|Denis Kelleher in 1937|
|Lester Finch the West Bank behind in 1941|
With Lester in the team the club won back to back Athenian League titles in 1931 and 1932 and again in 1947 and 1948 plus the FA Amateur Cup in 1946. Quoted a few years before his death in 1995 he said “It would be difficult to find anything more rewarding that winning that Cup final with me as Captain and team Secretary”. Lester went on to manage the club between 1946 and 1953 and continued to serve on the Committee until his retirement from football in 1957. An Ambassador for the club is an understatement and anyone, be it player, supporter or acquaintance, will all tell you that he was the complete gentleman. He very rarely missed a Barnet home game as a spectator either and could be found in the main stand always ready to discuss the events of the day or to recollect the great times of the past with a big grin on his face.
It doesn’t really end there either, as in later years he accepted the invitation to become President of the Barnet Football Club Supporters Association. In fact the demand on his free time was enormous as in addition to this he was Patron of the North London & South Herts Football League, President of Barnet Cricket Club, and Vice President of Barnet Schools FA, Middlesex Wanderers FC and Barnet & District Table Tennis League. Barnet Council asked Lester’s permission to even name a road after him – Finch Close – which runs parallel to Barnet Lane.
Lester passed away in November 1995 aged 86 still regularly attending Underhill for home games to the end of what was in his words “a wonderful career”. His widow Valerie was the BFCSA Guest of Honour at the 2007 Underhill Centenary Luncheon held prior to the pre season friendly game versus Crystal Palace.
He joined the club in 1936 aged just 16 after being spotted playing school football in South London by Harry Andrews, a former Barnet Goalkeeper. By the age of 17 he was an Irish International and had won his first major honour with Barnet as the club lifted the London Senior Cup in 1938 at Highbury in front of 20,000 spectators by beating Leyton 4-0. Denis scored twice alongside Lester Finch and Ian McFarlane. Lester conceded that the star of the show was young Kelleher.
|Denis Kelleher 1946|
In 1942 serving in the RNVR, Lieutenant Denis Kelleher was captured at Tobruk in Libya and made a Prisoner of War in Italy and Germany. He served some 20 months before hatching a daring escape plan with pal Lieutenant Stewart Campbell and two other officers. What can only be described as Boys Own stuff he made his way across Germany eventually reaching Bremen where he managed to get aboard a Swedish cargo ship bound for Stockholm. After 5 days at sea he reached Sweden and two weeks later he strolled into his parents house and allegedly said “Hello all how’s the war?” Three days after that Barnet entertained Grays Athletic at Underhill and in the starting line up was one D. Kelleher, who scored two goals in an easy win. An incredible story you say, but perfectly true. Denis was awarded the MBE for his heroics.
In 1946 Denis was in the side that won the FA Amateur Cup at Stamford Bridge – Barnet beating Bishop Auckland 3-2 – scoring the third Bees goal, while in1948 he was selected to represent Great Britain in the Olympic games.
After his retirement from football he went onto become a highly respected medical practitioner and as Dr Denis Kelleher finally retired in 1988, passing away in 2004.
“Legend” is a word so over used when referring to past players at football clubs to the extent of cheapening is real meaning. However in my opinion it takes an extremely special contribution of a clubs very substance to qualify for that title. These two gentlemen have been granted that status and there can be no argument whatsoever.
|Dennis and Lester 1994|