Gus Cremin remembers 1946 and how he was dropped as Kerry Captain

by Weeshie Fogarty

With ten minutes left for play in the 1946 All Ireland Final Jimmy Murray, the Roscommon captain, lay on the side line blood streaming from a facial injury which had forced him out of the game. Two first aid men came over to him, (there were no special team doctors in those days) and one said to him: "I'd better wipe the blood from your face so that you will look presentable when you go up to receive the cup". This story was confirmed by the late Jimmy when I interviewed him in his pub in Knockcrockery following a Kerry-Roscommon league match some years ago That first aid man had good reason to feel convinced that the game was as good as over as the score board read - Roscommon 1-7; Kerry 0-4. Now there was less than eight minutes remaining before the final whistle. Just last week I was transported back through the mists of time to that historic day in Croke Park as I listened to the words of a man who played a major part in those two epic matches against the men from the West. Gus Cremin was the Kerry captain in that drawn game of 1946. Even though now in his eighty seventh year his memory of the events surrounding the drama that unfolded in those dramatic closing minutes is still crystal clear. In the space of those eight bewildering minutes Kerry's outstanding full fordward Paddy Burke, and Tom "Gega" o Connor scored two lighting goals - forcing a draw that really was a travesty of justice on the run of play. Kerry had performed a real Houdini act. However for the re-play there would be heart break for the man from Ballydonoghue and to this day it is very evident the intervening years has not dimmed the disappointment of what occurred before Kerry took the field for that second meeting.

"Shannon Rangers had won the 1945 county championship Weeshie; we beat your own club in a re-play. So the following year we were entitled to the captaincy. Eddie Dowling another great Shannon Rangers man was captain for the Munster final and I was a sub. It was the year of the bad harvest and I was saving my corn late into the Friday night before we left for Dublin for the semi-final against Antrim". Gus was brought on in that game and held his place for the drawn game against Roscommon as previously described. Johnny Walsh had trained the team for the first game. Then Dr Eamonn o Sullivan took over for the re-play and when the side was named for the final the captain was dropped. Paddy Kennedy took over the role.  Gus makes no secret of the fact that the man he felt responsible for his demotion was the legendary Dr Eamonn.  "I was greatly disappointed of course. Dr o Sullivan wasn't a selector but he picked the team. If I had been from Tralee or Killarney that would not have happened. During the replay Joe Barrett, who wanted me on the team kept trying to get me on the field". With fifteen minutes to go Kerry were trailing by two points and Roscommon were flying. Then the Kerry mentors made the switch that won the game. Gus Cremin came on as a sub. He immediately set up Paddy Burke who found the net and the Kingdom were ahead. Again Keenan leveled for Roscommon. Nine minutes to go now. Batt Garvey levellled the scores for the fifth time in the hour and the final is balanced on a knife edge.

So here I was last week sitting in Gus's beautiful home in Lisselton Ballydonoghue where he lives with his wife, son, daughter in law and lovely grand children. The eyes of this wonderfully courteous and exemplary Kerry legend lights up as I question him about the point that decided that epic battle sixty two years ago. "I took a free from the middle of the field and the ball dropped between the fourteen and the twenty one. Bill Carlos got possession and lashed it out the field where I fielded the ball. Boland made a drive for me but I side stepped him. I could see the goal posts opening up before me at the Hill 16 end. Gega was shouting for a pass. I was over sixty years out from goal but I was confident of scoring, I had often scored from longer distances in the North Kerry championship. The ball sailed straight and through over the bar. It was a great feeling". Another goal followed and Kerry were champions. Gus was shouldered around Croke Park by Kerry supporters who felt he had been badly wronged. No one suggested that he should go up and receive the Sam Maguire with Paddy Kennedy as is the norm in such circumstances to day.  Gus Cremin took the train home that evening all on his own and was back in the fields tending to his crops the following day. The county board offered to bring the cup out to his home but he declined the offer. Sam Maguire never came to Ballydonoghue in 1946. For Christy Riordan of C/R videos Caherceiveen and me this memorable meeting with the Lisselton legend was a further step in our chosen quest to meet and record the memories of all living winning Kerry captains in relations to those glorious days of their lives when they achieved footballing immortality during that one crowded hour in Croke Park.  The dead are also not being forgotten and last week saw us in Tousist to recall and record with Mick Granville and Mike Murphy of that great little club the story of their 1924 captain Phil O Sullivan. The Tousist pitch in named in his honour and his place of birth and the school he attended is still standing. Phil o Sullivan is one of two winning Kerry captains buried in America. Tom "Gega Connor is the other. A trip to Dublin to meet the wife and son of the legendary Paddy Kennedy is next on the agenda.

Love it or hate it the Compromise Rules series between Ireland and Australia makes for very interesting viewing and last Fridays game from Perth certainly improved the sullied image that previous meetings have generated. The last series between the two countries was a torrid affair where we witnessed some down right tuggery from the Aussies. Neck high tackles were common place and this particular tackle in my opinion which we now see a lot of here at home is a legacy of our meeting with the men from down under. There are good and bad habits to be picked up in all walks of life.  Ireland goes into next Fridays game just one point in the lead, (44-45) and the last quarter certainly showed the extent of the professional training which the Australians under go. Ireland had been well ahead at that stage following goals from Leighton Glenn, Steven McDonald and a cracking shot from the superb Sean Cavanagh. It was obvious they tired and the hosts come back makes for a very interesting second game. The organizers must at long last feel well pleased with the behavior of all the players during the game. In fact there was only one tackle which was well outside the rules and that occurred late in the game when Campbell Brown the macho Aussie went bald headed in a frontal challenge for his Irish countpart. He got his marching orders, and rightly so. So let's hope the second test will be even better. Kerry's interest of course is centered on players Kieran Donaghy, Killian Young and Aidan o Mahoney while the "Bomber" and Sean Walsh our previous county board chairman are on the back room team. 

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