Women's Museum of Ireland

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  • 14 January '15

    Kathleen Mills - the 'Inchicore Invincible'

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    There was much disappointment this week when Stephanie Roche from Shankill in Dublin, was overlooked for FIFA Puskas Goal of the Year. Peamount United Roche’s nominated goal during a WNL game against Wexford Youth took place in Ferrycarrig Park in front of 95 people but has since sparked six million views on YouTube and a concerted social media campaign to net her enough votes to win the coveted prize.

    Many Irish women have proved themselves to be highly skilled, if underappreciated, sportspeople: perhaps none more so than Kathleen Mills of Inchicore in Dublin. Her record of 15 All-Ireland Senior Medals over a camogie career spanning 20 years has never been equalled by any other player, male or female, in camogie, hurling or football and is enshrined in Irish sporting folklore.

    Kay Mills, also known as the ‘Inchicore Invincible’, was born on 8 October 1923 at 31 South Terrace, Inchicore, Dublin and her Cork father worked for the Great Southern Railways in the Inchicore Works. For two pence per week Kay could participate in the GSR Athletics Union and became an avid player of table-tennis, soccer and gymnastics. However, camogie was her first love and she made her debut with the Great Southern Railways camogie team in 1938. Her talent was immediately apparent and she was promoted to the senior team after her second match with the team. By 1941 she was playing for the Dublin county team and won her first All-Ireland medal against Cork in 1942. In 1943, she claimed another medal, scoring a goal from 50 yards.

    Controversy accompanied the 1947 final when Dublin were kept out of the All-Ireland championships due to a dispute between Dublin County Board and the Central Council of the Camogie Association. The dispute resulted in only Mills’ CIE (as the GSR was now called) team being eligible to play for Dublin. Although Antrim won that game, the Irish Independent wrote that ‘Miss K Mills was to the fore consistently and she was Dublin’s best player’. Kay married George Hill in 1947 but in all match reports she retains the title ‘Miss Mills’.

    Dublin were back on form in 1948 and Kay won her fourth medal. Between 1950 and 1955, Kay won six All-Ireland titles in a row but in 1956 Dublin lost out to Antrim in the semi-finals - the team’s only championship defeat in a 8 year spell. Undaunted, Dublin won again in 1957 and in 1958 Mills was appointed captain. The team won three more All-Ireland medals in 1959, 1960 and 1961. Kay retired in 1961 at the age of 38 retaining the All-Ireland camogie title against Tipperary in a match described by the Irish Times as ‘a hard fought game that provided Kathleen Mills with her fifteenth All-Ireland medal on her farewell appearance - an unequalled achievement’. In all she collected 20 Leinster Championship, six Dublin Senior Championship and five Inter-Provincial medals with Leinster, as well as her fifteen All-Ireland medals for Dublin.

    After her retirement, Mills remained active in camogie circles and ran a leather goods and vintner’s business with George. She remains the most decorated player in the history of Gaelic games and The Kay Mills Cup, named in her honour, is presented for the All-Ireland Premier Junior Championship. In 2014 Mills was short-listed to have Dublin’s newest bridge named after her but in a rare moment of defeat lost out to Rosie Hackett by sixteen votes. She died on August 11, 1996 and in 2011 a memorial plaque was unveiled on her previous home on Abercorn Terrace in Inchicore. It reads

    ‘Lithe and graceful, a superb midfield player with neat wrist work; quick to lift and strike at full speed she could score from any angle.’