The late Ben O'Sullivan
It’s difficult to say the first time I actually met Ben O’Sullivan, but I can certainly remember where it was. On the green area (bottom square) in Our Lady’s Place, in Naas, Beno and his family having moved from Sallins, to live there.
Many is the afternoon and evening we kicked ball or hurled as Beno showed us younger lads how it was done.
A big gentle giant, Beno was loved by all the lads; he had a way with younger players; I can’t say I ever saw him getting annoyed; upsetting or falling out with anyone, young or not so young, as we watched him progress to minor, both at club and county, football and hurling as he moved up to the senior ranks.
I later learned Beno had contacted TB as a boy and spent many a day in hospital, but if nothing else he showed at a very young age he was a fighter, with his parents having been told before a major operation he probably wouldn’t make it; but against all the odds he survived; went on to play football and hurling, not alone with his Naas club, but he proudly wore the white of Kildare, and a both codes at that.
For three consecutive years ‘56 to ‘58, Beno played minor football and hurling with the county and the story goes he got a mention from legendary commentator, Micheál O’Hehir when commentating on the League final in 1958. Referring to a minor game that had preceded that final, he said he “had just witnessed the best display from a number 3 at Minor level in Croke Park” — that of course being Ben O’Sullivan.
He lined out for the Naas seniors at a very young age and, according to the grapevine, held the great Davy Dalton (Kilcock and Kildare) scoreless in a championship game, the legendary Davy got just two kicks that day, we are told, one Beno blocked down, the other went wide.
Beno had three sisters, Birdie, Lo and Stan. Birdie, we understand, was the one who taught him how to drive, and she must have taught him well, as Beno went on to spend most of working life driving vans, lorries and trucks.
Beno’s brother Bertie was a well-known face in Naas GAA circles, going on to become President of the Club. Another brother Willie was especially close to Beno, the two of them seemed more like team mates rather than brothers.
Beno was a huge Kerry fan, his two heroes being none other than the great Mick O’Dwyer and midfield maestro Mick O’Connell. In later life he had the pleasure of meeting both, something he regularly recalled with much pleasure.
A big fan of the famous ‘Dubliners’, Beno was a fair singer himself and when the opportunity arose was more than capable of belting out ‘McAlpines’ or indeed ‘Raglan Road’ as his mates in those years would testify to. Mates such as Ber Smyth, Bowler Kennedy, Johnny Creighton and Ber Wheeler, not forgetting Bill Glennon and Joe Cronin, they would regularly head to Ballybunion or indeed the Isle of Man where they would enjoy the music halls and the craic.
Beno married Betty Connolly, a Dubliner, and they had three children, Rory, Sharon and Brendan.
The family was hit with a massive blow when the man above called Betty ‘home’ in 1985, leaving Beno to rear his three young school-going children.
Not for the first time, Beno rose to the challenge, giving up his work to become a full time dad; something very rare back in those times but he did so without hesitation and very successfully at that.
Ben O’Sullivan was born on March 12, 1940 and after a long illness, was finally called ashore on March 16, 2018.
It’a long time now from the days of kicking a ball and pucking a sliother on the Square in Our Lady’s Place in Naas, but for those of us privileged enough to have experienced those times, privileged to have ‘played’ alongside Ben O’Sullivan, the honour was always ours.