The 1946 All Ireland Final and the Antrim Objection

by Weeshie Fogarty

Kerry began their 1946 campaign in great style when they dethroned their great rivals and reigning All Ireland champions Cork in Tralee in June of that year 1-8 to 1-4. Waterford was easily defeated in the Munster final. Antrim were then the opponents in the All Ireland semi-final on a day which literally rained cats and dogs. These conditions would suit the Kerrymen and the match would prove to be one of the most contentious for many years. Antrim got off to a disastrous start. Bill o Donnell goaled within ten minutes as Jackie Lyne set him up. The Northerners had drawn level by half time only to go four points down again in the third quarter. The exchanges were rugged, fast and furious and a player from both sides were send off. A bottle was thrown from the Cusack Stand at one of the Kerry players-an incident raised by the Kerry delegates, Dan Ryan, J J Sheehy and Micheal o Ruairc at the subsequent Central Council meeting. Paddy Burke was in superb form at full fordward and he was involved in a slick passing movement with Jackie Lyne and Bill o Donnell. The dynamic West Kerry man Batt Garvey was on hand to crack the ball past Harry Vernon in the Antrim goal and it was all over bar the shouting. Kerry was through to the final, 2-7 to 0-10.

The Antrim officials were furious with the Kerry playing tactics and they formally protested to the Central Council and demanded that the result be over turned. However the Antrim players were totally against the objection and their brilliant attacker Kevin Armstrong was quoted as saying. "It was a mistake to protest, a regrettable mistake. The county board allowed themselves to be influenced by public opinion and I for one would not accuse Kerry of been over robust in that match". Antrim had stormed out of Ulster with their open, weaving hand passing style of play. Cavan had won fourteen of the previous fifteen Ulster titles and it was Antrim's first since 1913. Full back for Kerry that day was the towering and powerful army man Joe Keohane. Joe later became a selector on many Kerry teams and was one of Mick o Dwyer's side line mentors during the glorious era of the seventies.

As a regular attendee at Kerry training sessions in Fitzgerald Stadium during that period I would often sit and chat to Joe. A very cordial, soft spoken gentleman he had a wonderful memory of events that occurred during his career and that defeat of Antrim came up for discussion on a number of occasions. He recalled for me as we sat on the Michael o Connor terrace overlooking the playing pitch on beautiful summers evening events of that afternoon in Croke Park in 1946. "We were Croke Park specialists Weeshie: they were making their first appearance in an All Ireland final and were greatly confident that their short classy hand passing style would be to slick for us. They tried to walk the ball right into our goal mouth and were reluctant to shoot from far out the field. We were ready for this and our motto was, be close to them at all times and be prepared to tackle the man receiving the ball when he immediately took the pass. The tackles were hard but fair. We did not stand on ceremony and when we prevented them playing that basketball style of football they had no plan B. This is one of the secrets of Kerry, changing tactics whenever the occasion demands".

Kerrys legendary mid fielder Paddy Kennedy began on the forty that day on August 18th 1946. I never had the privilege of meeting this legend of Kerry. I have constantly been told by the older generation that Paddy was equal to Mick o Connell the Kingdoms other prince of mid fielders. I did visit Paddy's grave in Dublin and spend a memorable afternoon at his home with his wife, sons and daughters. His home is adorned with mementoes of his brilliant career in the green and gold and his wife had a beautiful wrist bracelet formed of his five All Ireland medals. The jersey he wore in the Polo Grounds final in New York is also a family heirloom while his daughters proudly display several of his other medals as brooches.  Before his death Paddy Kennedy was interviewed by Raymond Smith for his wonderfully historic book, "The Football Immortals" and he too like Joe Keohane was adamant that the one way to stop the flying Antrim forwards was to hit them hard and fair. "When you went to tackle an Antrim player he automatically passed it out to a waiting college and moved on for the return pass. The only counter to this was to take the man getting the return pass and put your arms around him and hold him as the ball came to him. If a man was caught in possession five times in a row you would expect that he would change his tactics. Antrim never did and when forced to kick the ball in from far out field our full back line usually won the duals in the air. We out smarted them that day". So Paddy Kennedy admitted that Kerry did foul their opponent in a concerted plan to stop them and indeed even in today's game we see the tactics of swarming, dragging and holding and preventing a player form finding a team mate. Some things never change. Antrim failed that day because when Kerry thwarted their running short style of play they failed to adapt and the men on the line did not have an answer to Kerry's tactics,

So Antrim lodged their objection and for over three hours on Saturday August 31st 1946 the Central Council debated the Northern objection. The allegations were that members of the Kerry team indulged in rough play and that these tactics before an attendance of over 30,000 people was calculated to bring the Gaelic Athletic Association into disrepute. The referee Paddy Ratty of Meath reported that play was over robust towards the end and he had to award several frees to Antrim. The objection was declared lost by nineteen votes to ten.

Kerry lined out that day as follows: Dan o Keeffe, Denny Lyne, Joe Keohane, Eddie Walsh, Ger Teahan, Bill Casey (Captain), Teddy o Connor, Eddie Dowling, Gus Cremin, Bill o Donnell, Paddy Kennedy, Batt Garvey, Jackie Lyne Paddy Burke, Dan Kavanagh.

So Kerry advanced to the final but due to a very "wet harvest" the decider against Roscommon was postponed until October. Two goals in the last seven minutes from Paddy Burke and "Gega" o Connor brought that dramatic game to a re-play. Kerry captain Gus Cremin was dramatically dropped for the second meeting and the legendary mid-fielder Paddy Kennedy was presented with the Sam Maguire Cup following Kerrys 2-8 to 0-10 win. Kerry had four captains that year as Eddie Dowling and Bill Casey had led the side in earlier rounds. Dan o Keeffe won his seventh medal to put him top of the winners list.

Kerry entered the record books the following year 1947 when they traveled to the Polo grounds in New York to play Cavan in the only All Ireland football final ever played outside the shores of Ireland. In blistering hot conditions and played on a bone hard pitch John Joe o Reilly led Cavan to a controversial 2-11 to 2-7 win. The loss of Eddie Dowling through injury from mid –field and some debatable refereeing by Martin o Neill was a big turning point in the game. Denny Lyne of Killarney Legion was the Kerry captain that historic day.

Little did any Kerry follower believe that following the success of 1946 it would be seven long years before All Ireland honors would again be captured? In the intervening seven years many of the greatest ever Kerry players retired. Dan o Keeffe, Joe Keohane, "Gega" o Connor, Eddie Walsh, Batt Garvey, Paddy Kennedy, Dan Kavanagh and numerous others faded from the scene. There was a sensational loss to Clare in Ennis in 1949, 3-7 to 1-8. Three years later, 1952 Cork demolished their great rival in the Munster final, 0-11 to 0-2. This game was remembered for the marvelous display of full back Paddy Bawn Brosnan and goalie Donal "Marcus Neill.

With Jackie Lyne the only remaining link with the 1946 winning side lining out at corner fordward Kerry had a magnificent win over Armagh in 1953. It was the Golden Jubilee Year of Kerry's first All Ireland success. A record attendance of over 86,000 spectators were present to see Bill McCorry miss a vital late penalty for Armagh as Jas Murphy led his county to a 0-13 to 1-6 victory. At the time of writing this piece Jas is Kerry's oldest surviving winning captain.  Paudie Sheehy captain in the semi-final had been sensationally dropped for the final.  New stars shone in the green and gold, Tadghie Lyne, Ned Roche, Jim Brosnan, Mixi Palmer, Johnny Foley, Tom Ash and others received a rapturous home coming to the Kingdom. The team had stayed in the Park Place Hotel killarney for two weeks before the final and Dr Eamonn o Sullivan and Paul Russell were the joint trainers of the side. Collective training was banned the following year and Meath proved far too good as Kerry attempted to retain their crown. The Royal County won 1-13 to 1-7.

1955 will forever be remembered fondly by all Kerry supporters as the year Kerry defeated the so called unbeatable Dublin machine in what was a magnificent final, 0-12 to 1-6. The great hearted Joihn Dowling captained the side. Johnny Culloty made his senior final debut. Sean Murphy, Mick Murphy, Garry o Mahoney, John Joe Sheehan, Tom Costello, Ned Roche, and John Cronin wrote themselves into the glorious history of Kerry football that never to be forgotten day. Dr Eamonn o Sullivan was once again the man behind the victory.

Waterford stunned the GAA world in 1957 when they defeated Kerry in Dungarvan and it was reported the team officials delayed the return to the Kingdom until darkness had fallen. In torrential rain Derry got a late goal to stop Kerrys advance in 1958. The following year however saw the county capture their 19th title with an easy win over Galway, 3-7 to 1-4. Dave Geaney, Garry McMahon and Dan McAuliffe were the Kerry goal scores. Dr Sean Murphy gave a superb display at wing back and was man of the match. Mick o Connell captained the side and the fifties had seen the emergence of such greats of o Connell, Mick o Dwyer, Tom Long, Johnny Culloty, Seamus Murphy, Jerome o Shea, Niall Sheehy and Tadghie Lyne.

A new power arrived on the GAA scene in the sixties as Down dominated those early years of the decade. They proved too good for Kerry in the final of 1960 and in the following years semi-final they again proved masters of the kingdom. Nevertheless Kerry were back in Croke Park on All Ireland final day in 1962 and a fisted goal by Gary McMahon after just 34 seconds send them on their winning way over Roscommon 1-12 to 1-6. Mick o Connell starred with seven points. Sean Og Sheehy followed in the footsteps of his legendary father as winning captain. He thus became the first son of an All Ireland winning captain to lead a winning team. The Lucy brothers Noel and Jimmy were outstanding as was Tim "Tiger" Lyons. Galway proved the dominating force in the sixties winning three in a row defeating Kerry on the way in the finals of 1964-65 and the semi final of 1963. Dr Eamonn o Sullivan retired following the '64 defeat. He had guided Kerry to nine finals winning on eight occasions. A magnificent record. As the decade drew to a close Jackie Lyne was appointed team trainer and following another defeat by Down in the 1968 final the Kingdom once again reached the pinnacle of success winning Sam Maguire in 1969-70. The 69 win was Kerrys 21st success and goalie Johnny Cullotys save from Sean Evans just after half time was crucial. Kerry won 0-10 to 0-7. New stars had appeared on the horizon. Tom Prendergast, Pat Griffin, Din Joe Crowley partnered Mick o Connell at mid field, Mick Gleeson, Michael o Shea, Seamus Fitzgerald and the speedy Brendan Lynch.

And so the Kingdom began the decade of the seventies in magnificent style. Meath were the opponents in the final of 1970. A memorable goal following a scintillating run by mid-fielder Din Joe Crowley was the deciding factor. John O Keeffe was the new Kerry star while Liam Higgins and the o Donoghue brothers Eamon and Paud and Seamus Murphy all four now sadly deceased were superb ambassadors. Donie o Sullivan of the Spa club Killarney was the victorious captain and an exemplary leader. It was the end of a glorious era for many of those great Kerry players but little did anyone realize that the greatest football team of all time was about to launch Kerry into one of its greatest ever periods of dominance.

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