Micko magic drove Kerry to greater heights

May 5th, 2015
by Weeshie Fogarty

Continuing last weeks story of Kerrys magnificent win forty years ago this year when in 1975 the counties youngest side ever won the All Ireland. Mick o Dwyer took to his new position like a duck to water, he knew what he wanted from the word go and some members of the 1970 All Ireland winning team were discarded. Seamus Mac Gearailt was one who was left off the panel and told me in a later interview.  "We weren't too happy about it and felt we had a lot more football left in us. However Mick was right, he developed his young team and nurtured them to go on and become a fantastic side".

He brought the panel to Killarney for training and week after week he put them through the most punishing regime they had never before experienced.  He explained," we had five physical education teachers on the panel but I never consulted with any of them. If I did so my position would have been undermined as I had my own personal theories as regards getting players fit". We had seen what he meant when he had trained Waterville.

And so the youngest Kerry team ever fielded in a championship began their voyage to Croke Park against Tipperary in Clonmel on June 15th 1975. Always a very difficult venue to visit the home side had scored 7-18 in their first round against Limerick. So the warning signs were there.  The scores in Clonmel were level at half time; Tipperary went ahead shortly after the re-start and then the Kerry selectors made a master move. John Egan was brought to the forty; he scored 2-2 between the 14th and 17th minutes and sealed the result.  John Egan such a beautiful balanced, skilful and brave player told me in an interview, "I loved the freedom of the forty and o Dwyer had us in tremendous shape and remember seven players were making their championship debuts that day so we were relatively very inexperienced".

Now Cork awaited them in the Munster final and they were hot favourites to achieve a three in a row titles.  Living just a stones throw from Fitzgeralds stadium in Killarney I was fortunate to be in a position to attend the training sessions every evening (no lockout back then) and what was unfolding there was mind boggling. Never before had a Kerry team trained for twenty seven consecutive nights in a row. It was brutal stuff as o Dwyer punished his men and pushed them beyond the limits. Rounds of the field, sprinting wire to wire, and flat out thirteen aside games. Very few sports journalists gave Kerry a chance of winning but within the squad spirits were high.

Kerry literally dominated the game, winning, 1-14 to 0-7, Pat Spillane getting a fortuities early goal when a Cork defender deflected the ball into his own net. Cork were overwhelmed by o Dwyer's young lions as they swept to a sensational victory. It was scintilling stuff played in hot humid conditions before a crowd of 43,295. Jimmy Deenihan held Jimmy Barry scoreless and when he did foul the Cork star in the square Paudie o Mahony saved the resultant penalty.  Paudie o Se was fortunate that he was not send off when he decked his man with a right upper cut for what he described afterwards as, "A bit of verbal intimidation and I was boiling". Cork were completely demoralized as The Kingdom strolled to their 54th Munster championship.

Micko had the sent of victory in his nostrils and he continued to drive the boys in training with ferocious determination. Sligo were Kerry's next opponents visiting the capital for their first championship game in Croke Park since 1928. The legendary vetern Mickey Kerins was their side but the young Kerry men simply brushed them aside without little difficulty. It finished 3-13 to 0-5. John Egan with 2-2 and Pat Spillane 1-1 leading the route.  The Spa man Paudie o Mahony saved another penalty diving to his right at the Railway end to keep another clean sheet. No goal conceded so far by Kerry in the championship.

Dublin had scored 3-13 against Derry in their win in the other semi-final and the whole country awaited the final with great expectations.  It rained heavily in Dublin that day forty years ago. I traveled up to the game with my brother late brother Geni and friends; the atmosphere was electric as the sides raced on to the field. O Dwyer had the lads in magnificent shape. They were sharp, fit, hungry and I have never seen any fifteen Kerry footballers simply jumping out of their skins as that young side all those years ago.

Just three minutes after the throw in Gay o Driscoll the Dublin defender failed to collect the ball. John Eagan was on it like a panther and as if in slow motion, and I can still see it as clear as day in the minds eye he skipped around the backs with that beautiful ballet like motion and his bullet of a shot beautifully placed out of Paddy Cullen's reach sent the rain drops dancing off the net at the Railway goal.  Valencia's Ger o Driscoll came on for Mickey Ned who had been brutally knocked unconscious by a Dublin elbow and Ger also raised the green flag.  Once again the youth, speed, skill and Kerry tradition was there in abundance for all to marvel at and the final score was Kerry 2-12, Dublin, 0-11. Paudie o Mahoney had not conceded a goal in the championship, John Egan finished top scorer for the year with 5-7, followed by Pat Spillane with 2-8. Ger Power was voted Man of the Match.

The county was in seventh heaven. Thousands turned out to greet the team when they returned to Killarney on Monday and something about this bunch of Kerry bachelors had touched the hearts of their loyal followers.  The streets were jam packed, and as the lorry carrying the team inched its way at a snails pace down Plunkett St confetti was scattered on them from the windows high above. The Park Place Hotel was the destination as always for the speech making and a hoarse Mick o Dwyer made the startling announcement "that this bunch of players could go on and win ten All Irelands".

It was the beginning of a golden era in Kerrys long and glorious football story and this magnificent bunch of young Kerry men would go on and write their names indelibly into the pages of history. Forty years have passed but for me it seems just like only yesterday. Sadly Paidi o Se, Tim Kennelly and John Egan have been called to their eternal reward but for those of us who saw them and their teammates grow and develop into the magnificent players they became they will live forever.

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