Last Munster Final against Cork in the old Pairc Ui Chaoimh

July 1st, 2014
by Weeshie Fogarty

Mark Anthony's immortal words at the funeral of Julius Caesar. "If you have tears to shed prepare to shed them now" will certainly not apply to Kerry supporters as the exit Pairc Ui Chaoimh for the very last time next Sunday following the Munster decider against Cork. It will have been the final time they will have endured the discomfort of this dilapidated, outdated, run down and uncomfortable edifice which was first opened in June 1976, replacing the old Cork Athletic Grounds. Of course there might be some tears shed if the Rebels get the better of Kerry in the big match, but that is a horse of a different color as they say.

And yes it is a very dilapidated structure and has been constantly under the scrutiny of the health and safety inspectors for the last few years and even right up to next Sundays game more improvements had to be undertaken before it got the final clearance. If you ever had the discomfort of sitting in those bucket seats in the main stand and if you were any way near six feet in height then you would have endure agonies having spent the game with your knees pressed against the seat in front of you. A visit to the men's toilet on a big match day is another ordeal as queues back up along the tunnels which are a feature of this stadium not to be seen any where else in my experience around the country.

Ask any player what he thinks of the dressing rooms and he might answer, "the smallest in Ireland". And then you have the situation fraught with danger where the players have to come through the crowds in the tunnel to reach the pitch. And the same applies to the referee and here I can speak from my own terrifying experience. Following a national league game there in the eighties as I was coming into the tunnel to reach the dressing room a man appeared from the crowd milling around, he landed me with a right haymaker in the face and dropped me on the spot. Of course like all cowards he turned and ran down the tunnel. He was arrested later.

I have vivid memories of 2009 Munster final re-play; the game had to be delayed as there was complete gridlock in the tunnel. However I must confess from our Radio Kerry vantage point and I have had the privilege of been involved in all the stations broadcasts from there since 1987 the view of the action is superb. If you have the right viewing spot it is an amazing experience.   Incidentally this main stand is named after Sean Mac Carraig, Cork's second president of the GAA. The stadium itself is named after Padraig O Chaoimh, a native of Roscommon, this Irish War of Independence veteran became secretary of the Cork County Board at 21, and he began a 35-year stint as General Secretary of the GAA barely a decade later. Páirc Uí Chaoimh was officially opened on June 6, 1976.

The 1976 Munster final Kerry and Cork was the first major game staged here. It finished in a draw, ten points each. A crowd of over 40,000 attended and some 10,000 people unfamiliar with the new lay out of the stadium got in for free and hundreds clambered over the low side line wall and sat or stood on the field almost encroaching onto the pitch. It was near mayhem in many ways. Crowds surrounded the goals and Pat Spillane has vivid memories of one incident. "I was standing in the goal for a forty five when a fellow hit me a belt of an umbrella across the legs and said: "Don't come in here for the rest of the game." Kerry goalie Paudie o Mahoney recalled, "It was near impossible to get a run up for the kick out and fellows were roaring and shouting into my ear". Referee the late great John Moloney Tiperary had to stop the game a few times to clear the crowds from the pitch as they kept inching on.

The sides met again two weeks later also in Cork, stadium security had improved considerably and there was no repeat of the chaos. This time all the controversy was confined to the field. Five minutes left, Kerry four points down, Sean Walsh had a shot saved on the line by Brian Murphy? The umpire signaled a goal. Cork swept up field and Declan Barron rose high to punch to the Kerry net but this time the umpire ruled square ball, no goal. Pat Spillane equalized and the game went into extra time. Kerry ran out winners, 3-20 to 2-19. Mickey Sheehy scored 0-11, (in 1978 in Cork he scored 2-5, 1980 he scored 0-12 also in Cork) Pat Spillane, Mickey Ned and Sean Walsh raised the green flags. Spillane recalled many years later when I interviewed him, "it was daylight robbery, we were haunted and we got the rub of the green in a couple of referring decisions, Declan Barron's goal especially." It was the greatest game of football together with last years Kerry/Dublin semi-final I have seen in my life time.

Memories of Pairc Ui Chaoimh also included 1988 when Maurice Fitzgerald scored 0-10 as Cork won, 1-14 to 0-16 and then two years later he notched up 1-5 as Kerry were hammered, 2-23 to 1-14. A Cork fan is remembered for that day as the Kerry supporters were exiting in their droves with twenty minutes to go as he stood up on a seat in the stand and shouted, "lock the gates and keep the f''''S in."  One of the all time baffling decisions seen by Kerry selectors occurred in the stadium in 1999 when Aodhan McGearailt was taken off after he scored two goals? Kerry won 2-10 to 2-4.

And so we will see the end of an era next Sunday and who will receive the cup with no name? Two teams in transition, two young managers, and both counties unimpressive in their semi-finals.  It's a game that can go either way really, that what makes it fascinating for me. If James o Donoghue is FULLY fit he will add greatly to the Kerry scoring power. Cork were far superior in their league meeting. Will the Kerry youngsters rise to the occasion and will the older players produce their best form? Will Cork have a completely rearranged side from their semi final fright from Tipperary? It's the most open final in years. Cork on their superb first half showing against Dublin in the league semi-final will be favourites. Can they repeat that form and if they do they will triumph, or will we see a Kerry superbly prepared side like we witnessed from Eamon Fitzmaurice last year against Dublin. We don't know has the fellow said how they are going as training is behind closed doors. I give a shaky vote to the Kingdom.

Radio Kerry - The Voice of the Kingdom