Bruddy's death takes another hero of the Polo Grounds

April 14th, 2009
by Weeshie Fogarty

The death of William Bruddy O'Donnell who died on April 5 has taken from our midst one of the last four surviving Kerry legends of that historic Polo Grounds All Ireland Final which was played in New York on September 14, 1947. Only Mick Finnucane, Frank O'Keeffe and Eddie Dowling now remain as links to one of the most talked about finals in GAA history.

Bruddy O'Donnell had an outstanding playing career both for his club and county. He played in six Kerry county finals with his beloved John Mitchels helping them to victory on two occasions. He won two Railway Cup medals with Munster in 1946 and 1948. On both occasions Bruddy lined out at centre forward, his best position. 1946 was the year in which this genial and courteous Tralee man reached the pinnacle of his playing career.

Kerry defeated Roscommon in a replayed All Ireland final and while Bruddy did not feature in the replay he nevertheless had played a huge part in Kerrys march to that much talked about victory. Its synonymous with Kerry and one of the wonderful traditions about this county when a Kerry great dies such as Bruddy it invariably leads to wonderful, discussion, debate, recollections of great games, scores and compositions of teams from the long past. And that was very evident at Bruddy funeral last Monday and Tuesday week as groups of Mitchels and older Kerry players discussed and debated the career of their former comrade. How long did he play with Kerry? What was the story about those Roscommon games in 1946 and did he play in the polo ground final?

It is my experience that probably the most controversial and discussed All Ireland Kerry victory ever and I am well aware that there were many including 1982 however that whole year of 1946 was the most controversial of all. Bruddy had first donned the green and gold in championship football against Clare in Ennis in June 1942. Kerry won 3-8 to 1-3.

Ironically following 17 championship games with his county he would finish his intercounty career also against Clare in Ennis in June of 1949. Kerry were sensationally defeated 3-7 to 1-8. This defeat marked the end of a glorious era for Kerry football. Many of the men who had help their county to 13 All Ireland finals, including two re-plays, winning eight during the thirties and forties were now at the end of their glittering careers. The county would now begin a valley period and the next All Ireland victory would not come until 1953 and my own club man Jackie Lyne would be the only link from the last win in that dramatic year of 1946.

Cork had come to Killarney as All Ireland champions on June of that year. It was the first round of the Munster Championship and Kerry stripped them of their crown with a sensational win against all predictions on the score, 1-8 to 1-4. It is worth recording that Kerry fifteen, which set the Kingdom on its winning way that historic year: Danno Keeffe, Denny Lyne, Paddy Bawn Brosnan, Gerald Teahan, Paddy (Chipsy) O'Donoghue, (John Mitchels), Bill Casey, Eddie Walsh, Teddy O'Connor, Eddie Dowling (captain), Batt Gravy, Tom O'Conner (Dingle), Jack Falvey (Kerins O'Rahillys), Jackie Lyne, Paddy Burke, Paddy Kennedy. "Chipsy" O'Donoghue later immigrated to Australia. He died and was buried there and his sister May in Tralee is the proud holder of his 1946 All Ireland medal.

Clare was next up and Kerry won and advanced to the Munster final on the score, 1-6 to 0-7. Billy Myres came in at full-back to replace Paddy "Bawn", Eugene Coughlan (Iveragh) lined out at left corner-back, and Bruddy O'Donnell came in at centre-forward when Dan Kavanagh cried off due to an injury. Charlie O'Connor (Castleisland) also lined out on the first fifteen.

A convincing 2-16 to 2-1 win over Waterford with Bruddy in the half-forward line saw Kerry advance to face Antrim in the All Ireland semi-final. Gus Cremin and Eddie Dowling, both Shannon Rangers, came in at centre field. Bill Casey was appointed captain. Gerald Teahan (Dick Fitzgeralds) and Teddy O'Connor manned the wing back positions and Dan Kavanagh came in at corner fordward. Kerry advanced to the All Ireland final on a score 2-7 to 010. Bruddy had a great game and was Kerry's to scorer with 1-2 to his name. Batt Garvey scored Kerry's second goal.

However, there were huge repercussions following the game. The Antrim county board against the wishes of their players lodged an objection against Kerry. In the objection they stated that members of the Kerry team had indulged in rough play and that these tactics before 30,000 spectators was calculated to bring the GAA into disrepute. For two and a half hours on August 31 the Central Council considered Antrim's objection.

The referee in his report stated that play was overvigorous towards the end and he had to award several frees to Antrim and he continued that in the second half he send Bill Casey and Harry O'Neill to the line. The objection was declared lost by 19 votes to 10. In one of my first ever interviews with Kerrys legendary full-back Joe Keohane he spoke about that game.

"We were Croke Park specialists and they were making their first appearance in All Ireland semifinal. They tried to walk the ball into the net and even when going for points they tried to get close in. So we decided that the only way to stop them was for each man to tackle the forward for whom the pass was intended.

"Of course we did not stand on ceremony, but I must emphaise that at no time did we indulge in reprehensible tactics. Our play completely disrupted Antrim's basketball type of forward play. You must play hard to win an All-Ireland and Antrim failed to change their style despite the fact that we mastered their short passing. We played it hard but we played it fair."

Bruddy O'Donnell played in the drawn All-Ireland final against Roscommon but he, along with the Kerry captain, was sensationally dropped for the replay.

Radio Kerry - The Voice of the Kingdom