National League

With other sports on the march it makes no sense for the GAA not to parade the National League trophy

May 5th, 2009
by Weeshie Fogarty

The dust has well and truly settled following that National League win over Derry in Croke Park two weeks ago. Not that there was much dust flying around following the county's 19th league win. My experience of Kerry victories in this competition has been, win the match, accept the cup, throw it in the back of some car and head for home. No celebrations, no special homecomings and no parading of the trophy to the local schools.

Indeed, let me suggest that it might be a good idea to further promote the games in the county if the National League trophy was shown to the pupils of the schools by members of the local clubs excluding the county players. They will have enough on their plate preparing for the Munster championship. In this day and age when many other sports are receiving massive publicity from their participation in national and international competitions the GAA should examine every avenue, which would give the games in the county further media profile.

Rugby, in particular, is receiving massive publicity at the moment and will continue to do so. That excellent Tralee soccer club Tralee Dynamos has broken completely new ground this year as they are now participating in the League of Ireland. They have become the very first Kerry side to do so. My experience of the soccer fraternity in this county is that they are highly organised, always available to participate in interviews in relation to any aspect of their sport and always looking for new means to further their sport. The same goes for the men and women promoting rugby in the county.

I never cease to be amazed at the complete and utter dedication displayed by the grass roots of all the sporting bodies in this county. Kerry is a county rich in the traditions of all sports and the battle for the hearts and minds of our young people in relation to their sporting preferences is being waged in particular in all the major towns of the county.

So this brings me back to the success of our footballers in the recent National League final. And I emphasise the word 'National'. What other sport would pass up the opportunity of promoting their games if one of their teams had been successful in an Irish national competition? A recent visit to a national school in conjunction with the GAA 125th anniversary really opened my eyes as to the very low profile the winning of the second greatest competition in the GAA calendar holds.

When asked as to how many pupils had held the Sam Maguire cup or had seen it at close quarters practically every student answered yes. On the other hand when I then asked the same question in relation the National League trophy, there was silence and not one had a notion of what I was on about.

This magnificent trophy (The Irish National Insurance Cup) was first competed for in 1929. John Joe Sheehy kicked a last minute point as Kerry defeated Kildare and the legendary Joe Barrett became the first man to receive the new trophy.

On April 24, 1983 I was appointed to referee the National League final between Down and Armagh in Croke Park. On the Friday before the game I received a frantic phone call from an official in Croke Park about the cup. Kerry had beaten Cork in the previous year's final, 1-9 to 0-5. in Pairc Ui Chaoimh. Tim Kennelly and Ger Power set up John Egan for the only goal of that game. Jimmy Deenihan was the winning captain. The cup was missing and I was instructed to contact Jimmy and under no circumstances arrive in Dublin without the trophy. It was eventually located at the last minute having been thrown into some corner and forgotten about in North Kerry.

Arrangements were quickly made and I met a friend of Jimmy's in Abbeyfeale under the shadow of that beautiful statue of the great priest Fr William Casey (1840-1907) who had achieved national status for the leadership of his people during the Land League. The cup was transferred from one car boot to another and the following day greatly relieved GAA officials took possession of it. It was given a quick polish and shine and the following day Mark Turley, Down's corner back, was presented with the cup following his side's 1-8 to 0-8 win.

There were no red or yellow cards, no black book tickings. It was the first time in history that two teams from the six counties had met in Croke Park in a national final and despite the great intensity and some crunching tackles displayed by both sides thankfully there was no incident to mar the occasion.

The attendance was 24,500 – a far cry from a previous final I had attended in 1964 when 70,126 saw Dublin defeat Down in the "home" final. The National League trophy, so hard won by Kerry, should go on a tour of the county and the men from the local clubs could be given the honour of displaying it to the young and old of Kerry. It's too good a public relations job to miss out on. Is this a case of familiarity breeding contempt?

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