Kerry V Armagh 1953

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KERRY’S football fortunes hit on decidedly poor times following on their 1946 title triumph in the replay against Roscommon. They weren’t to capture the Sam Maguire Cup again for seven long years (at that time the Kingdom’s second longest span without winning the All-Ireland, the longest being the 1914-1924 hiatus, and since equalled by the 1962-’69 lapse).

And in those seven years between 1946 and 1953 Kerry only managed to contest one other final, that of 1947 when they made history along with Cavan by contesting the only All—Ireland senior football final ever played outside Ireland.

But, despite a memorable performance, Kerry had to give best to the silk-smooth Brieffinymen who went on to take the title at the New York Polo Grounds on September 14 on the score 2-11 to 2-7.

Kerry lost the All-Ireland semi-finals of 1948 (to Mayo), ‘50 (to Louth), ‘51 (in a replay to Mayo) and they failed to even come out of Munster in ‘49 and ‘52. Thus, with the advent of the 1953 championship, there was a football famine raging in the Kingdom and a feeling of total unrest among the tribes at the county’s inability to break the hoodoo that had bedevilled the Kingdom’s footballers since the mid-‘40s.

As expected, Kerrv had no trouble in surmounting their first hurdle in the Munster championship when 53 penalty miss bite the dust they handed a hiding to Clare at Ennis on July 5. Kerry led at half-time by 3-4 to nil and went on to record a runaway 6-10 to 0-2 victory, their goals that day coming from Paudie Sheehv (three), Jackie Lyne (two) and Sean Kelly.

Great was the excitement later when Kerry stepped out onto the green sward of Killarney’s Fitzgerald Stadium, on July 19, to try and wrest the provincial title back from Cork.

The memory of their 0-11 to 0-2 whipping by the Rebel County men at the Athletic Grounds the previous year still rankled in the minds of every Kerry follower.

Just how great the interest aroused by the game was can be gleaned from the attendance that day of 19,090 who paid receipts of £3,047 .No fewer than 17 special trains were in operation to transport the fans to Killarney for the match.

And a hard-fought game it proved to be, with Kerry always in command of the situation and never allowing the Corkmen to dictate matters.

Kerry had points from Jackie Lyne, Tadhgie Lyne (3) and Paudie Sheehy before full-forward Sean Kelly punched a goal to give them a 1-5 to nil lead. Then the lion-hearted Neily Duggan pulled a goal back for the visitors before half-time, goalkeeper Donal (Mai’cus) ONeill diving too late to stop it.

Bobby Buckley replaced Jackie Lyne shortly after the restart and when Micksi Palmer came off soon after this he was replaced by Tom Ashe. Denis (“ Toots “) Kelliher opened the second-half scoring with a Cork point from 50 yards range, but inside ten minutes Kerry had stretched their lead (1-7 to 1-1) with points from Jim Brosnan and Tadhgie Lyne. Cork came again and that indefatigable Cork stalwart Mick Cahill—he had come on as a sub kicked two lovely points to cut Kerry’s lead to four points again (1-7 to 1-3).

Then came the score that more or less sealed the issue. Kerry attacked and the ball went to Gerald O’Sullivan in the corner; O’Sullivan whipped it across the goalmouth and in dashed Dingle’s Tom Ashe to punch it to the net. Kerry were seven points clear and that, to all intents and purposes, was that. How-ever, Cork did manage one final flourish.

A Cork free landed in the goalmouth and Army-man Nial Fitzgerald was on the spot to finish it past O’Neill for an opportunist goal. But at the final whistle the Kingdom were worthy four-point winners on the score 2-7 to 2-3.

There was no doubting that Kerry were the better all-round team on the day and Cork would probably have been beaten by a lot more were it not for a super midfield display from “Toots” Kelliher, with Paddy Driscoll also showing great form in the red jersey.

The anchor of Kerry’s side was the half-back line of Colm Kennelly, John Cronin and Micksie Palmer, with Cronin from Milltown emerging as a football colossus.

Kerry lined out: D. O’Neill; jas Murphy, E. Roche, J.O’Shea; C.Kennelly, j. Cronin, M. j. Palmer;G.O’Sullivan, B. O’Shea; P.Sheehy(Capt.), S. Murphy, T. Lyne; j.Brosnan, S. Kelly, J.Lyne.

Kerry had earned themselves a place in the All-Ireland semi-final and when they lined out at Croke Park on August 23 to try conclusions with Leinster champions, Louth, the Kingdom men had a score to settle. For the Wee County had put Kerry out of the championship race in the 1950 semi-final when they won by 1-7 to 0-. There was an attendance of 62,048 in Croke Park that Sunday afternoon in late August as the champions of Munster and Leinster did battle to see who would qualify for a place in the Final against Ulster title-holders Armagh, who had taken Roscommon’s scalp in the other semi-final. And what a gripping encounter it turned out to be.

As events transpired, Kerry took the game by the throat in the first half and with three great goals they struck a deadly dagger-blow at their rivals.Louth had opened with points from Jack Regan and Peadar Smith, but inside six minutes Kerry had struck the first of the lethal blows that were to form the blue-print of victory.

Tadhgie Lyne was twice wide of the target when the Kingdom stormed again to the attack.John Cronin, created the scene magnificently at centre half-back, opened up an attack; a high ball was taken by Ashe who made his way round full-back Jim Tuft and slammed a great drive to the Louth net.

Centre half-forward Jim McDonnell duly tied the scores for Louth with a point, but Kerry were relentless in their pressure and they were soon back on the goal-scoring trail. Cronin started the ball rolling for Tadhgie Lyne and the gangling Killarney sharp-shooter sent a shot hurtling across the goal; in raced Ashe to hammer the ball past goal-keeper O’Neill to the thunderous cheering of the Kerry fans.

After Jas. Murphy had hurled back two Louth onslaughts Kerry struck again, This time, full-forward Sean Kelly did the trick when he gained possession from a free kick and swept the ball into the net for goal number 3 for Kerry, to leave them leading handsomely by 3-0 to 0-3 against the wind.

McDonnell and Regan picked off a brace of points for the Leinster side before Tadhgie Lyne had an overhead point to leave Kerry leading by 3-1 to 0-5 at half- time.

On the restart, Kennelly had retired from the Kerry half-back line and was replaced by Micksie PalIlier. Inside a minute Louth had notched a point and although this was duly answered by one from Gerald O’Sullivan Louth were full of spirit and ideas and when they landed a series of points from Regan, Smith and McDonnell (free) Kerry’s lead had been sliced to just two points (3-2 to 0-9).

Louth supporters went wild with excitement as their heroes harnessed all their powers in an all-out effort to pierce Kerry’s defensive armoury for the all-important goal that would set them on the path of victory. But Kerry were splendidly equipped to meet with any emergencies and they mustered their forces once again to pick off points from Paudie Sheehy (free) and Sean Kelly to leave them four points clear.

The Leinster men managed another point from a free, but Kerry were now well and truly masters of the situation and they underlined their authority with further points from substitute Mick Brosnan and Sheehy (free), to leave them thoroughly deserving winners on the score 3-6 to 0-10.

Kerry’s team was : .1. Foley; ,Jas.Murphy, E. Roche, D.Murphy; C.Kennelly, J. Cronin, S. Murphy; B.O’Shea, R.Buckley; P. Sheehy (capt.), J. Brosnan, T. Lyne; T.Ashe, S. Kelly, J. Lvne. Subs.—G.O’Sullivan for j.Brosnan; M.Palmer for C. Kennelly; Mick Bros.

Kerry had to start without Palmer, injured, Toni Moriarty, who had been declared illegal, and Jerome O’Shea, who was taken ill during training.

Mick Dunne, reporting in The Irish Press, remarked : “It’s to their backs that Kerry must doff their hats and express their gratitude. If Gaelic football were a professional game these lads would be pocketing fatbonuses right now. I thought I had seen everything from Murphy in the Munster final, but that was nothingto Sunday’s performance. The 6ft. lins. Garda was right full-back on the programme, but he was every-where in defence when danger threatened; he outjumped and out-reached Hugh O’Rourke, Peadar Smith and every other Louth forward who came to challenge him.

Over on the other side the laurel goes to his namesake, 21 years’ old Sean Murphy, who was superb at left-half arid was faultless in his display of perfectly neat and forceful football. As they say in Kerry, he ‘was a handsome foothaller.’

“And there was John Cronin the oldest man on the team—manning the centre half berth coolly and calmly. His unflurried but solid approach to the ball must have been most annoying to an opponent. Eddie Roche mastered Jack Regan well.

“ Kerry now meet Armagh, hut it could easily have been a neighbours’ All-Ireland between Louth and Armagh. It was so close. And a draw might have been a fitter reward for Louth’s brave spirit. But that’s an ‘ if,’ for they’ve lost and the fault once again was their attack.”

All of Ireland was agog with unfettered excitement at the prospect of a new All-Ireland Final pairing bringing the mighty warriors of the Kingdom into opposition against the brave young football supremos from Armagh who were attempting to make history on that sunny Sunday of September 27 as they came south of the Border to try and bring the title back to the Six Counties for the first time ever.

Little Sean Quinn and his agile teammates had been campaigning hard and rigorously for a few years prior to that in an effort to make the big break through. In 1950, they annexed the Ulster title for the first time since 1903 when they beat Cavan in the final, But they went under to eventual champions Mayo in the All-Ireland semi-final.

Elation among football folk in the Orchard County ran sky-high when their favourites succeeded in recapturing the Ulster title in 1953 and in dethroning provincial and All Ireland champions Cavan in the process. It should, perhaps, be remembered that Armagh had won the 1949 All-Ireland minor title and this was the team that formed the nucleus of their ‘53 senior side.

Little wonder then that there should have been a record gathering in Croke Park of 85,155 to see this novel pairing of North and South battling for the Blue Ribanid of Gaelic Football. Kerry were led by their newly appointed captain Jas.Murphy and Armagh by the diminutive Sean Quinn.

Kerry’s line-out showed some changes from’ the semi-final : Micksie Palmer came in at left half-back in place of Sean Murphy who was drafted to midfield to form a new partnership with Dermot Hannafin in place of Brendan O’Shea and Bobby Buckley; Jim Brosnan moved from the 40 to replace Paudie Sheehy at right wing forward with John Joe Sheehan from Farranfore coming in in the No. 11 spot.

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