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29 September 2005 Edition

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PREVIEW: Martin Ferris: Man of Kerry

Martin Ferris TD

Martin Ferris TD

By

MÍCHEÁL Mac DONNCHA

Mad for ball

Preview:

Martin Ferris: Man of Kerry

By JJ Barrett

Published by Brandon/Mount Eagle

On the weekend before the All-Ireland Final I was lucky enough to be invited to speak at two Sinn Féin events in Kerry and sandwiched between them was a day and a half spent exploring the beauty, the welcome and the history of the North of that county. From the streets of Listowel to the Gaeltacht of Corca Dhuibhne, from the Conor Pass to Banna Strand, from an Daingean to Cnoc an Iúir we experienced a breathtaking country and its proud history.

Tomás Aghas, Roger Casement, the men who fell at Gort a' Ghleanna and the tragedies of the Civil War were conjured up. At the same time the county prepared for the Big Day in Croke Park and a sense of confidence and anticipation pervaded. Alas, the day was to be Tyrone's (deservedly) and I must offer sympathy and thanks to my Kerry friends, including our host and driver, John.

All this is by way of a roundabout introduction to an important new volume in the history of Kerry, of Irish republicanism and of Gaelic football. The three are intertwined in the story of Martin Ferris, the Teachta Dála for Kerry North. I know Martin himself will be 'mortified' because he abhors the focus on personality but I also know that this book will be devoured by people inside and outside the Kingdom.

Having had a sneak preview of the book I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. Authored by JJ Barrett and told in his own words by Martin, this is a story of young lad with leadership qualities who excelled on the football field. His total commitment there was matched, when the time came, by a political commitment that led him to take all the risks and endure all the worst hardships of being an active republican in the Ireland of the 1970s.

The book describes, for the first time and in graphic fashion, the harshness of the regime endured by republican prisoners in Portlaoise in that era. It is above all a story of comradeship. It is also a story of political development as Martin, upon release from his second term in prison, took on a key role in the Peace Process. But he was, and is, still fired by an enthusiasm that has not waned since his early days on the football field as he describes himself: "The Master said, 'Fire in Ferris there!'

"I was mad for ball and although I was playing at corner forward, I knew nothing about positional play and was following the ball everywhere it landed, all over the pitch. The Master shouted at me a few times to keep my position. But I kept chasing ball all over the place.

"Eventually the Master, who had found a bit of rope, ran into the pitch and shouted at me: 'I'll tell you now, young Ferris, if you don't stay inside at corner forward, I'll tie that on to one of your legs and I'll drive a stake in the ground and you won't be able to move."

An Phoblacht Magazine

AN PHOBLACHT MAGAZINE:

  • The first edition of this new magazine will feature a 10 page special on the life and legacy of our leader Martin McGuinness to mark the first anniversary of his untimely passing.
  • It will include a personal reminiscence by Gerry Adams and contributions from the McGuinness family.
  • There will also be an exclusive interview with our new Uachtarán Mary Lou McDonald.

Buy An Phoblacht magazine here

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