Mike Creates A ‘Wall Of Fame’ With Painting Of GAA Legend At CBS The Green

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John O’Keeffe with artist Mike O’Donnell at the painting of the Kerry great in CBS The Green sports hall. Photo by Dermot Crean

JOHN O’Keeffe has already been immortalised with his achievements on the field and his induction into the GAA Hall of Fame a few years ago, but now he holds a special place on a ‘wall of fame’ in the school where he taught for nearly three decades.

Local artist Mike O’Donnell has painted the Kerry GAA great on the wall of the CBS The Green Sports Gym, where ‘Johnno’ put thousands of students through their paces as Physical Education teacher from 1983 until his retirement in 2010.

It was Mike’s first painting in the school, but more are on the way in the coming weeks. Teacher Karen Tobin, who is co-ordinating a Wellbeing programme at the school asked him to come in to do work which would inspire and provide a lift for students.

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“It’s bringing art to life inside in the school. He’s going to look at various different pieces around the school, but no better place to start than with John O’Keeffe,” explained Karen, who said a new generation of students are now learning about his achievements.

Mike used Ray McManus’ photo of the Kerry legend in action from the Munster Final of 1982 as the template for his work.

“I’m absolutely thrilled with it, I think Mike did a great job. He’s a seriously talented artist, I’ve seen his work around town,” said Johnno, the holder of seven All-Ireland Senior Football Championship medals and five GAA All Stars Awards to name just a few of his honours.

The painting of the Kerry GAA great John O’Keeffe in CBS The Green sports hall.

“I’m delighted it’s in the gym here where I spent 27 years, from the first day it was built. I like the pose. It’s a typical defensive stance with a lot of anxiety in the face. There must have been two fellas coming at me and I’m the last line of defence!” said the Austin Stacks club great.

Former CBS student, Mike O’Donnell is a fellow Rockie and said his first painting in his old alma mater was an obvious choice.

“When I was in school here, he was the man. He encouraged us, he was very approachable and a great role model. He was one of the greats for us growing up and is among the pantheon of legends like Mikey Sheehy and Ger Power. We adored him. When I told friends, who were past pupils here, that I was about to do work in the school, they immediately said ‘you have to do Johnno’,” explained Mike.

“I chose that image because it’s the classic athletic pose — there’s anticipation and energy  — and it’s a pose used in all kinds of sports, from golf to weightlifting, tennis to basketball, any of the field sports. It just fits,” added Mike.

“If he was standing straight on the wall there he would be 8 ft 6 inches,” said Mike. A colossus on the field, a giant off it and now a titan on the walls of CBS.

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