Forty years since the birth of the Golden Years

April 28th, 2015
by Weeshie Fogarty

Its forty years ago this very year and it seems as if it has passed in the blink of an eye, forty long years since we witnessed the birth of what many shrewd judges recognize as the greatest football team the game has ever seen. Mick o Dwyer, Mickey Ned o Sullivan, 1975, Croke Park, the Dubs, The Sam Maguire Cup, names and dates that will forever be remembered when Kerry football history is discussed. And forty years ago at this very time in our football history Kerry football was in a bit of a quandary.

Facing into 1975 no senior trainor had been appointed, Kenmare had beaten Shannon Rangers the previous year in the county final and Mickey Ned o Sullivan was nominated as Kerry captain for '75. Frank King (RIP) then county chairman requested the Kenmare man a qualified PE teacher to take over the role as coach to the team, Mickey refused and as he later told me "I just wanted to be captain of Kerry and nothing else". January '75 Kerry beat Dublin in a Croke Park challenge but they had no selectors appointed.

 The county convention came up, Mick o Dwyer left his name go forward as a selector, he topped the pole, Donie Sheehan the Killarney chemist was also voted in as was Pat o Shea, (Cromane), Murt Kelly, (Beautfort), and Denis "Top Cross" McCarthy (Kenmare). So now Kerry had five men who knew their football as they say inside out and upside down. But still no one to train the team. It must not be forgotten that Micko had trained then kerry under twenty ones in 1974 when they lost to Cork by a point in Caherceiveen, 3-5 to 1-10. Paudie o Se blasted a penalty over the bar that evening which probably cost Kerry the game.

Mickey Ned started working and coaxing o Dwyer to take the job and then in stepped county board secretary Gerald McKenna, he travelled to Waterville and the deal was sealed. Really it was a natural progression for Mick. He had done a magnificent job with his own club Waterville as player/trainor during the sixties and early seventies driving them to win South Kerry championships, Towns Cup finals, and a Kerry club championship final. His greatness as trainor of men was never more evident than in 1967 when Waterville won South Kerry Championship, the Kerry Junior Championship and the Towns Cup.

But his greatest achievement of all was as player/trainor when Waterville contested three Kerry senior county finals, 1968-69-70. They met and were defeated in all three by an East Kerry team comprise of at one stage twelve different clubs and boasting in their first fifteen no less than fourteen men who had worn the green and gold at some grade. Compare this with what Mick o Dwyer had at his disposal. A great friend Paddy Fogarty former player and chairman of the club told me one time, "the vast majority of the team lived within a radios of two miles; there were four sets of brothers and also many first cousins. If you stood in the middle of the village and blew a whistle you would have most of the team around you within minutes.

Our pitch was out of action for a few years and we trained on the local golf course and the nearby beach where Mick had the players running up and down sand hills every evening. He had the lads in magnificent shape. I was never surprised with his later success with Kerry as he had done it all with Waterville and he was a great leader of men". Not alone was o Dwyer a great leaded and motivator of men but in my opinion he was probably the greatest club footballer over his long career that I have ever seen in this county. And I don't make this statement lightly.

O Dwyer took over as trainor on the 22nd March 1975, the day before Kerry lost a National League quarter final to Meath by 0-11 to 0-6. There was a lot of hard work to be done but the man who had preceded o Dwyer as trainor, Johnny Culloty had introduced a wealth of young talent to the squad and these men were to go on and dominate the game for the next ten years or so.

Culloty had laid the foundations for the years of glory that were to follow as he had played youngsters such as Paudie o Mahoney, Jimmy Deenihan, Paidi o Se John Egan Ger o Keeffe, Ger Power and Mickey Sheehy during the league and championships of ,73-74. And also it must be recognised that Mickey Ned and Paudie Lynch and made their debuts even earlier, in 1971.

 Now o Dwyer continued the blooding of youngsters as he fused his new squad for an all out attempt on the championship. However the fact that three older more experienced men were also there as '75 began was a massive boost experience wise to the dressing room.

John o Keeffe, oozing with class, style and loads of ability had made his debut in 1969 and went on to develop into probably Kerry's greatest ever full back. Donie o Sullivan who had captained Kerry to victory over Meath in 1970, a man who brought tremendous passion and determination to the scene and had been playing with the seniors since back in 1962 and Brendan Lynch such a dynamic all action forward playing senior since 1968.

While old adage, "you can't put old head on young shoulders" might be applied to the young guns on the team it certainly could not be applied to these three experienced men and the question must now be asked, without this experienced trio would the 1975 victory have been achieved?.

Everything it seemed was now in place; the stars it appeared had been aligned once again for another assault on the All Ireland. Kerrys youngest ever side would begin with a game against Tipperary, Dublin were the reigning  All Ireland champions, Cork had been one of the highest ever scoring All Ireland winners just the previous year, 1973 .

It promised to be a near impossible task for this youthful Kerry team of bachelors. Seven players, the most ever, would make their championship debuts, the name Ray Prendiville would make its only appearance on a Kerry team list and the story of the two missed penalties in the Munster final as goalkeeper Paudie o Mahony would make history and Mickey Ned the absence captain.

Next week we look back once again to that unforgettable day forty years ago when our national newspapers screamed out the headlines, Kingdoms Fusillade KOs Heffo's Army and This Was The Day Of The Kerry Dancers. Great stuff, unforgettable memories, Secrets of Kerry and a confetti homecoming in Killarney.

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