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Kerry’s Golden Years (Part 4): ‘It was just another All-Ireland coming and I wasn’t counting’

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In Part 4 of our series on the Golden Years, Adam Moynihan takes a look at the 1981 All-Ireland final which saw Kerry secure their second ever four-in-a-row.

By the time the 1981 championship came around, Kerry were in cruise control. With three consecutive All-Irelands in the back pocket and no contenders making a whole pile of noise elsewhere, their period of dominance looked certain to continue.

“Every time we went to play a game, we were nearly guaranteed to win,” O’Dwyer is quoted as saying in a biography penned by Owen McCrohan. “We never thought about defeat. We never looked at the other teams we met along the line. We had 20 players who were good enough to win All-Irelands by playing a style of football that nobody could match.

“At one stage, I never even thought about it. It was just another All-Ireland coming and I wasn’t counting.”

MUNSTER

The Kingdom’s path to Croke Park was about as comfortable as you could get. A 4-17 to 0-6 victory over Clare in the Munster semi-final didn’t bode well for future opponents and Cork were subsequently put to the sword in remarkably emphatic fashion. Kerry prevailed on a 1-11 to 0-3 scoreline, prompting Seán Kilfeather of The Irish Times to remark:

“There have been more cheerful funerals than this. And not just that; but the wake did not even produce a single moment of hilarity. No song stood out; no piper played a lament. Nobody could care less, least of all the 41,292 people who saw the most pathetic Munster football final ever at Fitzgerald Stadium. Cork could only score one single point from play in the 70 minutes. The young man who scored – Dave Barry – is said to have been offered a job as a professional soccer player in England. If he has not already been in touch with those who see his potential elsewhere, he should do so straight away.”

The All-Ireland semi-final was even more one-sided as Micko’s men hammered Mayo by 2-19 to 1-6. The handpass (as opposed to the closed fist pass) had now been banned by the GAA but Kerry appeared to be unperturbed and they were now just 70 minutes away from a record-equalling four-in-a-row.

SPILLANE

Disaster struck for the champions one week before the final against Offaly when one of their star players, Pat Spillane, aggravated a recurring knee injury in a trial game in Killarney. The Templenoe man received treatment from a specialist in Dublin and was given the all clear but, unfortunately, the knee swelled up again the morning of the game. After trying it out on the hotel lawn, it was clear that it wasn’t right. Tommy Doyle, for the second consecutive year, came in as a last-minute replacement for a key forward.

Offaly also suffered a late injury blow when Johnny Mooney hurt himself in a tractor accident at work.

Both players were a loss but, as it turned out, Kerry’s strength in depth was a crucial factor once again.

After a tetchy opening half, the sides were level at five points apiece and The Kingdom’s plans were thrown into disarray when Mikey Sheehy asked to be taken off at the break. Sheehy had been receiving painkilling injections for a foot injury but the effects of his pre-match dose had worn off. Micko pleaded with his top-scorer to return to the field with his teammates and, after taking another injection from Dr Con Murphy, Sheehy made it out for the second half.

Kerry had a narrow escape in the opening moments of the second period when Gerry Carroll’s shot ricocheted to safety via Charlie Nelligan’s crossbar. Four straight points by Seán Walsh, John Egan, Sheehy (a free) and Ogie Moran gave them a 9-5 lead before Seán Lowry pulled one back in the 59th minute.

Now it was a one-score game and with capable forwards like Matt Connor floating around, anything was possible.

Thankfully for holders, points by Sheehy (two) and Tommy Doyle steadied the ship and when marauding midfielder Jack O’Shea scored a spectacular goal with just three minutes to play, Kerry were home and dry.

Pat Spillane was summoned from the bench to join the action – to rapturous applause from the travelling Kerry support – and O’Dwyer’s soldiers sauntered home to a well-deserved seven-point win. The match itself wasn’t much of a spectacle but Micko didn’t give a damn. “It is better to win a bad one than lose a good one,” he told the media in the winning dressing room.

Following in the footsteps of Wexford (1915, 1916, 1917 and 1918) and Kerry (1929, 1930, 1931 and 1932), this great panel of players had become just the third team ever to win the coveted four-in-a-row. They were now, without question, a major part of Kerry GAA history.

“I’ve been around over 80 years now and I’ve seen a lot of players in my time,” O’Dwyer later reflected in the RTÉ documentary ‘Micko’, “but the 15 of those men that were on the field together – I don’t believe you could get better at any period at any time.

“It isn’t because I was managing them or anything. It’s because they were the best.”

 

1981

All-Ireland Football Final

Kerry 1-12 Offaly 0-8

HT: Kerry 0-5 Offaly 0-5

Referee: Paddy Collins
Venue: Croke Park
Attendance: 61,489

KEY MOMENT Kerry never appeared to be in too much danger in this particular final but it took a late goal by talismanic midfielder Jack O’Shea to really copperfasten the victory. A sweeping move which started with captain Jimmy Deenihan in his own full back line and involved Tim Kennelly, Tommy Doyle, John Egan and Eoin Liston eventually made its way to Mikey Sheehy around 30 metres out from goal. Sheehy popped a neat handpass into O’Shea and the Mary’s man fired a beautiful strike to the top corner to give Kerry an unassailable eight-point lead.

KERRY SCORERS M Sheehy 0-5 (2f), J O’Shea 1-0, D Moran 0-2, G Power 0-1, P Ó Sé 0-1, S Walsh 0-1, J Egan 0-1, T Doyle 0-1.

OFFALY SCORERS M Connor 0-4 (3f), S Lowry 0-2, B Lowry 0-1, T Connor 0-1.

KERRY C Nelligan; J Deenihan, J O’Keeffe, P Lynch; P Ó Sé, T Kennelly, M Spillane; J O’Shea, S Walsh; G Power (c), D Moran, T Doyle; M Sheehy, E Liston, J Egan. Sub: P Spillane for Egan (67), G O’Keeffe for M Spillane (69).

OFFALY M Furlong; M Fitzgerald, L Connor, C Conroy; P Fitzgerald, R Connor, L Currams; T Connor, P Dunne; V Henry, G Carroll, A O’Halloran; M Connor, S Lowry, B Lowry. Subs: J Mooney for T Connor (47), J Moran for Henry (59).

 

Pic: Ray McManus/Sportsfile.

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Séamus Moynihan tops Kerry manager poll ahead of Jack O’Connor and Peter Keane

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by Adam Moynihan

Although it now appears as though he could be a selector on the Stephen Stack ticket, four-time All-Ireland winner Séamus Moynihan has topped our ‘Next Kerry Manager’ poll by collecting over one-third of the overall vote.

Around 37% of respondents said that Moynihan should be the next Kerry boss with 23% of fans backing former manager Jack O’Connor. The team’s most recent bainisteoir, Peter Keane, received 18% of the votes.

Another former manager, Eamonn Fitzmaurice, is next in line on 10%, although it is believed that he is not willing to return to the fold due to work commitments.

In addition to the four main candidates mentioned above, readers were also invited to nominate their own preferred candidate. This open field threw up 16 more names with former Kerry and Dr Crokes manager Pat O’Shea the most popular entry. The Killarney man received around 3.5% of the vote.

Donie Buckley got roughly half as many votes as O’Shea, and the other prospective managers ended up with less than 1% each.

MOYNIHAN/STACK

Glenflesk native Moynihan enjoyed a glittering playing career for The Kingdom between 1992 and 2006, the highlight perhaps coming in the year 2000 when he captained his county to All-Ireland glory. He has since taken on coaching roles with his own club and with Fossa and was part of Darragh Ó Sé’s Kerry U21 management team in 2015.

It had been suggested that Monaghan’s defensive coach Donie Buckley would be part of the Moynihan ticket. Buckley was also a member of Peter Keane’s backroom team, but Keane relieved him of his duties in the early stages of the 2020 season.

However, after this survey was completed, Tony Leen of the Irish Examiner reported that Moynihan and Buckley are, indeed, part of the same ticket, but the manager’s name attached is that of current Killarney Legion boss Stephen Stack.

Stack himself had a long and distinguished playing career with The Kingdom and as a manager led Austin Stacks to the County Championship in 2014 and Legion to an East Kerry Championship in 2019.

The Listowel native is also rumoured to be calling on Dara Ó Cinnéide and Mickey Ned O’Sullivan as selectors, with Joe O’Connor filling the role of strength and conditioning coach.

Stack was not considered to be a realistic candidate at the time of the survey; he was one of the 14 managers who received less than 1% of the vote.

KERRY SUPPORTERS SURVEY

Q: Who should be the next manager of the Kerry senior football team?

Séamus Moynihan 36.7%

Jack O’Connor  23.4%

Peter Keane 18.1%

Eamonn Fitzmaurice 10%

Pat O’Shea 3.5%

Donie Buckley 1.6%

Others* 6.7%

(Carried out online on September 21/22. 431 respondents.)

*Mike Quirke, John Sugrue, Jim McGuinness, Jim Gavin, Jerry O’Sullivan, Maurice Fitzgerald, Tomás Ó Sé, Johnny Crowley, Stephen Stack, Kieran Donaghy, John Evans, Paul Galvin, Marc Ó Sé, Liam Kearns.

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Jordan’s new role with St Paul’s

By Sean Moriarty Killarney’s Paralympic hero Jordan Lee is to take on a new role with Scott’s Lakers St Paul’s Killarney Basketball Club. Jordan began his sporting career with the local basketball club where he created history by becoming the first amputee athlete to represent their country at international level. The High Jumper then switched […]

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By Sean Moriarty

Killarney’s Paralympic hero Jordan Lee is to take on a new role with Scott’s Lakers St Paul’s Killarney Basketball Club.

Jordan began his sporting career with the local basketball club where he created history by becoming the first amputee athlete to represent their country at international level.

The High Jumper then switched to track and field and qualified for the Tokyo Paralympics where he made history by becoming the first Kerry athlete to act as a flag bearer for an opening ceremony and lead an Irish team into an Olympic Stadium.

Now back home and preparing for the next Olympics in Paris, he has returned to his first love and will join the backroom staff at the local Division One basketball club ahead of their National League campaign which begins next month.

His father Jarlath Lee is head coach with St Paul’s.

“Jordan is joining us as our strength and conditioning coach,” Jarlath told the Killarney Advertiser.

INTERNATIONALS

Meanwhile, Scott’s Lakers St Paul’s Killarney Basketball Club National League team will have a distinctive feel to it this year after securing the services of three overseas players it for the season ahead.

The club’s biggest signing is Canadian professional Ben Miller. It was originally hoped that the former two-time Manitoba Player of the Year would play for the local side last season but the pandemic got in the way and the National League was never played. However, he did play two training games this time last year before returning to Canada until travel restrictions lifted.

“He is a good guy, very approachable and very good with the young members,” Jarlath said.

The club has also signed Bulgarian International Emilian Grudov.

The 20-year-old has already represented his home country at U16, 18 and 20 level.

“He is young, athletic and very good offensively,” added Lee.

The returning Lithuanian Dianius Varanaukus completes the club international line up for the 2020/21 season.

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