The Capuchin Friar and the violence at the 1962 Munster Final

by Weeshie Fogarty

Kerry football had reached an all time low during the early and middle sixties. The county had suffered humiliating defeats in the championship during that decade going under to Down, Galway and Cork twice. In 1962 an All Ireland win over a very poor Roscommon had proved a false dawn. That game of poor standard was notable for two reasons.  Firstly Sean Og Sheehy had followed in the footsteps of his father John Joe in captaining his county to victory. A unique occurrence.

And secondly the fastest goal ever scored in an All Ireland final which still to this day was recorded after just thirty two seconds when Garry McMahon fisted to the Canal goal following a long free by Mick o Connell. A wonderful composer and singer of Kerry football ballads I became great friends with Garry before he sadly died still a young man and he loved telling the story of his yearly visit to the All ireland final. "As the referee throws in the ball" he'd recall "I'd look at the minute hand on my watch and when it passes the thirty two second mark I will turn to those seated along side me and remark, my record is safe for another year". Garry was a huge loss to his family and all who knew him. One of those people who would brighten up your darkest day. 

The Munster final of that year was memorable for all the wrong reasons and I will go as far as to say that it was one of the most physical and dirty inter county games I have ever seen. The old Cork Athletic Grounds was a fairly intimidating place and that day 15th July 1962 I was standing on the old grassy embankment. On the far side was the very dilapidated stand with its galvanized rusting roof. The game itself was an easy victory for Kerry as they strolled to a 4-8 to 0-4 win. It was The Kingdoms fifth Munster crown in succession and was notably for the fact that Mick o Connell scored his one and only championship goal for his county. It came late in the second half, when he soled in from the wing and hit an angled shot high to the Cork net. He added a point from the kick out to finish with 1-4 to his credit.

Mick o Connell was in my opinion one of the greatest footballers the game has ever seen. In a magnificent career from 1956 to 1973 he made fifty six championship appearances for his county scoring 1-121 points. In league football he donned the green and gold seventy three times and registered 1-131 points. He played in sixteen Munster finals, being on the winning side twelve times. Mick played in ten All Ireland finals and won five Celtic Crosses.

While that 1962 final was noticeable for o Connell's only championship goal it was however well overshadowed by some very unsavory incidents both on and off the field. I have never before or since seen such naked aggression by fans as I saw that day. The game itself was very physical from the word go and there were numerous off the ball incidents behind the referees back. Punches were being constantly thrown by some players and elbows were flying in the tackles. Referee Moss Colbert of Limerick had a near impossible task on hands as he attempted to keep the game under control.

Then Cork star Eric Ryan was injured in a heavy collision and had to leave the field as the game become more and more physical and sections of the crowd began booing and shouting at players and referee. Then all hell seem to break lose. Kerrys centre back Noel Lucy and Corks Joe o Sullivan were sent off. Now I had a perfect view of events as they unfolded off the field. As Lucy was walking along the side line to the Kerry area some supporters showered him with sods which they were tearing from the embankment. Kerry secretary Tadgh Crowley and Chairman |Jim Brosnan was walking with the Kerry player and he had to duck and dodge as the missals rained down. The atmosphere was frightening and hostile.

Then from behind the goal to my right a section of the crowd began bombarding the Kerry goal with sods and stones. It was in many ways an amazing sight. The two umpires at that goal left their positions and took shelter in the net with Kerry goalkeeper Johnny Culloty who had not been involved in any incident what so ever. The net was showered with missals and the situation looked as if it would get out of control. After the game a friend of mine told me that a young Cork "supporter" picked up a bottle with the obvious intent of hurling it at a Kerry player. As he was about to throw the missal the Kerry man hit him a belt of a shoulder and send him spinning. He then quickly moved away from that area as some Cork supporters were incensed by his actions.

The game was at a stand still at this stage and then I saw something amazing. A Friar who I later learned was Rev. Fr Nessan O.F.M. of the Capuchin Order and for many years a member of the Cork football selectors climbed up on the wall surrounding the pitch. Dressed in his long cross shaped brown robe the distinctive dress of his order, including a white cord with three knots symbolizing his threes vows of poverty, chastity and obedience worn at the waist and sandals and no stockings he began remonstrating with the crowd. He was soon joined by the Cork County board chairman Weeshie Murphy and Denis Conroy and eventually some semblance of order was restored and the game finished. However the trouble continued after the game as the players made their way from the grounds. Some of the Kerry players were marooned outside the grounds and surrounded by a hostile crowd of what Dr Jim Brosnan later describes as "teenagers and teddy-boys". Members of the Cork county board came to their rescue and brought some of the Kerry minor and senior players back to their hotel in their cars. This problem had arisen because the official Kerry cars which brought the players to the ground had to park over a mile away from where the players were to be collected after the game.

It was an amazing day in Cork and set in train a series of meetings between the two county boards and the Munster council. It was in many ways the beginning of a drive towards health and safety at GAA grounds and during the following years more stewards, segregation of crowds and many other safety precautions were introduced. That game also marked the debut of the great Kerry defender and the man with the longest free in the game Donie o Sullivan. Eight years later the Spa man would captain Kerry to All Ireland glory against Meath.

When Jackie Lyne was appointed trainer of the Kerry team at the beginning of 1968 he was literally taking over a poisoned chalice. Lyne a member of my own Killarney Legion club was one of the most respected figures in the game and it was a great move by the county board to appoint him.  He came from a legendary football family who resided in the townland of Cleeney just outside Killarney. A farming family Jackie and his two brothers Denny and Cannon Mickey were all holders of All ireland medals and Denny had captained Kerry in the Polo Grounds New York in 1947. Another brother Ted had also helped Kerry to a Junior All Ireland win. Indeed when Kerry won the 1953 Jubilee All Ireland Jackie was the only surviving member of the county's previous win back in 1946.

It was an inspired appointment by Dr Jim Brosnan and the board and Lyne would go on and contest three finals 1968-69-70, winning two and also steering the county to two National Leagues. His involvement in training prior to the Kerry job was very little. The previous year, 1967 he had trained our club to win the prestigious East Kerry o Donoghue Cup and as a member of that team I was fully aware of his capabilities. Quite simply he had the touch and his management skills and dealings with players on a one to one basis were first class. Little did I think as I trained under him that year with my club that two years later I would again be answering his whistle, but this time for the ultimate honour, that of preparing for an All Ireland final with Kerry.

However despite Lynes superb ability as a trainer and motivator of men all that success he achieved would never have come about only for the staging of a simple low key barely advertised trial game held in Austin Stack Park Tralee in February 1968. It was a game that would unbelievably change the face of Kerry football. I was present that bitter cold day in Tralee and looking back now I am of the opinion that only what resulted from the staging of this game Kerry football would have had one of its most barren spells ever.

The match was billed as Kerry Past versus Kerry present and the result was the talk of the county. The past beat the present 2-13 to 3-8. Mick O'Connell, Mick O'Dwyer and Seamus Murphy had retired but, so impressive was their form following this trial Jackie Lyne persuaded them to return to the county panel. Of all the trials played in the county it is safe to declare that this one literally changed the face of Kerry football. The greats returned and Kerry won two more All-Irelands and four National Leagues all because this trial was held.

The game had been organized at the request of Mick o Dwyer. The Waterville man had retired two years previously and had been elected as on of the five Kerry selectors. The county's fortunes had reached such low ebb during the 1966/67 National League that at half time in a game played in Tralee against Wicklow at which I was present, the team were booed off the field at half time. It was depressing stuff and on that particular day it was hard to see light at the end of the tunnel.

For the record those two teams that played that day in Tralee in February 1968 was a real who's who of Kerry football The past won 2-13 to 3-8.

Kerry Past: Johnny Culloty, Pa Kerins, Joe Joe Barrett, Sean Og Sheehy, Mickey Walsh, Pat Moynihan, Colm Callaghan, Mick O'Connell (1-0), Brian Sheehy, Bernie O'Callaghan, (0-1), Mick O'Dwyer (1-8), Derry O' Shea (0-1), Tom Long, Niall Sheehy, John "Thorny" O'Shea (0-3).

Kerry Present: Liam Higgins, Derry Crowley, Paud ODonoghue, Seanie Burrows, Tom Prendergast, Declan Lovett, Pat Ahern, Mick Fleming, John Bunyan, John Saunders (0-2), Pat Griffin (0-1), Paudie Finnegan, Eamon ODonoghue (1-0), Donie O'Sullivan (1-5), Tim Kelleher (1-0).

Liam Higgins who played in goal in this trial would go on and win two All Irelands at full forward and the most amazing fact of all was that Mick o Dwyer would be Kerry's top scorer for five of the next six seasons. Mick o Connell topped the county's scoring list in 1969 scoring 0-15.

Lynes brand of the old Kerry football style of catch and kick together with his insistence of limited hand passes had an immediate effect and it was evident that he was n a definite team building course. The Munster championship ws won and Longford stood between them and a final appearance. Mick o Connell, Seamus Murphy and Mick o Dwyer were playing great football fully refreshed from their few years "in retirement"; however there were major problems with in defense. Teddy Bowler a recognized outfield player had bee pr3essed into service as goalkeeper. However a total five goals had been conceded to Tipperary and Cork in the Munster campaign which forced the selectors to make a dramatic move.

Johnny Culloty who had played his last game in goal in the Munster final defeat in 1966 was sensationally recalled to the team for the Longford game. Up until the eighties the base for all Kerry teams had been the now demolished Park Place Hotel in High St Killarney. There the teams stayed for collective training in the fifties and all meals were served there. The hotel was owned by the o Donoghue family all great Kerry GAA people. Also the teams for all championship matches were picked in a little room at the rear of the hotel and on the Monday prior to the Longford semi-final the selectors were in conclave. It was customary for crowds to gather outside the hotel on the street and await the announcement of the team from the genial then secretary Tadge Crowley.

There was always an air of excitement and a buzz among the die hard supporters when Tadgh would appear at the hotel door. The team was about to be announced. However things were not as they seemed on this evening of 1968. Jackie Lyne and Tadge Crowley came out of the hotel, walked through the waiting crowd and made the short five minute journey to the home of Johnny Culloty. Their mission, to persuade the Legion man to come out of retirement and play the following Sunday in the All Ireland semi-final. Their journey was not in vain. Culloty agreed to their request, he was still playing great football with his club and East Kerry and as a dual player was playing in goal for the county hurlers. Another piece of the re-building jigsaw was completed.

Longford had won their first Leinster championship but Kerrys experience proved too much for them. Goals from Pat Griffin and Dom o Donnell had Kerry ahead at half time. Longford sensationally went ahead in the second half with goals from Tom Mulvihill and another from a penalty by Jackie Devine. As is their history Kerry finished strong and points from Mick o Dwyer, Brendan Lynch and Din Joe Crowley won the day. The old adversaries Down once again awaited in the final.

I was sitting on the upper deck of the old Hogan that September day in 1968 when Down once again proved the masters of The Kingdom in championship football. There was a massive media build up to the final and every Kerry supporter was longing for revenge following those defeat's by Down in 1960-61. But it was not to be, it was once again bitter defeat for the Jackie Lyne trained side. In fact the game was all but over after just ten minutes as Down had jumped into an eight point lead. It was a stunning start by the Mourn men. And the goal that set them on this way to victory is one of the most talked about of all time.

Years later in my role as Radio Kerry GAA analyist I had the privilege of interviewing the man who scored it, one of the greatest forwards to have ever played the game Sean o Neill. Sean a true unassuming gentleman was in Kerry to take part in my Radio Program Terrace Talk and of course that famous goal came up for discussion. He explained what happened that day forty years previously in Croke park at the railway goal. "We were 0-2 to 0-1 ahead. Peter Rooney cut in and shot over my head for a score. Now I have always made the point of following the ball when it went anyway towards the opponent's goal. Ninety nine time out of a hundred it will be a waste of energy however always expected the unexpected. And on that occasion the unexpected happened. The ball hit the post about five feet above the cross bar and it rebounded very fast back towards me."

Now I had very vivid memories of that amazing incident and I put it to Sean it appeared as if he was in fact falling as he went for the ball. He continued and explained. "Now I was in full stride and I realized in that split second that the ball was going to hit me below the knee and if that happened I would not connect properly. Automatically I leaned my body forward and that is why it appeared as if I was falling forward. I connected perfectly as the ball came off the pitch and as if using the drop kick I stabbed at the ball and in an instance it was in the net. I never before or after scored a goal like this, I was lucky, it all happened in split second. It was all Down at this stage and they simply came at kery in wave after wave of attacks. Two minute after o Neills sensational goal Johnny Murphy cracked in another and only for a series of brilliant save by Johnny Culloty it would have been a cricket score.

Kerry did fight back to within four points before the end but Down were not to be denied. Their captain Joe Lennon went off injured, Paddy Doherty, John Purdy and Colm McAlarney were outstanding.  Mick o Connell was moved controversially to full forward as Pat Moynihan came in at mid field. Minutes before the end young Brendan Lynch faced up to a fourteen yard free and his a rocket of a shot to the Down net served only to put a better lok on the score board. It finished 2-12 to 1-13 and the Down dominance of The Kingdom continued.

There was an air of deep gloom around the county following this latest defeat and many felt is was another false dawn in this most depressing decade in Kerry football history. However I recalled the words Jackie Lyne had said over a few points in Jimmy o Brien's famous pub in Killarney when he took over the team. "I have made a promise to my family that I will win one All Ireland before I pack the whole thing in and I believe I have the men to do it". He would be true to his promise and in the following two years he would lead Kerry to two glorious All Ireland wins and for me all my football dreams would come true as I became part of this Kerry squad and experience the thrill of trainings with Kerry legends and savior what I had marveled at as a youngster, bring the Sam Maguire Cup back to the county.

Radio Kerry - The Voice of the Kingdom