Weeshie's Week

Dr Crokes First 3-in-a-row

November 5th, 2012
by Eamonn Fitzgerald

Let's get to the Gospel, specifically Matthew 19:24
"Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God". Put that into context 48 minutes in to in the recent semi-final of the 2012 Kerry SFC, when Colm Cooper produced a very special moment of magic, which drew an instant round of sustained applause from the attendance. The game was delicately balanced as Dr Crokes battled against a resolute Laune Rangers defence. Few would even have seen it as a possibility; Gooch instinctively converted it to a possibility.
Hadn't he learned and practised it so often in Ardshan with his older brothers Danny, Mark, Mike, and Vince along with his many neighbours. Just like the great George Best said that the great moments of magic on the soccer fields had been well rehearsed and practised in the confines of the narrow streets of his native Belfast and those impromptu street leagues one had to be quick, skilful, and brave. Otherwise you did not get near the only ball on the street. Belfast to Ardshanvooley to Tralee. A multitude of outstretched hands and bodies from the banks of the Laune converged on Gooch. No yield right of way, no surrender, no way through they had him shut down.

Yes, but a half shimmy and a chink appeared. The eye of the needle was enough for Ireland's greatest passer of the ball to thread the O'Neill's leather through the 'bearna baol', in to the receptive arms of Gavin O'Shea who had had come on as a sub. Surreal  vision, precision and confidence in his own ability by Gooch feeding in to young O Shea - a Kerry minor this year - who kicked over a delightful point, just as he had done v Austin Stacks in the quarter-final. He was maintaining an unbroken family link that spans 4 generations and Dr Crokes first ever 3 in-a-row of Kerry SFC, 1912 to 1914. In the 2011 final Brian O'Shea, Gavin's first cousin, kept the 4 generation link alive. Let's hope history repeats itself on October 28 when Dr Crokes meet Dingle in the 2012 Kerry SFC final.

Paddy to Bridie to Pat and now to Gavin
One of the stalwarts of the Croke winning teams of 1914-1916 was Paddy Healy, who won All Irelands with Kerry in 1913 and in 1914. Let's unpack that connection with Gavin.  Paddy Healy's daughter Bridie married Murt O'Shea, parents of Pat O'Shea (who managed Kerry to win the 2007 All Ireland). Pat and Deborah Ann (what a wonderful job she is doing every week, every year in the club merchandising shop) are the parents of Gavin. Well bred, well fed, and delivering the goods for Crokes. That's Gavin; that's tradition; that's Crokes, now in its 126th year.

Only for the relentless research done by Con Clifford, a great former Croke player & chairman, (RIP), Crokes first 3-in-a-row would never be credited to the Crokes. Con researched the period 1900-1914 for the club history, Dr Crokes Gaelic Century. This period was known as the golden era of Dr Crokes. The club won its first Kerry SFC title in 1901, then the 3-in-a-row. Kerry also won All Ireland SFC titles in 1903 (7), 1904 (7), 1909 (5), 1913 (6) and 1914(8). What do those figures in brackets signify? They represent the number of Croke players on those winning All Ireland Kerry teams. Do your own sums, yes. 33 All Ireland medals won by Croke players as World War 1 began. Some mighty haul of medals; some mighty club founded by 19 Dangerous Dreamers in 1886.

Start of 3-in-a-row
Back to Con Clifford (who holds the record with Jackie Looney of 10 O'Donoghue Cup medals) and his fascinating research for the first 3-in-a-row. In round 1 Crokes defeated Laune Rangers in August 4th 1912.  Dick Fitzgerald was the dominant figure in the second half notching 2-2 ,all of Crokes' scores. Then Ballydonoghue at Listowel, Sunday October 20 they won 2-3 to 0-1. The semi-final v Rathmore on December 15th in Castleisland was an easy victory for Dr Crokes, 7-2 to 1-2. On to Listowel to meet Tralee Parnell's in the final on December 22, 1912, just a few days before the Christmas dinner. The Christmas edition of The Kerryman reported, " In short it was a one-sided game with the winners (Dr Crokes ) playing superb football". Dr Crokes won,1-6 to 0-0, their 2nd Kerry SFC title (won their 1st in 1901 ) and the start of the 3-in-a-row. What may surprise people in 2012 is that Dick Fitzgerald refereed 2 games in that c'ship despite his own vested interest as a player with Dr Crokes.!!

In 1913 all teams played 15 a side for the 1st time; it was 17 a-side up to then. Dick Fitzgerald, Chairman of the county board presided over the meeting where 10 teams entered, including Dr Crokes.  The 1912 medals were presented to Dr Crokes and another interesting item is that it was proposed that the new Kerry colours would be green with a gold hoop across the chest. Dr Crokes defeated Valentia Island in the first round defence on Sunday April 20. They qualified to meet Tralee Parnells on August on August 17th, winning easily 3-3 to 0-0.In the quarter-final they defeated Tralee Mitchells 2-4 to 1-1. In the semi-final at Tralee they met Castlegregory and were trailing 1-1 to 0-1 at half-time in a very 'robust' game in front of an 'unruly mob'. A Denis Doyle goal put us ahead, but Castlegregory launched several attacks, but in the 'bearna baol' one defender stood out . Over to Fr Tom Looney in his excellently researched book 'Dick Fitzgerald; King in a Kingdom of Kings', "Paddy Healy (Gavin O'Shea's great-grandfather) displayed his prowess when he saved another goal". Crokes won , 2-3 to 1-1 . We met Kilcummin in the final played, on January 18th 1914 and won easily 3-1 to 1-0.

What a saga 1914 to 1916
Now for the protracted 1914 Kerry SFC. World War 1 started. Currow conceded a walk-over in the semi-final to Dr Crokes on Dec. 13th 1914 for a place in the final v Tralee Mitchells, who had played 3 matches. Crokes did not get their hands on the Cup until January 1916. Read that again. 1916? Yes, the 1914 c'ship was a protracted affair and only for the meticulous research of Con Clifford, 2012 would be our first attempt at 3-in-a-row. These were times of rising national fervour, so the 1914 final did not go ahead until April 11th, 1915 in Listowel. Mitchells defeated Crokes by a controversial late point, but agreed to a re-fixture after a long county board meeting to discuss the report of referee, Mr P. Landers.  The replay was fixed for 'The Lawn' in Rathmore on May 17th 1915. The Lusitania was sunk off the Cork coast. Crokes asked for a postponement. It was re-fixed for July 11 1915 in Listowel. Crokes led at half-time 0-5 to 0-3 with Crokes with great displays by Dick Fitzgerald, Paddy Healy, and Con Murphy. Tralee rallied in that second half scoring 2 goals. Dickeen equalised and the final score was Crokes 1-6, Tralee Mitchells 2-3. Gate receipts were £66.

After a lot of controversy the 3rd game was fixed for Rathmore on the second Sunday in January 1916. Referee for the game was Limerick man, Michael Crowe, who had refereed 9 All Ireland finals including both hurling and football in 1909 and in 1903. Crokes won 1-2 to 1-0. Turbulent times on the political front but only 2 arrests were made in Rathmore that day. One of the stars for Crokes in that replay was midfielder Humphrey Murphy, later to become the famous O.C. of the Kerry brigade of the IRA during the War of Independence and during the Civil War. Things were hotting up. On to 1916 and the Kerryman report of January 16th, 1916.

Killarney Crokes retain Football Title, ran the banner headline on this the 3rd attempt to separate Tralee and Crokes in the 1914 Kerry SFC. They ran a special train to Rathmore for the final. Unfortunately for the county board they were unable to secure an enclosed field so the takings bore no resemblance to the number of spectators present.  The ref was a Mr Crowe. Play was fast and furious. The Kerryman reports that the aforementioned Paddy Healy caught a great ball in the full back line "and hooped away to midfield. Tralee were penalised for handling the ball on the ground". What does "hooped" mean? Your guess is as good as mine! Just before half-time Healy passed to Doyle (Vincie Doyle, later to become a founder member of the Legion club), who scored a point for Crokes. Would you believe Tralee Mitchells failed to score in the second half and sole point by Con Murphy was enough to complete the 3 match final saga between Tralee Mitchells and Dr Crokes.

Yes, winning 3 in a row was a long and protracted affair. Lnet's hope our present Croke team delivers against Dingle on Sunday October 28th and go on to win the county final. We wish them all, players and management good luck.

Final words go to Con Clifford, "Since the 1915 and 1916 championships were disbanded (years of great political turmoil) Dr Crokes were in reality champions of the Kingdom 1912-1918, a magnificent epilogue to your golden era ", The three game 1917 final between Tralee Mitchells and Farranfore was not completed until an unrecorded date in 1918.

Footnote; Dilemma for Tom Looney on October 28th. He has been a staunch Croke man all of his life. How could he be otherwise?  He can and does trace back his lineage to 1896; his grand-father Tom 'Cross town' Looney was captain of the then 10 year old Dr Croke club. Paddy Dillon the 1898 captain was his grand-uncle. Both were Kerry stars also. His own father Jack and his uncle Paddy Looney of Brewery Lane were steeped in the Croke tradition. Then Paddy's son, his first cousin Brian, captained Dr Crokes to the 2010 title. Brian will be striving for his 3 in a row on October 28th, wearing the number 10 'geansaí'. Tom Looney is the same Canónach Tomás O Luanaigh, parish priest of Daingean Uí Chúis, who will have divided loyalties. Does he support his pastoral flock for Corca Dhuibhne, or stick with his beloved black & amber? The Lord has strange ways of doing things!!

One wonders what sermon he will preach in Dingle on October 28th.

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