Preview of Munster Final against Cork

June 25th, 2013
by Weeshie Fogarty

Already one can sense a great anticipation building up for the age old clash between Kerry and Cork in the Munster final next Sunday week. Indeed with both counties far from being red hot favourites by any means to win the championship outright and following their respective facile wins in the  opening rounds it only adds to the excitement as really we haven't a clue where both sides stand in relation to greatness. Nevertheless even the familiarity of the pairing does nothing to lesson the interest of this forthcoming Killarney fixture. Indeed there are so many imponderables about this clash that a complete outsider knowing nothing about GAA might be pardoned for thinking that these two counties were total strangers to each other.

Of course we have had many very disappointing finals down through the decades but we have also been privileged to witness some dramatic, epic and historic clashes between the Kingdom and The Rebel county. Indeed in my recently published book of memories My Beautiful Obsession=Chasing the Kerry Dream, I have gone on record as stating the greatest game of football I have ever seen since 1955 was the re-play and extra time Munster final in Pairc Ui Chaoimh in 1975 which Kerry won. It was a defining game in the counties history as it set in train a succession of wonderful victories for Mick o Dwyer's magnificent young men. Defeat that day in the red hot cauldron of Pairc Ui Chaoimh might easily have stopped the development of that magnificent side.  Hopefully we will be witness to another epic encounter between Eamon Fitzmaurice's men and

As I have stated above Kerry football success is in many instances can be determined by single games in any given decade. Such was the case in that 1975 marathon Munster final.  One game however that is rarely if ever referred to and played a massive part in reviving kerry fortunes when they were literally at the bottom of the barrel was another Munster final victory also over Cork. One will have to peer back through the mists of time all of forty five long years ago to the year 1968 to explore the story of an amazing win, a memorable come back for Kerry football and the beginning of an era which would see the county capture a series of national Leagues and two All ireland Championships. The years 1963 to 1967 had seen the county suffer some of their most humiliating defeats ever in both league and championship. Morale in the county was at rock bottom, another Munster elimination at the hands and feet of the Rebels from across the border would unquestionably plunge Kerry followers into the darkest depths of despair.

A footballing miracle was badly needed. And it came in the guise of retired Kerry greats.  So bleak was the state of affairs that former stars who had faded gracefully from the inter county scene were prevailed upon to come back and help the county's cause in its hour of greatest need.  Jackie Lyne came in as trainor, there was no such thing as manager back then, no back door for loosing teams, the football was of the old pig skin variety and Mick o Connell acknowledged as one of the most supreme players ever to grace the game had retired following Kerrys 1966 Munster final defeat, 2-7 to 1-7 to Cork in Killarney. However when Kerry took the field in the first round against Tipperary in Clonmel on June 23rd 1968, Seamus Murphy (RIP), had returned at corner back, o Connell was at mid field and Mick o Dwyer was recalled at corner forward. Teddy Bowler from Glenbeigh the previous years full back was now in goal. Brendan Lynch just out of the minor ranks lined out at wing forward. Kerry won 0-17 to 2-7. Seamus McGearailt replaced Teddy Bowler in goal midway through the second half.

Three weeks later I was perched dangerously, high up on the boundary wall of Fitzgerald Stadium as Pat Griffin Kerrys beautifully balanced captain led his men out against Cork. There was just one change since the Tipperary game. The late great fair-haired Eamon o Donoghue who had played in goal in the previous years final replaced Kenmare's P. J. McIntyre in the forwards. It was a perfect day for football and a massive crowd witnessed a wonderful game. Cork got of to a scintillating start and were 2-3 to 0-2 ahead before Kerry found their feet. Corks dual star the tall Ray Cummins goaled after just three minutes. Denis Coughlan, Johnny Carroll, Mick Bourke, Kevin Dillon, Declan Hunt and as always Billy Morgan were the main Cork men. But by half time Kerry had clawed their way back to within one point of the visitors. It was thrilling stuff. Kerry then ran riot in the second half; Currow's Mick Fleming uncle to Ireland International rugby star Siobhan was outstanding, while Pat Griffin (0-4), Mick o Dwyer (0-7) and Eamon o Donoghue (1-1) were the stars of this brilliant display.  Corner forward Tom Prendergast saw Billy Morgan bring off two superb saves from point blank shots as the Kingdom cruised to victory. 

But it was the Valentia man who literally stole the show as nearly always and one scribe wrote. "o Connell was of course the master mind behind whole Kerry effort. He utilized his tactical knowledge to gain total control in the centre and like a masterly musician he was soon conducting the whole Kerry orchestra in a beautifully co-ordinate effort". It was a fifteen man display of sheer class, style, movement, superb movement of the ball by foot and hand and when the late John Dowling of Offally who later became president of the Association blew full time Kerry supporters were overjoyed as the old timber score board in Fitzgerald Stadium read Kerry 1-21, Cork 3-8. Johnny Culloty returned to goal for the All Ireland semi final against Longford but in the final Down proved too good. However the gap had been bridged and Kerry pride had been well and truly restored. That was the bottom line and this Munster final of 1968 proved once again if proof was ever needed that when Kerry appear to be heading for a long interlude in the football wilderness, men, both on and off the field always ride to the rescue to steer the good ship Kerry into. calmer waters.  Kerry wore black arm bands that day 45 years ago in memory of James Baily from Ballymacelligott who had died.  James had played three games for Kerry at full forward as they went on to defeat Kildare in the 1928 final, 1-8 to 1-5.

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