Death of Joe "Buttons" Marrinan

November 7, 2018

The death took place recently of Joe “Buttons” Marrinan.
Kilkee has always produced outstanding Senior footballers. Whether they be tough tackling
backs, athletic and high fielding midfielders or pacy and skilful forwards the
club has seen them all. Kilkee has also produced some serious underage talent. Some
players have progressed as a result of good coaching and town leagues while others
seem to have a natural talent for playing Gaelic football.
Joe “Buttons” Marrinan was one such player. He was a pacy forward with a keen eye for goal who played for Kilkee in the 1941 Minor and Senior football Championship finals on the same day. He was also corner forward on the Kilkee 1942 team that won the Senior Football Championship.
He played for Kilkee and St. Kee’s during the course of his career while also starring for the
Clare Minor Footballers for two years.
Born in 1923 in Erin Street, Kilkee his family soon moved to a newly acquired house in
Albert Road (O’Curry Street). His father Mick Marrinan ran a local garage and was
involved in the club both as a player and an official.
He appears to have received the nickname “Buttons” due to an unfortunate choice of
suit that he wore on his first communion that had a large amount of “buttons” on it.
From then on he became known far and wide as Joe “Buttons” Marrinan. Along with all
the other Kilkee youngsters there was little to do in the town except play football. They
practiced their art down on the beach regularly but there was no formal training or
coaching. He remembers the “up-towns” playing the “down-town” lads in very intense
matches. He was one of the fortunate ones as he owned a pair of boots which he bought
from Elvery’s in Dublin for 5d 6p, some players could only afford to wear one boot and
some none at all. In 1938 Kilkee won the Clare Juvenile A title defeating Miltown and Kilrush on the way with Joe captaining the side.
When the club had a temporary or “stupid split” as Joe called it he played with the St.
Kee’s selection. Joe was sixteen when St. Kee’s won the Minor B title in 1939 by
claiming victory over Doonbeg. St. Kee’s also reached the minor A final in 1949 but
they were well beaten by Kilrush. The temporary rift that had appeared in 1939 had been
healed in 1941 and a new Minor and Senior team known as Kilkee United both got
through to their respective finals. The only problem was that they were on the same day.
Both finals were held in Miltown at the end of August 1941. In the Minor A final Kilkee
were up against Ennistymon. Despite scoring a goal from a penalty Joe ended up on the
losing side 1-4 to 1-3. However, it was later alleged that Ennistymon had played two
illegal players and Kilkee objected to the result. A replay was ordered and Kilkee went
on to win their first Minor A title 2-1 to 0-0 a few weeks later. Joe was also corner
forward on the Kilkee team that played Kilfenora in the Senior Final in Miltown. He had
already given a marvellous contribution scoring 3-2 against Kilrush in the county semi-final.
He also caused problems for Kilfenora in the final, getting pulled down for a
penalty. However, Kilkee missed the penalty and lost the game 0-3 to 0-2 to a gallant
Kilfenora team. Despite losing the two finals on the same day Joe is still very proud of
his unique distinction of having played both games.
Kilkee reached the county Senior Football final again in 1942 determined to make
amends for the previous years defeat. Joe was corner forward on the team and he scored
the winning goal against Ennistymon that gave Kilkee victory on a score of 1-4 to 1-3.
However, the game ended on a sour note for him as he was sent off for striking near the
end of the game. He had been awarded a free when his opponent hit him in the face. Joe
retaliated and the referee, Frank Burns, was forced to send both players off.
In 1943 Kilkee were back in the County Senior Final against Ennistymon again.
However, like many others of his generation Joe decided to immigrate to England earlier
that same year in search of employment. He settled in Birmingham where he worked for
Dunlop tyres. He had previously been selected on the Clare Minor panel for three years
running (1939-41) so it came as no surprise that he ended up playing with Warwickshire. Joe still has vivid memories of the Kilkee teams playing the Christian Brothers who
would come to the town during the summers and who stayed in “The Erin Arms” in Erin
Street. The Brothers would often play the locals in hurling and football “friendly”
games. According to Joe there was nothing friendly about these matches as the Christian
Brothers would “cut the head off you” if it meant victory for their side. He had fond
memories of his time playing with the Blues and he loved walking on the beach in
Kilkee recalling some of his earliest youthful exploits. During his playing days he
greatly admired players such as Frank and Harry Keane, Mickey Marrinan, Tommy
Greene (Blackweir), the Lucey Brothers and Tommy Brann. Although gone from Kilkee
a long time his heart never really left the town. He was still as proud of Kilkee in recent times as he
was when he won his first medal for the local football club in 1938.