Kerry face Cork and painful memories of the Munster Minor Final of 1969

June 26th, 2007
by Weeshie Fogarty

While the losing of the game next Sunday is not the end of the line for either Kerry or Cork both managers will certainly want to avoid the qualifiers which get under way very shortly. And these qualifiers will certainly throw up some mouth watering clashes. Just look at a few of the contenders and remember they all go into the one hat and the first team out will have home advantage. Mayo, Armagh, Limerick, Cavan, Westmeath, Donegal. Kildare, Meath. On the other hand the defeat to Cork last year might even in retrospect be looked upon as the stepping stone to winning the All Ireland for Kerry. It is now part of history that the Kerry management team in my opinion through sheer desperation to improve the scoring rate moved Kieran Donnaghy into full forward. Here the rangy Austin Stacks man became the talk of the town for the remainder of the championship.

This is a very difficult game to call. Cork as a rule rise their game when faced by the Kerry challenge in Munster. However when the sides have met in Croke Park since the interduction of the open draw the boot is on the other foot and Kerry have been better able to attune to the bigger stage that is Croke Park. Not much will be learned from the two Munster semi finals. Waterford was very disappointing at home to Kerry and it was a stroll for Pat o Shea's men, 2-15 to 0-4. Cork may have faced better opposition in Tipperary with the scoring star Declan Browne in their side, Billy Morgan's men rattled up 2-18, conceding 0-10. It is likely that Kerry will start with the same fifteen that did duty against Waterford. I believe that irrespective of whom starts the game will be decided by the substitutions made during the course of the seventy minutes. And here might lie the winning or loosing of the final.

Kerry has without doubt much more experienced men in the dug out. And in champion ship football there is simply no substitute for experience. Going on the assumption that we will see the same starting line up then we are left with a very impressive list of substitutes. Seamus Scanlon or Tommy Griffin are ready re placements for mid field. In fact Tommy Griffin could well start so that would leave Michael Quirke following outstanding games against Dublin in the league and later against Waterford ready to play a part? Tommy Griffin has also been playing in defense in training and with Daniel Bohane and Mossie Lyons there is adequate cover here.  Brian Sheehan must feel disappointed at not nailing down a regular place as he would be on most starting fifteens in the country. Not alone dose it appear that the St Marys man will not start but it would then mean that the captaincy will be retained by Declan o Sullivan. Sean and Darren o Sullivan will trouble any tiring defenders when introduced and Paul o Conner continues to improve. These are probably the likely men to answer the call and all of them are proven performers on the big stage. A big plus here of Kerry. I don't believe Declan Quill will be in contention as he has been doing only easy jogging in training following his hamstring injury in the county championship.

Some crucial clashes to eagerly look forward to. Graham Canty and Kieran Donnaghy. The Stacks man has been looking much improved in training; he will want to be on top form for Canty. Michael Shields, Ger Spillane and Derek Kavanagh love attacking from defense so expect to see plenty of the modern day football. Crowding around the centre and prevent the opposition from playing open football. And then from a Kerry perspective the most crucial clash of all. James Masters verses I expect Mark o Se. Masters the Bandon based Garda is Corks top scorer hitting 2-7 against Tipperary, 2-4 from play. If Masters is held and no better man for the job than Mark o Se then a lot of the sting is gone from the visitors attack. I have been joining the watchers at training in the Stadium. It is here that you get a little glimpse just how things are developing. The boys are moving well under John Sugrue and Pat o Shea. Fresh, competitive, eager and like all Kerry sides I have watched preparing down through the decades business like and focused on the task ahead.

And so what can we expect from this towering new full forward Michael Cussen that Billy Morgan has unveiled this year. Kerry fans will have their first live look at the man attempting to emulate Kieran Donnaghy. Cussen plays with a dual club in Cork. Glanmire in football and Sarsfields in hurling and is a very good hurler. At minor and under 21 he played all his football at mid field for Glanmire. He is 23 years of age and I don't believe he played minor with Cork. He is I am reliably informed very effective in gaining possession however his delivery and kicking skills would not be as polished as Kieran Donnaghy. Donnaghys basketball career I am in no doubt has been the one defining crucial feature in his dramatic rise to national prominence. This is where Michael Cussen fails to match our man. He is a very mobile and in the two championship matches he has played for Cork this year the one criticism the supporters have voiced is that the ball has not ben played half enough to him.. His scoring ratio is a long way behind Kieran nevertheless it is going to be fascinating to see how Tom O Sullivan and the Kerry defenders cope with his six five height and accompanying reach. Tom has been marking Donnaghy in training and what better preparation is this for the Rathmore star.

Now this Cork line up is more or less the same that failed to Kerry in Croke Park last year however Cussen has given them a different dimension and like Kieran Donnaghy he has taken the responsibility or pressure off the other forwards. James Masters and Donncha o Connor in particular have benefited greatly from the new man and when the ball comes in around the square it is the full forwards responsibility to field, pass are simply break the ball to a team mate. So when we take Michael Cussen into the equation it is not what he achieves on the ball just like Kieran Donnaghy it is the over all improvement he brings to the play of all his surrounding team mates.

I have vivid memories of the tall rangy Ray Cummins playing ducks and drakes with the Kerry defenders in the 1973 Munster final in Cork as Kerry were routed 5-12 to 1-15. The effect that the two giant full forwards will have on proceedings next Sunday is for me the most fascinating aspect of the game. And finally we look once again to Darragh o Se to be our leader. We rely on him so much. Nickelus Murphy will not forget the torrid afternoon he had in Croke Park last year. He finished the game sore and sorry. A superb fielder on his day Murphy will be all out to re claim some lost pride. As the late Fr. Kelly of Glenbeigh would say. "There could be wigs on the green here to-day lads". I take Kerry to win.

I have often admitted my great admiration for the Cork manager Billy Morgan. (Despite the fact that I have had a few "run ins" with him when I was referring at inter county level). In my estimation he has been one great GAA men of the present generation. The best goalkeeper I have ever seen. Playing with and training Nemo Rangers to All Ireland club titles. Training and captaining Cork to All Ireland glory. Fiery and controversial love him or hate him he has served his county above and beyond the call of duty. His presence on the line as he prowls like a caged tiger up and down is one of the great sights in the game. His non love for Kerry is legendary. Since he first donned the Cork jersey as a minor in 1963 he has given his whole life like Mick o Dwyer to the Gaelic Athletic Association. Is this his last Munster final involvement? I for one would not bet on that.

Impossible to forecast how the minor final will go, minors are unpredictable and a small swing one way or the other can affect the result. I have first had knowledge of this. Forty eight long years ago, 1959 I played in goal for the minors as we lost to Cork before a massive crowd in Fitzgerald Stadium. A scorching hot day and we had togged out in St Finan's hospital. Everything was going well until coming up to half time our brilliant center back Pat Dowling from Castlegregory suffered an ankle injury and had to leave the field. Pat Dowling played minor, under 21, junior and senior football for Kerry and I can safely say that he was on of the best fielders I have ever seen in this county. Then immediately after this came the score that cost us the game.

A long high ball came into the square at the dressing room goal. The Cork full forward Patsy Harte if I can recall properly fielded and headed for goal. With three of us literally attempting to drag him to the ground he launched himself ball and all Moss Keane style over the line. We immediately protested to the umpire that carrying the ball over the line was not allowed, you must kick or punch it. As he waved the green flag high and wide he turned to me and said. "That might be a foul down here but where I come from in Clare it's allowed". Dublin with "Blackie" Coen the star beat Cavan in the minor final that year of '59. Other forgotten minors that day for Kerry included. Tom o Connor, "Thorny" o Shea, Alan Conway, Seamus Roche, Rupert Swan, Pat Dowling, Jack Whelan, Liam Fitzgerald, Pa Kerins, Liam Scully, John Ashe, Pat Aherne, Ollie kerins, Michael Walsh.

Radio Kerry - The Voice of the Kingdom