Early hours drama of famous Kerry win

July 4th, 2006
by Weeshie Fogarty

SO what drama will unfold in Fitzgerald Stadium, Killarney, next Sunday when the age-old rivals, Kerry and Cork, clash? No matter what the year, irrespective of the form either side is showing, whatever the so-called experts say or write, a Kerry and Cork Munster final takes on a life of its own. Not only is the game itself a great occasion but, the whole day is something special to savour.

The great Cork trainer Billy Morgan is on record as saying that a Munster final in beauty's home - Killarney - is magic. The fans mix freely from early morning and the closeness of the stadium to the town and, indeed, to the railway station helps congregate the milling crowds closely together. And, on top of that, the banter is mighty. It is well worth taking a walk around the town during the runup to the game and it's here that you will see the true supporters from both sides as they crowd into Killarney. It's all about meeting up with old friends, dropping in to their favourite watering holes as the pros and cons of the upcoming match are debated in great detail. There is nothing like it.

I saw my first Munster final in 1955 and I have rarely missed one since. There is one vivid youthful memory that, for some unknown reason, has stayed with me from the 50s. That is of a Corkman wearing the traditional paper hat, standing at the top of New Street, Killarney, admittedly having a few pints on board, shouting on the top of his voice at the passing throngs: "Be a man. Up the blood and bandage." He was, of course, referring to the red and white of his beloved Rebel county.

Let me now make a confession on this the week of the Munster final. The only time I was in a pub that was raided and cleared by the Garda Siochanna was the day of a Munster final many years ago. It was a High Street hostelry in Killarney and the owner, a decent man with a nice handy back door, was letting in the thirsty supporters in threes and fours. I got a call at home from an old football comrade, a Kerry man living in Cork was waiting to meet me in the pub. The place was packed, the banter was mighty, old Munster finals were being replayed as fast as the barman could re-fill the glasses, and then someone began a verse of 'The banks of my own lovely Lee.' He was quickly joined in the clamour by every Corkman on the premise and when they reached the line, 'where we sported and played beneath the green leafy shade on the banks of my own lovely Lee,' they almost lifted the roof. Not to be outdone, a Kerry-man - who shall remain nameless but was born in Killarney and has a pub in Tralee - knew full well that he would be leaving down every Kerry footballer, living and dead, if these Cork people were not answered in the surest possible way. And so standing precariously on a bar stool ,with both arms outstretched and the pint in one hand, he began the Kerry anthem The Rose of Tralee.

The response was instantaneous. The Kerry crowd, men and women, stood as one and literally drowned out the opposition. Now I have always noticed that when a certain line is reached in a song where a crowd is involved, the noise level reaches crescendo. And so when we reached the immortal line, "oh no 'twas the truth in her eyes ever shining that made me love Mary, the rose of Tralee," the singing and cheering could be heard in the garda barracks on New Street where it was situated then. The landlord was fit to be tied. He knew the consequences of all this early morning noise could be grave and he was running around, shouting in the top of his voice, 'stop the singing, stop the singing.' However, the more he shouted, the louder the singing became.

Looking back now, all these years later, it was hilarious because the man of the house owned a little collie dog and the dog then joined in when he heard his master yelling and his joyous yelping only added great-ly to the bedlam that reined. Then it happened. The word spread like wildfire through the front and back bar of the High Street establishment. "The guards are at the door."

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