Sean Kenny

County Senior Hurling Final program, September 30, 1983


Some commentators would centre the golden age of Borrisileigh hurling around 1950. This was the time of the Kennys, Sean, Paddy and Phil, the Ryans, Eddie and Timmy, Jimmy Finn and that grand old man himself, Philly Ryan. The latter has the distinction of winning two All-Ireland medals with a gap of fourteen years between them, 1937 and 1951. Borrisileigh made a major contribution to the three All-Irelands in a row that Tipperary won in 1949, 1950 and 1951. In the first year Sean Kenny was the sole representative on the team, with Paddy a substitute. The following year the club had four representatives in Sean and Paddy Kenny, Jimmy Finn and Eddie Ryan. Sean was also captain. In 1951 Jimmy Finn was captain as Sean was unable to play because of cartlidge trouble. He came in as a substitute during the game. Also on the team was his brother Paddy, and Eddie and Timmy Ryan. 

Sean Kenny had the unique distinction of winning a Dean Ryan and Harty Cup medal in the same year. That was in 1941 and the team was Thurles CBS. Nearly forty years later two more Borrisileigh youths, Michael and Bobby Ryan, won Harty Cup medals with Templemore C.B.S. Sean was captain of the Tipperary minor team that went out to Cork in the Munster final, played in October of that year because of the foot-and-mouth epidemic. As well as winning two All-Ireland medals Sean won two interprovincials. In 1949 he partnered Vin Baston at centrefield and he captained the team the following year. He also won one Oireachtas and three National League medals. 

He was captain of the Tipperary team that went to the States in 1950. At the same time the team arrived in New York there also arrived another Sean Kenny, who was very much in the news at that time: he had successfully completed the crossing of the Atlantic with three comrades in a small boat called the Ituna. The two Seans stayed at the Henry Hudson 'Hotel in New York and they normally sat at the same table for meals. A hurling captain was regarded with much more importance in the U.S. than in Ireland with the result that Sean of Borrisileigh was in nearly as great demand as Sean of the Ituna. When they were paged during meals they had to decide which of the Sean Kennys was sought and they invariably made the wrong decision. 

The team got a marvellous offer from Schaefer's Beer while they were in the city. The company wanted to promote their beer and were interested in using the Tipperary team in an advertisement. The proposal was that the full Tipperary team would stand holding bottles of Schaefer's Beer and over the photograph would be the slogan: 'This is how the Tipperary team train'. In return for obliging the company, each player would receive one hundred dollars. Naturally, the team were mad for the idea as it was a fine lot of money at the time. Team mentors Phil Purcell and Paddy Leahy said it couldn't be done without consulting the county board They said they would have to ring and whether they did or didn't the idea was knocked on the head and the players went without the hundred dollars each. Whereas the team travelled to the U.S. by plane they returned by boat, the S.S. Washington. This was her last trip, not, by the way, because of any kind of untoward behaviour on the part of any of the players. 

Borrisileigh won three county finals in these years,1949, 1950 and 1953. One of the greatest championship matches ever played in County Tipperary was that between Borrisileigh and Boherlahan in 1949. Borrisileigh beat the county champions, Holycross, in the first round, thus reversing the result of 1948 when the two teams had also met. In the match against Boherlahan the latter were leading by 2-1 to 0-1 with about ten minutes to go to half-time. Borrisileigh got a free from about thirty yards out and Sean and Paddy went to take it. They pretended to be fighting and after sufficient altercation Paddy strode away in seeming high dudgeon. Sean also seemed angry when he took the free and belted it against the ground as if in disgust. Paddy was about fourteen yards away and ran in, collected the ball on the hop, and lashed it into the net. The goal made an awful difference at that point of the game and Borrisileigh went on to win. 

Because of his knee injury Sean finished hurling at the early age of twenty seven. His usual position was centrefield or centreforward. He wasn't a big man, measuring about five feet nine inches and weighing about twelve and a half stone. The greatest men he came across on the hurling field were Jimmy Finn and Bobby Rackard. 

He married in 1951 and they had four children, three boys and a girl. Two of the boys played with Borrisileigh and Brendan played minor, under-21 and senior for the county as well. His wife died in 1959 from heart disease and Sean married Dr. Joan Power in 1972. He was a selector for a number of years of the Borrisileigh team and was selector-manager of the club team that won the All-Ireland 7 - aside on two occasions. A few years ago he took up golf and at the present time he has the honourable title of Lord Mayor of Borrisileigh.