Kerry V Kildare 1903

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The Kerry Kildare game of 1903 where the men who brought the first All-Ireland senior football title to the Kingdom of Kerry and must always be remembered with extra special pride. Not because it was the first, but because it took three games between two tough Kerry and Kildare teams.
This first All-Ireland was not in Croke Park but in Tipperary Town. Kildare where the favourites after beating Kilkenny in another three game marathon.

It was a clear day with a fair breeze. Kerry scored first against the wind from a great point by Thady O`Gorman. The score stayed low, the Kerry defence played like Romans and the Kildare attack missed a fair few.

The play was fast and furious and Kildare started to improve in their shooting, Bracken and Dunne scoring two points and the score at half time was just Kerry 1 Kildare 2.

Now at this point the scores where very low, but in the second half events took a dramatic turn of the coin. Kerry men Charlie Duggan and the legendary seventeen years old, at the time, Dick Fitzgerald kicked Kerry ahead. But there was no lying down with “The Lily Whites” they came back stronger than ever, for 15 minutes it was kick for kick and along comes Kildare’s Joyce Conlon with a great shot at goal beating M Murray.

This goal was hotly disputed as the Kerry players claimed that the ball was out of play previously, but the referee would not have any of it. Kildare followed with another point and it looked like the cup was travelling to Leinster.

But you cannot underestimate a Kerry team. Kerry hit back with a point from John Thomas Fitzgerald and two minutes from the end a very disputed goal was allowed for Kerry.

The fans ran on, the players where mobbed, the referee got trampled and in his confusion Mr McGrath awarded the game to Kerry 1-4 to 1-3. But that wasn’t the end of it, or the beginning either, the boys from Kildare weren’t finished yet; this was just the first game for the All-Ireland Final in 1903.

Due to the ramshackle finish of the match Kildare put in an immediate objection to the result and the central council decided that there should be a re-match.

The re-match was to be on August 13th at the same venue and with the same referee; he had recovered from being trampled on by the Kerry fans.

Kerry objected strongly but to no avail. However, to even things out a bit the venue was changed to Cork on August 27th and a different referee, M.F Crowe from Dublin was chosen.

There was a huge crowd gathered for the return match. There were trains from Tralee, Killarney, Listowel, Caherciveen and Castleisland, every one of them full to the brim.

Kerry lost the toss and found themselves playing with the wind in the first half. Kerry scored the first two points before Kildare got stuck in and bombarded the Kerry goal scoring 3 points. Kerry got going again and at half-time Kerry where leading 0-5 to 0-3.

Early in the second half great play from Billy Lynch, Dick Fitzgerald, Tom O`Gorman and Charlie Duggan put Kerry into a 5 point lead and everything looked like it was going Kerry’s way.

Then the Kildare keeper, Fitzgerald, made an incredible save which galvanised the Kildare team and surged forward to the Kerry goal time and time again, scoring a goal and 2 points to equalise and putting Kildare in a position to beat Kerry.

Kerry hung on grimly under intense pressure and the result was a draw. That was the end of “Round 2”.

The second replay was fixed for October 15th at the same venue the Cork Athletic ground. Heavy Irish rain fell all morning but did little to dampen the enthusiasm of the supporters. That day the GAA took record gate takings of £270.

The game started in the pouring rain and it was 14 minutes before Kerry took the first score, a point from J T Fitzgerald, then another from Eamon O`Neill. Kildare came into the game and at half-time Kerry was leading by just a point.

Both teams looked very tired as they went in for the break. On the restart Kerry got stuck in and scored two quick points, then another, Kildare came back at them and narrowly missed a goal, which became the turning point of the game.

Kerry followed with points from Dick Fitzgerald and Billy Lynch, they were now 5 points in front and an exhausted Kildare team lost heart.

So the great marathon was over Kerry had won 0-8 to 0-2.

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But Kerry still couldn’t claim All-Ireland Champions; they had one more game to play. They had to play London-Hibernians, who had been competing in the All-Ireland Championship since 1900.

The game was played on November 12th in Clonturk Park Dublin. Nobody expected Kerry to lose and it turned out to be a one sided affair with Kerry winning 0-11 to 0-3.

One memorable fact about that game was that the captain of the Hibernians was Sam Maguire, the man who was later to give his name to the All-Ireland trophy of today.

The Team Of 1903.

E.O`Neill, D. Breen, D. Curran, D. McCarthy, M. Murray, John. O`Gorman, J.P. O`Sullivan, Jas. O`Gorman, J. Myers, C. Healy, R. Kirwan, M. McCarthy, E. O`Sullivan (President of County Board) T.F. O`Sullivan, (Hon Sec County Board) W. Lynch, R. Fitsgerald, F. O`Sullivan, T. O`Gorman (Captain) P. Dillon, J.T.Fitzgerald, A.Stack, J. Buckley, D. Kissane.

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