Kerry Prospects and that Sensational 1957 defeat to Waterford

May 29th, 2007
by Weeshie Fogarty

If the Sam Maguire Cup was presented to the county who were afforded the greatest number of written words on national and local newspapers, TV and radio then Kerry would be the top county every year with out fail. This year even more than ever the prospects of the green and gold for the coming championship has been debated, discussed and analyzed left right and centre. Sports writers simply love analyzing Kerry, its players and management. This of course comes from the great winning history and football tradition within our county and it's fascinating to watch the way team management and players can change and evolve with the times as demands for interviews, promotions, photographs etc. continue to grow. Management and how they handle the press is story for another day and I can assure you a lot goes on behind the scenes in this area.

Dr Eamonn o Sullivan retired in 1964. All the Kerry managers/trainers since then handled the massive press demands in entirely different way. While it appears only yesterday to me, 1975 and that magnificent Mick o Dwyer era is all of 30 long years ago. Believe it or not and this is the gospel truth. I saw a journalist from a national paper togged out and training with Kerry at that time for a particular All Ireland final. O Dwyer had taken over from Johnny Culloty; Johnny had stepped in following the retirement of Jackie Lyne who in turn had become trainer in 1968 following a Dr Jim Brosnan's term in the sixties. Mickey Ned o Sullivan followed in the footsteps of Mick o Dwyer, then Ogie Moran, followed by Paudie o Shea. Jack o Connor was next to take the Kerry reins and when Jack stepped down we now have Pat o Shea ready to take his first voyage next Sunday into the white hot atmosphere of senior inter county championship football.

Great credit is due to Pat because when he was first approached he had a huge amount on his plate, the easy option would be to decline the offer to manage his county and stay with his club. Now however all eyes will be directed towards him and his fellow selectors until the final whistle is blown on their championship campaign. Nothing short of All Ireland victory satisfies the voracious appetite of Kerry followers. So next Sunday without any disrespect to Waterford the expected victory will set the scene for the Munster final against the old enemy from across the border who should come through. In many ways just like our own county championship in my opinion the losers round has deprived the games of much of its bite and the big match atmosphere is lacking that little some thing that only knock-out can provide. I must admit of being a tradionalist in many areas of the GAA.

"So how will Kerry do this year"? If a fellow got a penny for every time that question is asked you could take a luxury cruise to the Caribbean. One thing is certain Kerry will be there or there abouts when the championship enters the final stages. Its early days yet to predict the eventual winner of the All Ireland, however a  number of teams should be in the final shake up, easy enough to prophesy. Dublin, Tyrone, Donegal, Kerry, Armagh, Cork, Galway might be ones to watch.

It is going to be very interesting to see how Kerry respond to their new trainer and set about ending the 17 year gap since a county last retained the All Ireland. Three of our great warriors are gone from the spine of our team. The loss of Seamus Moynihan, one of the top five consistently greatest Kerry footballers I have seen will be huge. Seamus magnificent display in last years final will live long in the memory and his decision to retire though undoubtedly extremely difficult for the man was well judged. His fitness and recovery from back injury in the run up to that final he himself has stated was due to one man. Gerard Hartman is the world renowned International Sports Physical Therapist based in the University of Limerick. He has treated the greatest athletes from all over the world. At his request last Thursday week I spend an afternoon in his company at his clinic in Limerick as he spoke about his work and the 54 Olympic medalists he has treated. Without him it is nearly certain that Seamus would not have played last year. The Hartman story is one of the most fascinating sports story's I have ever listened to. We will document it here in the coming weeks. Ger Keane an exemplary Castleisland man works with Hartman and also has the gift of healing hands.

Michael McCarthy is a huge loss. While the grape line was humming with the rumor that the Kilcummin man was packing it in it still came as a big shock when the news broke. Strong, fast, mobile and powerful he filled the full back position with great authority. In Paudie.s era there was a big fuss about who would play at full back. It filled newspaper columns for the scribes. Mike came along took up permanent residency at the verge of the box and filled it without fuss. Problem solved. He is still starring with his club and his retirement is pre-mature. Eamon Fitzmaurice is another massive loss. In my opinion this man got a raw deal. Playing outstanding football at centre back he was moved from there to centre forward by the previous team management. The new men who came in continued with this policy so Eamon was not given the three or four match extended run to prove his undoubted ability in his best position. He was neither here or there and it was obvious to me anyway that he would not or could not tolerate such a situation. He had unfortunately only one option, pack it in. Eamon had at least three great years football left in him. He did his county proud. Selecting Kerry teams is of course a very difficult job and you can't please everyone all the time.

There is plenty of time to begin the so called "in dept analysis of the team". Who will be on? who will fill this and that position?, will so and so be fit  etc. We will return to this for the big one against Billy Morgan's men. Kerry and Cork to win and go through. But now as we set out for Dungarvan let's not forget that this is the 50th anniversary of the greatest shock defeat Kerry ever suffered in the Championship. June 2nd 1957. Waterford 2-5, Kerry 0-10. One night during the previous week all those years ago the chairman of the Waterford County Board Pat Fanning entered a back room of a pub in Waterford. The football selectors were sitting around a table; pints of porter were the order of the day and a pall of cirutte smoke hung over the gathering. The team to face Kerry was being scribbled on the back of a torn Sweet Afton box. The chairman saw red. "Never again do I want to see a Waterford team chosen in the back room of a public house" he thundered.

Ten minutes into the second half of the match that following Sunday Kerry was leading comfortably eight pints to two and as Jerome o Shea remarked to me in an interview," we appeared to be in no danger what so ever".  Then disaster for the Kingdom. Kenmare born George Whyte saw his long free finish up in the back of Kerry net. Whyte had played for the Kerry minors in the 1954 final loss to Dublin. A few minutes later Kerry goalie Tim Barrett was bundled over his own goal line by the in rushing Waterford forwards. Up went the green flag again, the sides were level. Two minutes remaining as Waterford hurler Tom Cunningham gained possession around the fifty yards line and his long kick sailed straight as an arrow over the bar to the thunderous cheers of the huge home following. The full time whistle went shortly after this and in one of the greatest up sets in the history of the game Kerry were out, 2-5 to 0-10.

The Waterford dressing room was bedlam. Heaving bodies, cheering, singing and rejoicing. Chairman Pat Fanning jumped up on a timber bench called for order and to roars of approval shouted. "I never want to see a Waterford team picked any where else again but in the back room of a pub". His comment nearly brought down the roof. Just down the hall the Kerry dressing room was like a morgue on a quite day and John Joe Sheehy was heard to remark. "We had better wait until darkness before we cross the Kerry border. Too old men were taking their evening walk in Glenbeigh that Sunday evening around seven o clock. Passing the door of a friend's cottage the owner rushed out to see them. "Did ye hear the news" he gasped. "Waterford have beaten Kerry". The two friends looked at him in utter astonishment and replied. "How told you that." Micheal o Heir has just given the results on the radio after the half six news" was the response. Don't believe one word you hear from him" was the reply, "he was always against Kerry anyway.

Kerry had traveled with a very under strength side. Sixteen players only were available and the Kerryman reporter John Barret was called on to tog out as a sub. There was huge repercussions in the county following this defeat. A story for another day. It's on days and stories such as this the GAA is built. Pat o Shea is no fool and will tread warily next Sunday. Just as it was fifty years ago it's still fifteen men against fifteen. Nevertheless Kerry will not have to wait this time until darkness descends before returning home to the Kingdom. Once bitten twice shy. Roll on the Munster final.  

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