Weeshie's Week

An age old rivalry renewed

September 15th, 2015
by Weeshie Fogarty

Sixty years ago his year. It was the very first time I attended an All-Ireland final and 1955 would remain forever etched deep in my memory. I travelled to Dublin with some of my boyhood friends including cousins Con O Mara and Con Clifford both of whom later wore the green and gold. Con o Mara holds the unique record of captaining Killarney to their one and only Kerry senior hurling county championship victory in 1969 sadly both men died at a young age, a cruel blow to their wives and families. Kerry had a convincing 3-7 to 0-4 win over Waterford in the opening round that year of '55 played in Listowel. Tom Costello helping himself to two goals.

In July I saw the green and gold in action in a Munster final for the first time in my life as Kerry beat Cork in sweltering conditions in Killarney,0-14 to 2-6. 45,000 supporters crammed Fitzgerald's Stadium that memorable day. The terrace was black with people packed together like sardines. No such slogan as health and safety and not even a safety barrier to be seen. Even the boundary wall separating the grounds from the Mental Hospital served as a vantage point and it was from here on high that I viewed that game. Most lasting memories of that day are of some superb long range points lofted over by Kerry's wing forwards Paudie Sheehy and Tadghie Lyne. And my own Killarney Legion club man Johnny Culloty came on as a sub, the beginning of his illustrious career. 

On Sunday September 11th, 1955 before a record semi-final attendance of 71, 504 spectators Kerry met Cavan in Croke Park in a re-play. On the same day at the very same venue Dublin took on Mayo, also in a re-play. Three weeks before Kerry had been extremely fortunate to draw with Cavan, this time there was no mistake. Kerry was through to the final on the score 4-7 to 0-5. And now Dublin awaited the Kingdom following a one point win over Mayo It was truly a memorable final. Kerry against the so called unbeatable Dublin machine that included Danno Mahoney, Mick Moylan, Dessie "Snichie" Ferguson, Nickey Maher, Ollie Freeney and Kevin Heffernan who would in later years go on to become such an outstanding trainer of Dublin winning All Ireland teams. The hour was filled with drama and over flowing tension and supporters from both side seemed to me to be highly emotionally involved in what was unfolding before them. More so than I ever again experienced.  And the tension of those last five minutes, you could nearly reach out and touch it. Dublin six points behind as Ollie Freeney stepped up to hammer a fourteen yard free to the Kerry net. Now there were just those three points in the difference.

Jerome o Shea wrote himself into Kerry folklore with two soaring catches under his own cross bar. Every year since then an inch has been added on to the height of those catches that saved the Kingdom. Ned Roche, Mixi Palmer, Tom Moriarty and John Cronin the giant of a man from Milltown and Sean Murphy were magnificent as they constantly repulsed the waves of Dublin attacks which pounded the Kerry rear guard in those closing minutes.  It is during times like this the Secret of Kerry is handed down to all of those fortunate to have been present. John Dowling, a warrior, collected the cup, the team were welcomed home to unprecedented scenes of joy and adulation, and the country boys had stunned the unbeatable, unbackable city slickers. The old order had been restored and the Kingdom wintered well that year of '55.  

And now hopefully we will experience it all again, the final had I expected, hoped for, and predicted has materialised, the two best footballing sides in the country will  captive fans far and wide as they battle it out next Sunday before a full house in Croke Park. Kerry and Dublin in an All-Ireland final is special, unique and different, the country against the city, and the All Ireland champions against the National league holders. You will read reams and reams of analysis both in this paper, the bible of Kerry football, and other publications, pundits will baffle you with facts and figures, sweepers and swarms, extra men here and there, packed defences and new  terms  to vindicate their reasons why one side or another will win or lose the game.

However for me it's very simple what will decide the destination of the Sam Maguire. Firstly both teams are prolific scorers, Dublin scored 3-13 from play the last day against Mayo and we all know what Kerry are capable of when they get room. And this will be an attacking game, open, plenty movement and high scoring.   What side can boast the best defenders? that is the big question, defenders will decide the issue, stop the opposition from scoring to frequently. Kerry can do this; their defence line up has been the most consistent and seen the less changes than any other sector of the team. Yes they have been suspect when attackers run at them and my God no better team than Dublin to run at you. However Eamon Fitzmaurice will have this danger well addressed, maybe one extra man back in defence.

In the re-play against Mayo Stephen Cluxton found his man with eighteen kicks outs from nineteen taken, Mayo conceded, this was their ultimate down fall. Kerry must press; press and press again, force the Dublin goalie to kick long where David Moran and Anthony Maher will I expect win the mid field battle. I am firmly convinced with such an array of magnificent footballers on view next Sunday the destination of the title will be decided not by tactics alone but by some individual brilliance . At the end of the day it is the skill of the individual players over the course of the entire game that will win out.

Both sides have superb subs, this really is Dublin's trump championship card, in recent years we have seen what MD Macauley, Fitzsimons, Brogan, and especially McManamon can do when introduced late in the game. So we need classic defending, close, continuous, coverage, without fouling for the entire seventy minutes.  Put pressure as far as possible on Cluxtons kick outs, and be well prepared and ready   for the introduction of fresh legs by Dublin. Have our men assigned to pick up these changes, we erred before, 2013, in relation to this aspect of Dublin's game, and we also saw what the subs did against Mayo in the re-play.

The Kerry team is as yet unknown to me, but in this instance the fifteen that finishes the game will be even more important than that which starts. Eamon Fitzmaurice has lost just one of sixteen championship match since he took the reins, a glorious statistic. He and his side-line generals will have burnt the mid night oil in deciding who will mark who, the match ups as they are known, this will be the key to victory. It will be a glorious occasion, two wonderful talented, superbly prepared sides battling it out. I am a huge admirer of this Dublin all action, full of running side, it's difficult to call but I have unwavering faith in Eamon Fitzmaurice to have planned to perfection the down fall of the Dubs.

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