for a decade but he returned to Fossa as principal in 1972 until his retirement in 1999.
In latter years he enjoyed regular strolls in Killarney National Park ,opposite his home, and catching up with friends in hostelries like Jimmy Brien’s in Killarney to reminisce about the good old days are share valuable views on current affairs.
Tom Long will repose at O’Shea’s Funeral Home this Wednesday from 4.00pm to 7.00pm, with Requiem Mass on Thursday at 11.00am in the Prince of Peace Church, Fossa. He will be laid to rest afterwards in Aghadoe Cemetery.
Tom is survived by his wife, Bríd – also a highly respected teacher – their children, Rónán, Colm, Cian, Neasa, Caitríona, Cormac and Eoin; sons-in-law Paul and Gerry, daughters-in-law Finola and Sinéad, grandchildren Diarmaid, Dara, Lorcan, Éamon, Marc, Katie, Ella, Michael, Matthew, Conal, Aoibhe, Sarah, Caoimhe, Cillian and Ailbhe, sister, Maureen (McKenna), brother Joe. extended family and many friends.