Larry Stanley (19 May 1896 – 21 September 1987)
Regarded as one of the greatest players of his generation, Stanley made his first appearance on the inter-county scene during the 1916 championship and was a regular member of the starting fifteen for Kildare. He retired after the 1930 championship. During that time he won two All-Ireland medals and three Leinster medals.
He captained Kildare (represented by Caragh) to win the 1919 All-Ireland against Galway. Stanley was known as a centre-half forward and was again in Croke Park for the All-Ireland of 1926 when Kildare lost to Kerry in a replay. He just missed the team’s All-Ireland wins in the two following years, his career having then come to an end, along indeed with Kildare’s All-Ireland winning career.
At club level Stanley enjoyed a hugely successful career with Caragh, winning two county club championship. He also played with the Garda club in Dublin. Two of Kildare’s winning All Ireland captains came from the Caragh club, Larry Stanley (1919) and Mick Buckley (1927).
He was also a famous high jumper and competed against the Olympic gold medal winner, Harold Osborne in the Tailteann Games in Dublin in 1924, just weeks after the Olympics.
This is the Kildare (Caragh) team that won the 1919 GAA Football All-Ireland title. Kildare beat Galway (Selection) on the score of 2-5 to 0-1 in the final, played at Croke Park on September 28, 1919. The team that played in the final consisted of:
Back row: Bill White, Michael Buckley, Joe Connor, James Conlan, Tom Goulding, Tom Lawlor, Larry Hussey Cribben, Bernie McGlade, Rev. Jim Stanley, Pat O’Grady, D. McDonagh, Peter Carey.
Front row: Joe McDonald, Peter Garret, Jim Ginger Moran, John Carey, Paul Doyle, Albert O’Neill, Larry Stanley (capt.), James O’Connor, George Magan, Chris Kit Flynn, Frank Joyce Conlan, Tommy Kelly.
In 1924 he was on the Irish team which first took part in the Olympic Games. Larry has the distinction of being the first man to walk on to an Olympic track in the colours of his county when he represented Ireland in the high jump at the Colombes Stadium in Paris in 1924. That year was crowded with successes for the Kildare footballer turned jumper. Having in May won the high jump at the opening ceremony at the famed Wembley Stadium, London, he returned to that city and at Stamford Bridge on June 21 annexed the coveted A.A.A. high jump championship, having in the interim won the Irish title with a facile 6ft.2in effort. Then followed the Tailteann Games, where his greatest height was achieved. This was 6ft. 3⅛in to be beaten by Osbourne by a single inch.
Just to add a touch of variety to his sporting activities he accepted an invitation from O’Toole’s Dublin football champions, to assist their selection against Kerry in the final of the 1923 All-Ireland championship, in which the Metropolitans were successful and gaining himself another All-Ireland medal. Thus he crowned an unique year’s sporting performances, gathering such distinctions as the A.A.A. and Irish titles in the high jump and an All-Ireland football medal – surely an unusual “triple crown.” He was also an outstanding long jumper.
In retirement from sport Stanley came to be recognised as one of the greats of Gaelic football. In 1980 he was the inaugural recipient of the All-Time All Star Award. He was posthumously included on a special selection of the greatest Garda football team ever.
While as an athlete he ranked with the best in Europe, followers of Gaelic games who saw him in action freely admitted that he was one of the best footballers that ever graced the game.
Here is a short film of Larry Stanley competing in the high jump the Tailteann Games in Dublin in 1924. He is number 153.
Added to his athletic prowess was a technique and skill that made the most difficult features appear most simple of execution. His fielding of high balls must have been seen to be believed, and the manner in which he could extricate himself from the most difficult situations and swing over points from any angle of the field was the marvel of his time. His speciality was the deep angled frees which presented no more difficulty to him than one placed on the 21 yards in front of goal.
In later years he was the inspiration to the young Gardai who essayed the formation of the present Garda team, and his advice was eagerly sought and readily given. He always held a very warm spot for the young men entering the Force who had a leaning towards athletics and games, and no better example should be held up to them than the achievements of the Kildare-Dublin footballer and athlete.
Kerry poet Sigerson Clifford wrote in “The Ghost Train”, which took Kerry supporters to the 1926 drawn All Ireland final with Kildare:
"Then the soft grass and the sunshine and the marching of the bands
With the green and gold flag fluttering over all,
There’s Con Brosnan running swiftly and our Sheehy shooting low
And Larry Stanley jumping sky-high for the ball."