Kerry’s Golden Years (Part 2): Killing off the Dubs
After the so-called flash in the pan of ‘75 and the ambush of ’78, it was time for The Kingdom to put the final nail in their greatest rival’s coffin. In Part 2 of our series on the Golden Years, Adam Moynihan examines the 1979 All-Ireland final between Kerry and the Dubs.
“Up to 1978, we were learning. The team had been coming steadily over the previous three years. They had tasted success and failure. Their development had been tempered in some of the toughest championship games of all time.
“By 1979, we were at our peak. We had two of the best goalkeepers in the history of the game. We had cover for every position. Even when lost key men at short notice and before crucial games, we were able to keep on winning.”
Speaking to Owen McCrohan for his authorised biography in 1990, Mick O’Dwyer was unequivocal in his assertion that his side were at their absolute best in 1979, and a cursory glance at their championship results that summer tends to back that up.
Kerry ran up nine goals and 21 points against Clare in their Munster semi-final before hammering Cork 2-14 to 2-4 in the decider.
Monaghan, who had beaten Donegal to win the Ulster Championship for the first time in 41 years, were not expected to cause the reigning champions too much trouble in the All-Ireland semi-final but O’Dwyer was taking no chances. In the weeks leading up to the last four clash, he sent a scout north to run the rule over one of their training sessions. Unfortunately for Micko, when the spy arrived the gates were locked. The session was closed to the public.
It mattered little. O’Dwyer simply told his players that Monaghan were “flying”, even going so far as to claim that The Farney Men had flown a coach over from Glasgow Celtic to help with their preparations.
Micko’s white lies clearly worked. Kerry tore into their opponents when the game rolled around as a hat-trick by Mikey Sheehy helped them to a terribly one-sided 5-14 to 0-7 win.
Once again, just as it was in 1975, 1976 and 1978, Kevin Heffernan’s Dubs would stand between Kerry and the ultimate prize.
For the Leinster champions it would be their sixth consecutive All-Ireland final appearance and all things being equal they would have fancied their chances. Sadly for Dublin, and fortunately for Kerry, all things were not equal. Talismanic full forward Jimmy Keaveney was serving an eight-week suspension after he elbowed Ollie Minnock of Offaly in the Leinster final.
The Pope’s visit to Dublin meant that the All-Ireland final of 1979 was brought forward to the third weekend of September instead of the fourth. Had the game gone ahead as scheduled on the fourth Sunday, Keaveney’s suspension would have been served and he would have been available for selection.
The visit of John Paul II famously drew one third of the population of Ireland to Phoenix Park on September 29. One could forgive Keaveney if he decided to give it a miss.
Another key player, Manchester United’s Kevin Moran, aggravated a hamstring injury and also had to sit out the final and with their ageing squad seemingly in decline, few observers gave the Metropolitans a chance of reclaiming the crown they had won in ’76 and ’77.
As for Kerry, Ger Power suffered the same fate as Moran in the weeks leading up to the game but O’Dwyer had an able replacement in Tommy Doyle of Annascaul. Apart from that solitary enforced switch, Kerry lined out exactly as they had done 12 months prior.
The match itself was not a classic. Early points by Mikey Sheehy, the typically industrious Pat Spillane and Eoin Liston gave the champs an early 3-1 lead and when Ogie Moran played in Sheehy for the game’s opening goal in the 10th minute, Kerry were already five points to the good.
The writing was on the wall for the Dubs and their supporters must have known it because when Anton O’Toole pegged one back two minutes later, the Hill barely mustered a cheer.
Sheehy (two) and Spillane kept Kerry ticking over as Dublin continued to misfire in attack. Stand-in free-taker Bobby Doyle pointed a free in the 32nd minute – Dublin’s first score in 20 minutes – before Sheehy tapped over another to leave the half-time score at Kerry 1-7 Dublin 0-3. Ominously for Dublin, they had played that first half with the wind at their backs.
A superb point by Pat Spillane got The Kingdom off the mark in the second and John Egan fired over shortly after to extend the lead to nine.
Then came Dublin’s mini-revival. Substitute Jim Ronayne punched home a scrappy goal in the 45th minute and when Tony Hanahoe made it a five-point game moments later, the Blue Army sniffed a comeback.
Jack O’Shea settled Kerry’s jitters with an excellent point but Dublin were thrown another lifeline when Páidí Ó Sé, who had already been booked for a high challenge, was sent off for another unorthodox tackle on Anton O’Toole. If Kerry were to retain their title, they would have to do it with 14 men.
“Anton O’Toole picked up a ball on the turn and was about to set up Dublin’s second [goal], or that’s what went through my mind,” Páidí later recalled. “I went for broke and grabbed Tooler around the neck and pulled him down. Duggan rushed over. Sent off. As I arrived at the dugout, Gerald McKenna put his arms around me. Well, it had to be done didn’t it?”
After the match Micko admitted that the incident left him with cause for concern, but only briefly.
“After Páidí was sent off, I was worried. But even with 13 men I think we would have still won.”
Dublin’s fightback ran out of steam fairly quickly as a rocket of a penalty by Man of the Match* Mikey Sheehy and a bundled effort by John Egan pushed the lead back out to double figures. Kerry eventually ran out 11-point winners.
Sheehy’s personally tally of 2-6 equaled Keaveney’s haul against Armagh in 1977. To this day they share the record for most points scored in an All-Ireland football final.
“The great rivalry that has always existed between Kerry and Dublin ensured massive interest in the All-Ireland final but it was a bit phoney really because both sides new the truth,” O’Dwyer reflected in his autobiography. “The gap between us had widened substantially in a year… With Dublin in decline, our lead at the head of affairs looked certain to widen.”
Addressing the masses at a raucous homecoming in Killarney, Micko was even more ebullient.
“You ain’t seen nothing yet.”
1979 All-Ireland Football Final
Kerry 3-13 Dublin 1-8
(HT: Kerry 1-7 Dublin 0-3)
Referee: Hugh Duggan
Venue: Croke Park
KERRY SCORERS M Sheehy 2-6 (1p-3f), P Spillane 0-4, J Egan 1-1, E Liston 0-1, J O’Shea 0-1.
DUBLIN SCORERS B Doyle 0-3 (3f), J Ronayne 1-0, T Hanahoe 0-2, D Hickey 0-2, A O’Toole 0-1.
KERRY C Nelligan; J Deenihan, J O’Keeffe, M Spillane; P Ó Sé, T Kennelly (c), P Lynch; J O’Shea, S Walsh; T Doyle, D Moran, P Spillane, M Sheehy, E Liston, J Egan. Sub: V O’Connor for O’Keeffe (47).
DUBLIN P Cullen; M Kennedy, M Holden, D Foran; T Drumm, F Ryder, P O’Neill; B Mullins, B Brogan; A O’Toole, T Hanahoe, D Hickey; M Hickey, B Doyle, J McCarthy. Subs: J Ronayne for M Hickey (28), G O’Driscoll for McCarthy (37), B Pocock for O’Toole (62).
*Popular consensus is that Sheehy was, indeed, named Man of the Match but I was unable to find anything official on the matter. In fact, the Stacks legend isn't 100% sure himself...
Pic: Sportsfile/Connolly Collection.
Kingdom hoping to lay some old ghosts to rest at Páirc Uí Chaoimh
by Adam Moynihan
All-Ireland SFC Group 1
Cork v Kerry
Saturday at 3pm
Páirc Uí Chaoimh
I was one of the unlucky few to have been present at the last Cork-Kerry clash in Páirc Uí Chaoimh in November of 2020. It was a truly awful night.
The match was played behind closed doors which made for an eerie, unsettling atmosphere, and the rain came down harder than I ever remember seeing first-hand.
Unfortunately, Kerry came down hard too. Mark Keane’s last-ditch goal clinched an unexpected victory for the hosts and, just like that, Kerry’s year was over.
It always hurts when your team loses but that one completely floored us all. It was such a horrible way to lose a game and I felt so bad for the players as they trudged off the field, soaked to the bone and shaken to the core.
They got some form of payback the following year when they won by 21 in the Munster final, and again last year when they ran out 11-point winners in the semi-final. But something tells me that it would mean a lot more to return to Páirc Uí Chaoimh and do the business there.
It won’t be easy. The final scorelines in the last two games suggest that it was all one-way traffic but that simply wasn’t the case. In 2021, Cork led by 1-5 to 0-4 at the water break (remember those?) and they pushed Kerry hard 12 months ago too. There was nothing in that match right up until the 50th minute, at which point Kerry brought on David Moran and Paul Geaney and ultimately pulled away.
You can never really read too much into the McGrath Cup but Cork demolished Kerry in January. Their form since has been spotty but they did well to see off Louth last week, with the returning Brian Hurley (shoulder) kicking eight points in a two-point win. Hurley has proved to be a handful for Kerry full back Jason Foley in the past.
Significantly, John Cleary’s side are strong in a key area where Kerry struggled against Mayo: midfield. Ian Maguire and Colm O’Callaghan scored 0-2 each in Navan (and the latter scored 2-4 in that aforementioned McGrath Cup game at the start of the year).
Jack O’Connor named his team last night with Adrian Spillane replacing Tony Brosnan and Paul Murphy coming in for Dylan Casey. Spillane will add some extra brawn and energy around the middle third. Going by the last outing, Kerry need it.
It is also worth noting that David Clifford has never really shot the lights out against Cork. He has been well minded by Maurice Shanley, Seán Meehan and Kevin Flahive in the past three championship meetings, with the retreating Seán Powter also getting stuck in when needed.
Flahive suffered a cruciate injury late in last year’s game but he could potentially be in line for a comeback tomorrow; he has been added to Cork’s 26 for the first time in over 12 months.
Meehan has been ruled out with a hamstring injury so Shanley may be asked to track the Footballer of the Year this time around.
Clifford was one of the few bright sparks against Mayo and he would love to bring that form to the Páirc on Saturday. With vital points on the line, there would be no better time to lay some ghosts to rest.
From a Kerry perspective, you would hope – and perhaps expect – that Clifford and his teammates can do exactly that and get the show back on the road.
1. Shane Ryan
2. Graham O’Sullivan
3. Jason Foley
4. Tom O’Sullivan
5. Paul Murphy
6. Tadhg Morley
7. Gavin White
8. Diarmuid O’Connor
9. Jack Barry
10. Dara Moynihan
11. Seánie O’Shea
12. Adrian Spillane
13. Paudie Clifford
14. David Clifford
15. Paul Geaney
Subs: S Murphy, T Brosnan, D Casey, BD O’Sullivan, R Murphy, M Burns, M Breen, S O’Brien, D O’Sullivan, C O’Donoghue, S O’Brien.
1. Micheál Aodh Martin
2. Maurice Shanley
3. Rory Maguire
4. Kevin O’Donovan
5. Luke Fahy
6. Daniel O’Mahony
7. Matty Taylor
8. Colm O’Callaghan
9. Ian Maguire
10. Brian O’Driscoll
11. Ruairí Deane
12. Killian O’Hanlon
13. Seán Powter
14. Brian Hurley
15. Chris Óg Jones
Subs: P Doyle, C Kiely, T Clancy, K Flahive, P Walsh, E McSweeney, B Murphy, J O’Rourke , M Cronin, S Sherlock, F Herlihy.
Is Killarney green or blue? Celtic and Athletic to face off in tonight’s league final
Kerry Premier A League Final
Killarney Celtic v Killarney Athletic
Tonight at 7.45pm
Mounthawk Park, Tralee
Killarney Celtic will be gunning for their fifth league title in a row tonight (Friday) when they take on crosstown rivals Killarney Athletic in Tralee.
Celtic have been the dominant force in Kerry soccer in recent times with Athletic playing second fiddle. This will be the third Premier A final in a row to be contested by the Killarney clubs; Celtic won the 2020 decider 4-0 and last year’s final ended in a 3-0 victory for the club from Derreen. (The 2020/21 season was scrapped due to the pandemic.)
Prior to that, Celtic defeated Castleisland in 2019 and Dingle Bay Rovers in 2018, both on a scoreline of 1-0.
Celtic and Athletic also met in the 2017 final. The Blues prevailed in that particular encounter to capture their first ever Premier A title.
As for this season, Neilus Hayes’ Hoops qualified for the final by virtue of their first-place finish in the Premier A. Despite losing key players – including attackers Ryan Kelliher, Stephen McCarthy and Trpimir Vrljicak – to the Kerry FC project, the Celts won 12 of their 14 matches and ended up with an imposing goal difference of +34.
Athletic were not far behind, however; Stuart Templeman’s team only lost one league game all season en route to 35 points – one behind Celtic and 11 clear of Castleisland in third.
Interestingly, both of Celtic’s losses came at the hands of Athletic. The Woodlawn outfit impressively beat the old enemy 3-2 and 0-1 over the course of the regular season.
Goals by Roko Rujevcan, Pedja Glumcevic and a 90th-minute winner by Brendan Moloney clinched that dramatic 3-2 win in October of last year. It was a result that signalled Athletic’s intentions for the rest of the season.
Rujevcan was also on the scoresheet when Athletic snatched a rare away win at Celtic Park on April 30.
Celtic’s imposing record in finals probably makes them slight favourites and in the likes of John McDonagh, Brendan Falvey, Wayne Sparling, Kevin O’Sullivan and Witness Odirile they have a potent mix of steel and skill.
But Athletic will take heart from their recent results in this fixture and they will be hoping that two of the stars from the 2017 team – Shane Doolan and Shane Lynch – can lead the current crop of players to glory.
Meanwhile, the Division 2B final between Killarney Athletic B and Atletico Ardfert that was also due to take place tonight has been cancelled. Athletic have received a walkover.
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