Defeat in New York in 1947 and Eddie Dowling's painful memories

May 8th, 2014
by Weeshie Fogarty

Chapter which didn't make it for final inclusion in my book - My Beautiful Obsession.

Following the drama and heroics of 1946 the following year would prove to be one of the most historic in the history of the GAA and Kerry as always when history is in the making would be central at a momentous occasion for the association. For the first and only time the All Ireland senior football final would be played outside the shores of Ireland and the name the Polo Grounds New York would enter the folklore of GAA historians and followers every where. Very Rev Canon Hamilton. PP Newmarket-on Fergus, Co Clare was associated with the GAA since his student days in pre 1916 times. An ardent, enthusiastic powerful advocate and impartial administrator was this man whose eloquence swayed the Central Council delegates in agreeing the 1947 All Ireland final in New York.
In his youth he played hurling for his native Clonlara and for St Flannan's College. He was also a keen handballer. He was responsible for the purchase of Cusack Park Ennis when he was Chairman of the Ennis Dalcassian Club. At the 1947 GAA congress in Dublin his address to the delegates was mainly responsible for the final being played in America. When a dispute arose between Radio Eireann and the GAA he was chosen to broadcast the All Ireland football final of 1937 between Kerry and Cavan. He was chairman of the Clare County board for twenty five years and was chairmen of the Munster Council from May 1943 to March 1947. He later served as Vice Chairman of the Munster council on two separate occasion's form 1952 to 1955 and again from 1965 to 1969. He died suddenly while watching the Clare Senior Hurling final in Cusack Park Ennis in 1969.
That afore mentioned Kerry/Cavan game which Canon Hamilton broadcast was a sensational affair. With ten minutes to go a goal for Cavan by Paddy Boylan put his team one point in front but points from Gearoid Fitzgerald and Sean Brosnan saw Kerry regain the lead. Cavan equalized and the massive crowd of 52,000 (then a record attendance) was spellbound as both sides fought for victory. It was a hectic finish, and Boylan seemed to have given Cavan victory when he threw the ball over the bar but referee Mick Hennessey of Dublin disallowed the score. Fr Hamilton in his broadcast was unaware that Cavan's last point did not count and announced that the Breffni men had won. Many of the spectators leaving the grounds were under the same impression as well as the thousands of listeners through to country. Kerry won the re-play in great style on the score 4-4 to 1-7 with Timmy o Leary being the Kerry hero scoring two cracking goals. It was a hard tough encounter and unbelievable Cavan had seven men on the ground "injured" at one time. This was the youngest Kerry team ever to win the title up until then.
One Kerryman who had an active part in that 1947 final being played in New York was the late Micheál o Ruairc. The John Mitchel's Tralee clubman was, it must be recorded one of the greatest administrators Kerry has ever produced. His first connection with administration was clear and precise when I recorded an interview with him shortly before his death. "In 1930 I was a trainee teacher in Waterford and that year the Munster council was held there. And by virtue of the fact that I was there I was appointed as a delegate by Kerry". Thus began his long and distinguished career in the Association. However he then outlined dramatic events which were to see him become secretary of the Kerry county board. "At an adjourned Co. Convention in Tralee in 1935 it was decided by a majority vote that Kerry takes no part in the championship unless the lot of the prisoners in the Curragh was improved, or until they were released. This brought all football activity in the county to a halt". Later that same year it was agreed at meeting in Tralee to reorganize the county on a more permanent basis. Names of officers, selectors and committees were agreed to and Micheal continued. "Din Joe Baily nominated that Co Board with himself as chairman. John Joe "Purty" Landers was named as secretary and as he was still playing with Kerry I was nominated to be joint secretary with him. The following year "Purty" resigned and I took over as secretary with Jerry Myles as my assistant. I continued as secretary until 1950 and then handed over the reins to Jerry McCarthy". In 1941 Micheal was elected as Kerrys delegate to Central Council a position he held until 1950. Micheal o Ruairc gave sixty years of his life to the GAA and when I spoke to him he held the honorary positions of President of the Munster Council, the Kerry Co. Board and the John Mitchels club of Tralee. My abiding memories of him are of a quietly spoken gentleman, very tall, wearing glasses and always available to chat and talk about GAA affairs. It was a privilege to have known him.
When Central Council met to discuss the playing of that 1947 All Ireland in New York the meeting was held in camera in Barry's Hotel in Dublin. Micheal was one of Kerry's delegates. He explained what transpired. "Cannon Hamilton delivered a very moving and passionate address to the delegates as to why the final should be played in America. But when hands were raised the proposal was defeated by a couple of votes. Then the press was admitted and the matter was again debated. I had voted for New York as the venue at the private session and I then stood up and made my case as to why the final must be played in New York. I had symphony for the Cannon and really wanted to help him in his endeavors. Shannon Airport was just beginning to find its feet in the aviation world and did not yet have the confidence of the general public. The Central Council was very divide on the issue at this second session. One of the reasons against the trip was the fact that not all the travelling players could travel by air as the planes were not spacious enough to accommodate that many at the same time. I then made a very strong case that it would look very bad in the eyes of the Irish public if we did not display our confidence in our own airline. So there was a second heated discussion and as GAA delegates are want to do some change their minds, voted for the proposal and that is why the final was played outside Ireland for the first and only time".
Michael traveled to that final by boat and left five days before the main Kerry party and his mother gave him some good advice before he departed. "Travel by boat she warned me as it is far more respectable to be drowned at sea that burned to death in a plane crash". In relation to the game itself he was under no doubt but that Kery should have won the final. "Only for the unfortunate accident to mid fielder Eddie Dowling Kerry would have won. He rose so high for a ball that he landed on opponents shoulders and fell on his head on the rock hard pitch and was badly concussed. He was playing a blinder at the time and when he went off things went down hill, but at the end Cavan probably deserved to win" Micheal concluded.
One of my own favorite Kerry GAA people the same Eddie Dowling. I simply loved meeting him. Attending North Kerry finals and North Kerry Board meetings I would regularly meet this wonderful man. A real gentleman, born of the North Kerry sod with a wonderful turn of speech and probably the unluckiest Kerry football of them all. I had the great privilege of intervening him on Terrace Talk on two occasions. He captained Kerry in that torrid semi-final against Antrim in 1946. He recalled events of that momentous year. "I was dropped for the final but came on as a sub in the drawn game against Roscommon. I was playing great stuff and then miss-fortune struck. On the Tuesday before the re-play at training I collided with Teddy o Conor. I felt some pain in my ankle and when I went for the next ball I felt some thing crack and when I looked down the shin bone was sticking out through the stocking. I went to the final on crutches. I should have been receiving the cup and after the game one of the selector Rory o Connell promised I would get one of the five substitute's medals. I never got that medal and I am still waiting for it. It doesn't look like I will get it before I die however".
He was sure however that 1947 would be his year as he was back to full fitness. The hard regime of farming and cycling around the roads of North Kerry had honed his body into a ball rock hard muscle.  In the Munster final he had seen Joe Keohane step on the ball and push it into the mud of the Cork Athletic Grounds as the home side was awarded a penalty. "Only for Joe we would never have made it to new York "explained Eddie to me. It's a wonderful story and as Eddie recalled it for me over a few points in the Listowel Arms Hotel. Both of us had been asked to make the draws for the North Kerry championship. Eddie was President of the board and I adjourned with him later for a fascinating history lesson.
His mind was crystal clear in relation to the events of that Munster final played on July 27th. "Gega o Connor and Batt Garvey were in great forming attack and after an epic battle we won by five pints, 3-8 to 2-6". But it was the penalty award that the game is best remembered for. Joe Keohane himself related this story to me in one of our many conversations during his days as a selector. "Simon Deignan was the referee and as he awarded a penalty to Cork there was also a stoppage in the play as a player was down injured. I had one foot on the ball as I argued the decision with Simon who I knew well from my army days. All the time I was pressing the ball into the muddy patch around the goal mouth. Jim Ahern of Cork took the kick eventually, failed to connect properly topped the ball and it trickled into the hands of Danno Keeffe. I would say to my Cork friends afterwards that it was a fright to see over 15,000 Cork men and women fooled at 3pm on a Sunday afternoon by a Kerryman in the middle of a big field". Joe always admitted that it was not a very sporting thing to do but he could see the Manhattan skyline appearing on the horizon. Meath were defeated in the semi-final, 1-11 to 0-5 and the green and gold were on their way to America.
In their superb publication Princes of Pigskin. A Centenary of Kery Football published in 2007 and a wonderful addition to Kerrys football story Joe o Muircheartaigh and T. J. Flynn traveled to North Kerry to meet Eddie Dowling. In his own special way he recalled for the authors that day in the Polo grounds on September 14th 1947. "I was part of the group who flew over and we were to leave Shannon for New York on Sunday night, but the flight was put back to the following day. We were driven to Shannon for ten in the following morning, but the flight was then put back to seven that evening. There was nothing to do only drink. I had thirty glasses of beer before getting on the plane. When we got to the Azores to refuel, Eddie Walsh and I went into a café and called for two beers. I put a five dollar bill on the counter and was told I was short. I turned to Eddie and said, "We won't be getting drunk here I tell you".
The drink was well out of Eddie's system by match day. "We were flying it. We were all over them and had two goals disallowed in the first half. I caught a ball in midfield in front of John Joe o Reilly and I made off with it. Next thing I was right in on top of the goalie and shot for a goal. It was my last kick. "The next ball that came out was going to be mine, I was going that well. I crossed the field to go for it. It wasn't straight ahead of me but to the side and I was over stretched. "You came from nowhere and your boots hit my forehead", Cavan player P.J. Duke said to me afterwards. I came down and hit the baseball mound. I was out cold for a while. I was brought off the field and only for my aunt Dolly. I'd never have seen home again. I was in the bus after the game and all the talk was about where they were going drinking. The took no notice of me-I didn't know where I was. At times I'd be all right but then I'd black out. Dolly took me off the bus and brought me to this fellow in Harlem. He put me on a couch, put an ice bag on my head and gave me a few drops of whisky. Dolly then took me to St Marys Hospital in Brooklyn where she worked as a nurse. I got an injection and didn't wake up until Monday evening. Only then did Eddie find out that the All Ireland had been lost. He spend six days in hospital plenty pf time to dwell on his broken leg the previous year and his concession the previous week. That elusive All Ireland medal never did come his way. 
Denny Lyne was the Kerry captain in the polo Grounds. His club and mine; Killarney Legion won their only Kerry senior County Championship in 1946 that qualified him to lead the Kingdom. When Denny died on November 29th 2001, it brought to an end an unique family association with the story of Kerry football- a family connection that stretched back to the early 1930s. The six brothers in the family all played with our local club- Killarney legion. Four of the boys went on to win All Ireland medals with Kerry and in fact four of the boys played together on the Kerry junior team that won the 1942 All Ireland Junior title. Cannon Mickey, Jackie and Denny all won senior All Irelands. Denny was the last remaining of the brothers alive when I interviewed him just before his death.
I have vivid memories of one beautiful August evening as I sat with him inside the window of his front room of his farm house situated in the Townland of Cleeney just a mile from Killarney town on the Tralee- Killarney road. The setting sun cast a golden glow on the lush green fields which front the farm house. We spoke for nearly two hours, sipped glasses of Paddy whisky as I sat enthralled as re recalled recording his life and times and that of his late brothers both as farmers and footballers. As we spoke it was clearly evident that one aspect of his football life still hurt deeply despite the passing decades. It was that 1947 final in New York and he was adamant about why it was lost. "We had no trainer that day in the Polo Grounds. It was one of the biggest mistakes of my life. I should have insisted, insisted as captain that the our great trainer Dr Eamonn o Sullivan would be brought to America for that game.
We did little or no training for the final believe it or not. Eamonn had been brought back the year before and trained us for the replay against Roscommon. Only for his return we would not have won that All Ireland. Dan Kavanagh, Teddy o Connor, Jackie and I often spoke about this. The county board did not want Eamonn in 1947 because they believed he was too good to the players and if you had any injury medical expenses were no problem as far as he was concerned. They did not want him because of this. If he was with us in America we would have behaved differently. Make what you want from that Weeshie, enough said". Denny revealed another aspect of the final which he firmly maintained was another factor in the defeat to Cavan. "Many people blame the referee Martin o Neill from Wexford for that defeat. He disallowed two perfectly good goals in my opinion and I'll tell you a story now about that referee.
"A few years ago I met a man, a regular visitor to Charlie Foley's pub in New Street Killarney where I usually go for a pint. He was from Wexford and as always the topic of football arose. We eventually got around to discussing the Polo Grounds final and when he discovered who I was he told me that Martin o Neill had asked him to pass on a message if he ever met me on his visit: O Neills message was. "If you ever meet Denny Lyne the man who captained Kerry that day tell him that I said they were robbed of that All Ireland in New York". Denny then added. "What he meant by that remark, you can guess yourself.
That Kerry side defeated by Cavan 2-11 to 2-7. Danno Keeffe, Denny Lyne (Captain), Joe Keohane, Paddy Bawn Brosnan, Jackie Lyne, Bill Casey, Eddie Walsh, Eddie Dowling, Tom Gega o Connor, Teddy o Sullivan, Dan Kavanagh, Batt Garvey, Frank o Keeffe, Teddy o Connor, Paddy Kennedy 

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