Former stars returned for famous victory

June 25th, 2006
by Weeshie Fogarty

There is undoubtedly a certain amount of unease around the county in relation to the form being shown by our boys in the championship to date. Next Saturday's match against Longford is the centre of attention and I can assure followers that events in the lead-up to the last and only meeting of these two counties in the championship in 1968 were far, far more depressing than any feelings of trepidation this week.

So instead of joining in with the rest of the hurlers on the ditch and telling the selectors what should and should not be done and who should be on the starting fifteen, let's go back in time and examine the events of the middle sixties. In particular 1968 when Kerry and Long-ford met in that year's All-Ireland semi-final. It is, I believe, fair to say that the football scene in relation to our county side was in turmoil and the followers of the green and gold were experiencing some of the worst displays ever given by a Kerry team.  Down had beaten us in 1960 and 1961. Dr Eamon O'Sullivan came back and guided the county to victory over Roscommon in 1962 - it proved to be the last of his eight victories as Kerry trainer. However things were to go drastically down hill for the next five years. Galway beat us in two finals and a semi-final during the following three years and, in 1966 and 1967, Cork beat their old rivals in the Munster finals.

The period coincided with the retirement of some of the greatest players the game has ever seen. Johnny Culloty, Mick O'Dwyer, Mick O'Connell and Seamus Murphy had all departed the scene. They were still playing club and county championship football but it was impossible to fill their boots on the inter-county scene. Being on the goalkeeping circuit myself during that period I have vivid memories of the merry-go-round of goalkeepers being played in an effort to replace Johnny. Peter Hanley, Josie O'Brien, Seamus Fitzgerald, Eamon O'Donoghue, RIP, and Teddy Bowler were all tested between the sticks at one time or another. Black Years Indeed, things were in such disarray during these black years for Kerry football that the selectors at the time were chopping and changing to such an extent that Teddy Bowler was in goal for the 1966 final and the following year he was full back.

Then in 1967 the late great Eamon O'Donoghue, a forward of great poise and a gentleman, was selected in goal for the Munster final and what drama we witnessed that day as rain swept across the old Athletic grounds and turned the field into a quagmire. Two minutes remaining, Kerry trailing by a point. They are awarded a free some 25 yards from the posts and about halfway between the goal and the sideline. We then saw one of the most bizarre substitutions for many a long day. The Kerry selectors decided to bring Eamon O'Donoghue out from goal to corner forward to kick the free, which would decide the Kingdom's fate. John 'Thorny' O'Shea was called ashore and they replaced Eamon in goals with Josie O'Brien.

Now with a dry ball it would not have offered much of a problem for Eamon but 'the lump of soap' which was handed to him was a completely different kettle of fish, even for a sweet free kicker like Eamon. And let's not forget that it was the old pig skin football, which would become as heavy as lead when it soaked in the water. The suspense was unreal as he moved up to take the kick and although he had the height and distance the ball curled around the far post and Kerry had failed by a matter of mere inches to snatch a draw. Teddy Bowler at full back was Kerry's man of the match. Cork won that 1967 Munster final, 0-8 to 0-7.

My own Killarney Legion clubman, Jackie Lyne, was appointed trainer early in 1968. He had trained Legion to win the O'Donoghue Cup the previous year - his only training experience up to that. Kerry beat Cork in a classic Munster final 1-21 to 3-8, and Longford won their one and only Leinster final beating Laois, 3-9 to 1-4. They were the talk of the country as one would expect.

So it was a first ever championship meeting between Kerry and Longford and what an enthralling encounter they provided for 35,000 spectators, as Kerry prevailed at the end on the score 2-13 to 2-11. One scribe summed it up beautifully. "Kerry and Longford held us spellbound in Croke Park. This was football of the highest order, played hard, honestly and with dare devil abandon, particularly in a spell-binding second half.

"It was rip roaring stuff of sheer grandeur. There was almost reckless dedication and courageous vigour. There was football elegantly skilled in concept and execution."

All the finest arts and crafts of the game were splendidly demonstrated - eager fielding, safe catching, high fielding, intelligent kicking and constructive movement that dove tailed into an over all wonderful pattern of play.

Historic Clash? Yes indeed and my own memories of that historic clash are of a superb match. Where today would you read such gushing praise of two teams? Very rarely. This was the football many people yearn for today. The game has changed beyond all recognition and not all for the best unfortunately.

While I am on the subject of the game today a former all-time great player remarked to me lately in a long deep conversation of Gaelic football. "The association has improved so dramatically in all areas from my time, as good as any sporting body in the world, except in the game of football it self. The most important area of all. Sadly it has deteriorated so much that it simply not Gaelic football any more but a form of swarming basketball." I believe the man is correct.

So this was the game we watched 38 years ago as Kerry advanced to meet Down in the final. Kerry led at the short whistle 2-7 to 0-6 and Pat Griffin was the man-of-the-match - Longford tried four different men on him. Longford turned in a scintillating second half display. Kerry added two quick points on the restart to go nine points up but then came the Longford fight back. They were magnificent. Tom Mulvihill goaled from close-in, Jackie Devine blasted home a penalty and with eight minutes to go they were dramatically ahead. Kerry responded in great style. The brilliant Mick O'Connell pulling them down from the clouds set up Mick O'Dwyer and Din Joe Crowley for points. 18-year old rising star Brendan Lynch lofted over two magnificent points and the Kingdom survived.

It might have been a completely different story however if the recalled to goal Johnny Culloty had not saved brilliantly from Jackie Devine at the railway goal when he dived full length to keep out a bullet low down from Jackie Devine late in the hour. It was dramatic stuff indeed. Wonderful memories. The story of Kerry football is littered with great stories and 1968 provided its own.

Kerry past played the Kerry present in a trial early in February of that year in Tralee and the result was the talk of the county. The past beat the present 2-13 to 3-8. Mick O'Connell, Mick O'Dwyer and Seamus Murphy had retired but, following this trial Jackie Lyne persuaded them to return to the county panel. Of all the trials played in this county it is safe to declare that this one literally changed the face of Kerry football. The greats returned and Kerry won two more All-Irelands and four National Leagues all because this trial was held.

It was bad news for Longford because, together with the trial, Johnny Culloty returned the Monday before the game when Jackie Lyne and Tadhg Crowley persuaded him to play against Longford. He trained with the team for just one night. That winning Kerry team against Long-ford was as follows:

Johnny Culloty, Seamus Murphy, Paud O'Donoghue, Seanie Burrows, Denis O'Sullivan, Mike O'Shea, Donie O'Sullivan, Mick O'Connell (0-1), Mick Fleming, Brendan Lynch, (0-4), Pat Griffin (1-4), Eamon O'Donoghue, (0-1), Dom O'Donnell (1-0), D J Crowley (0-2) Mick O'Dwyer, (0-1).

And the subs that played that day were Declan Lovett and Pat Moynihan.

For the record those two teams that played that famous trial in February 1968 was a real who's who of Kerry football The past won 2-13 to 3-8. Over 2,000 attended.

Kerry Past: Johnny Culloty, Pa Kerins, Joe Joe Barrett, Sean Og Sheehy, Mickey Walsh, Pat Moynihan, Colm Callaghan, Mick O'Connell (1-0), Brian Sheehy, Bernie O'Callaghan, (0-1), Mick O'Dwyer (1-8), Derry O' Shea (0-1), Tom Long, Niall Sheehy, John O'Shea (0-3).

Kerry Present: Liam Higgins, Derry Crowley, Paud O'Donoghue, Seanie Burrows, Tom Prendergast, Declan Lovett, Pat Ahern, Mick Fleming, John Bunyan, John Saunders (0-2), Pat Griffin (0-1), Paudie Finnegan, Eamon O'Donoghue (1-0), Donie O'Sullivan (1-5), Tim Kelleher (1-0).

And what of next Saturday's game? Well two weeks ago here I expressed reservations in relation to our form and said that there were lingering doubts about our chances in beating Cork in that replay. Kieran Donnaghy's loss was huge and too many players were just off form. I expect a confident Kerry win this time around. Colm Cooper is I believe running back to his best and scores will come from him. Everyone has learned greatly from the two Cork matches. I believe the selectors will bring in fresh faces and legs, from the men on the bench.

This Kerry team is far from finished and it's a small thing that would not get the attack free wheeling and gelling once again.

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