The experience of Twelve All Ireland defeats since 1955

September 29th, 2015
by Weeshie Fogarty

It's been one of those weeks similar to what I have experienced eleven times since attending my first All-Ireland in 1955, eleven times I have witnessed defeated Kerry teams returning home to Kerry, and this year makes it twelve.  And it's always the same, the stark difference between winning and losing is just unbelievable and last Monday night in the Glebe car park College St Killarney was not a nice place to be.  But there was something else in the atmosphere which I had never before experienced and it gave rise to a myriad of emotions which were so difficult to come to grips with. Believe it or not this was as far as my memory serves me the very first time since 1955 when I began following that a winning Kerry minor team had returned to the Kingdom with a losing Kerry senior side. An amazing statistic.

So there you had it Jack o Connors young men on top of the bus parading through Killarney, Eamon Fitzmaurice and his men doing the same but the difference in body language, expressions and response from and to  the people who came out to greet the lads was simply like chalk and cheese. In fact when the players were being introduced to the crowd the applause was mutated, polite and but very generous. And the winning Kerry minor team I felt myself would have preferred to have been on their own and events certainly to my eyes took from their enjoyment.

And as several senior players remarked to me as we chatted later in the evening, they would have much preferred to have been allowed return home in their own time but tradition decreed that this was not possible.  Defeated homecomings are a very difficult time for losers and the loyal fans that came out to support them are very conscious of this. Here you had a squad of dedicated Kerrymen who had literally shed blood, sweat and tears during the past nine months and at the end defeat was their reward. Now however it was a case of grin and bare it.

As always following a final defeat the whole topic of debate wherever I went during the week was the match, and the post mortems will last well into the winter. In fact winter talk is a great way of passing long dark evenings and there are no better supporters anywhere in Ireland than here in Kerry to literally dissect the game in the most minuet of details. At times it can be critical, unbalanced, unfair and downright brutal but that is the way of Kerry football and Eamon Fitz and all his players are well aware of this.

Kerry fans can be unforgiving when All Ireland final defeat comes knocking on their door, make no mistake about this. Players, manager, trainer, coach, selectors, substitutions, county board, everyone, one way or the other comes under the supporter's football microscope  and blame is scattered far and wide. However the one defining general consensus I have noticed as regards this latest defeat is, we simply were not good enough on the day, substitutions were handled badly and Dublin were the better team.  These were exactly the sentiments I expressed here in this column last week.

But of course hindsight is a wonderful thing, and if Eamon Fitzmaurice was blessed with the genius of possessing this gift before the match then he would go on and become the greatest GAA manager in the history of the game.

So like all arm chair so called experts I watched the game again during the week, and was amazed at what transpired in the first fifteen minutes of the match. Kerry attacking the Railway end simply ran Dublin of the field but the forwards, the section of the team who we all felt were our trump card failed badly, kicking a litany of wide's which might have given the Kingdom that sense of comfort which they never experienced at any time for the remainder of the seventy minutes. Had our accuracy been as expected we could have gone in at the short whistle in the lead. Anthony Maher, Johnny Buckley, Paul Geaney, James o Donoghue (45), Donnacha Walsh, David Moran, Aidan o Mahoney all ballooned the ball wide from positions they will know on another day should have been points. And then we saw Paul Geaney blatantly fouled close to goal, no free awarded, Dublin broke away and pointed. Yes I know I am clutching at straws, but Dublin lived during this time off scraps.

The re-play Dublin had against Mayo definetly played a majour part, I am firmly convinced of this, just as it benifitted us last year but this Dublin side are in my book the best side in Ireland, they proved that also when winning the national league. In nearly all areas they outplayed us, Brendan Kealy, Donnacha Walsh and Shane Enright and Anthony Maher were in my opinion the only starting players to perform as expected, a damming indictment. The atrocious weather conditions were handles much better by Dublin, and talking their whole squad into consideration they are farther advanced in strength and conditioning that Kerry.

Mistakes, as is generally excepted far and wide were made on the side line, it was a day for big men, strong men and salutary lessons will surely be learned by all concerned. Eamon Fitzmaurice and his side line mentors are intelligent men with nothing but the good of Kerry football in their hearts, they will meet, review the game, go away and make harsh decisions, and tough decisions will have to be made.  If the gap between Kerry and Dublin is to be bridged just like Mick o Dwyer did in the seventies then the bar has to be raised just as Kerry managers/trainers have done in the past.  And it's not that vast a gap really.

Finally the eye gouging incident on Kieran Donaghy was absolutely disgraceful and the captain could have suffered serious injury. Dangerous and disgraceful incidents coupled with cynical behaviour are occurring in big games more regular than ever before. The words manliness, fair play, enjoyment and sportsmanship seem to be a thing of the past, and these words are rarely ever used in to-days world.     Sadly however the words of Kieran Donaghy after this year's final, "what happens on the field stays on the field" appears now to apply to both players and all officials.  Silence breeds acceptances.

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