Kerry V Cavan 1937 All-Ireland Gaelic Football Final.
After their historic four-in-a-row run of All- Irelands from 1929 to 1932 Kerry’s football was on the wane in the years that followed and it was to be 1937 before they were to emerge as the Champions again.
In 1936, they got through to the All-Ireland semi-final but they failed in a closely-contested game to Mayo who went on to win their first All-Ireland title.
Kerry were busy team-building in an effort to recapture past glories. Then Came April ‘37 and the Kingdom made the long trip northwards to take on champions Mayo in a game to mark the opening of the new Gaelic Park in Longford.
They showed that they were definitely on the road back when overcoming a Mayo side short only two of their championship fifteen. Later, Kerry beat a powerful Cavan team in the Whit Tournament game at Killarney.
The Kingdom’s first outing in defence of their Munster crown was against Tipperary at Mitchelstown. Tipperary were expected to provide stiff opposition, but Kerry had the easiest of tasks, winning by 2-11 to 0-4. In goal that day for Kerry was Rock man Brendan Reidy who deputised most effectively for the injured Danno Keeffe. Kerry’s goals came from M. Ferriter and Charlie O’Sullivan.
So, Kerry. were through to the provincial Final and here they met Clare on July 18 at Limerick a week after their victory over Tipperary. The Kerry team was the same except that Danno Keeffe resumed as goalkeeper.
In its report of the game The Kerry Champion stated: “Though the Seniors won, and won well as can be seen from the scores, they were at no period impressive as a championship team. Against the good Clare backs the forwards were at times left standing. Ferriter was out of the picture for a good twenty minutes, but proved useful later in the game. The other forwards, when Kerry were up against it, did not justify their selection. Of the fulls and half backs very little could be found to complain of, but the Kerry midfield were fully extended for the hour. ”
The Kerry Team in the Munster Final was: D OKeeffee, W. Kinnerk, J.Keohane, T. O`Donnell, M.Carmody, M. Doyle, W. Dillion, J. Walsh, P. Kennedy, T O`Leary, C O`Sullivan, J. Gorman, C. Geaney, S. Mcarthy, M. Ferriter.
In The All Ireland Semi Final Kerry were to play Laois who had proved themselves the Champions of Leinster and the favourites to lift the Sam Maguire. The year before they had shown class and authority in winning through to the Final, but they crumbled on the big occasion and were annihilated by Mayo by 4-11 to 0-5.
This meeting with Laois at the Cork Athletic Grounds is still spoken of with candour and respect by Kerrymen to the present day.
It was to prove a close call indeed for the Munster men and they were glad to get a second bite at the cherry. It was also to mark Kerry’s introduction to the young school boy footballer named Tommy Murphy—the Laois boy-wonder who was in succeeding years to earn a niche all his own for himself in the annals of the game.
The first half was fast and exciting all the way with the agile Laois players doing most of the attacking; but some very bad shooting deprived them of scores that should have been theirs for the taking.
The Leinster champions had a point early on when midfielder Jack Delaney placed Murphy and the Knockbeg College 16-year-old sent the ball between the uprights for the lead for his side.
There wasn’t another score until shortly before half-time when Kelly and Fitzgerald broke away for Kerry; Fitzgerald sent the ball into the Laois goalmouth where a melee ensued and in the helter skelter full-forward McCarthy got a foot to it and sent it into the net for an unexpected goal and one that Kerry hardly deserved on the run of play.
That goal left them leading at half-time by 1-O to 0-1
After Geaney and Douglas exchanged points on the restart Laois struck a major blow. It happened in the 10th minute: Tommy Murphy tested O’Keeffe in the Kerry goal with a high ball; Danno punched the ball out from under the bar but substitute Swayne was lying handily close by and he slipped the ball past Danno for an opportunist goal. Suddenly Laois were leading by 1-2 to 1-1.
Then Willie Delaney and Tadhg Healy exchanged points and after Johnny Walsh had missed a good chance for the Kingdom Jack Delaney pointed a 30 yards free to put his side two points clear (1-4 to 1-2).
Laois were piling on the pressure and missed a great chance of stretching the lead. Then Doug- las opened it up and parted to full forward Keogh; the Laois veteran sent a high ball over the bar to put three points between the teams.
But Kerry hit back for an equaliser. The attack was set off by Fernter and Kelly; O’Leary carried it on and sent the ball to McCarthy. He in turn passed it to Geaney who dribbled the ball towards the square and his hard low shot beat Farrell in the Laois goal and the sides were level (2-2 to 1-5) amidst frenzied excitement among the crowd of about 14,000.
Both defences were hard pressed as the game entered the closing stages. Eventually Bill Dillon broke the deadlock for Kerry when he fielded the kick-out and pointed for the lead. Laois fought back and when Keogh was fouled 20 yards out they had a great chance, but Jack Delaney sent the free badly wide.
Still Laois battered away at Kerry’s defence and from the second of two frees Douglas sent the ball over the bar from 40 yards range to tie the scores. So, at full time they had drawn on the score Kerry 2-3, Laois 1-6.
It was a free-ridden game, Kerry being awarded no fewer than 20 and Laois 19. But if any team had cause to regret lost chances it was the Laois men. They kicked no fewer than 14 wides that day to Kerry’s five and that in itself is a fair reflection of the exchanges.
Kerry were ragged and unbalanced. The absence of “Gawksie” Gorman and Paddy Kennedy was keenly felt as was that of the Landers brothers. A vast improvement was necessary if Laois were to be bested in the replay.
The old Roscommon player Tom Shevlin threw in the ball that day.
Kerry’s line-out was D. O’Keeffe; W. Kinnerk, J. Keohane, T. O’Donnell; J. Carmody, M. Doyle (capt.), T. Healy; j. Walsh, W. Dillon; M. Ferriter, M. Kelly, G. Fitzgerald; C. Geaney, S. McCarthy, T. O’Leary. Sub.—W. Myers for Carmody in second half.
Kerry’s team was much changed when they took the field for the replay at Waterford on August 29. For one thing, Tim and John Joe Landers were in the attack, Charlie O’Sullivan and the youthfull Michael Lyne.
Again it was another epic battle for supremacy between two sides whose styles of play brought out the best in one another. With less than seven minutes remaining they were level and then it was that a long ball from Tadhg Healy reached Lyne and the Killarney lad set Kerry hearts aglow when he booted over the bar for what was to be the winn- ing point for Kerry (2-2 to 1-4).
Danno Keeffe was at his brilliant best that day for Kerry and thwarted the Laois forwards time and again with brilliant saves. Tim Landers also left an unforgettable imprint on the occasion with his great brace of goals. Again Laois squandered chances galore over the hour, shooting no fewer than 16 wides to Kerry’s six.
The Kerry line-out was D. O’Keeffe; W. Myers, .1. Keohane, T. O’Donnell; W. Kinnerk, M. Doyle, W. Dillon; j. Walsh, T. Healy; M. Kelly, C. O’Sullivan, T. Landers; J. J Landers, S. McCarthy, M. Lyne: Sub. —D. Spring for J. J Landers.
In the All-Ireland Final against Cavan on September 26, Kerry got off to a cracker of a start. And the man who set them alight was the inimitable John Joe Landers operating in the right corner of the attack.
Six minutes later the same player did the trick again. Bill Dillon repelled a Cavan free and following a wonderful piece of work by the Kerry forwards Landers secured possession and beat Young with a low shot.
It was a terrible start for the Ulster champions but they proved that they were made of stern stuff. Back they came and before half-time they had pulled back no fewer than four points.
Substitute Smallhorn had the first after 16 minutes, White another from a free, Magee another also from a free and Devlin yet another from 40 yards range. This left Kerry leading by 2-0 to 0-4 at half-time.
And so the drama continued to unfold as the sides were locked in mortal battle throughout a pulsating second half. Ten minutes from the end, at a stage when they still trailed by two points, the Ulster title holders set Croke Park alight when they broke through the staunch Kerry defence for a wonderful goal. Tom O’Reilly, the Cavan captain, initiated the movement which saw Devlin, Smallhorn, Magee and Morgan build it up for Paddy Boylan to send a low drive past Danno Keeffe in the Kerry goal. Not surprisingly, the Cavan supporters went wild with delight.
But Kerry were unyielding in their resolve. Gearoid Fitzgerald shot the levelling point shortly after and
Sean Brosnan put them a point ahead when his lobbing shot hopped over the bar. Amidst tremendous excitement Blessing was fouled and
Sonny Magee pointed the resultant free to tie the scores once more (Kerry 2-5, Cavan 1-8).
Then followed a sequence that was to cause furore and controversy for many a day. After Charlie O’Sullivan was only fractionally wide with a good chance of scoring, Cavan came back on the attack.
They were awarded a free and the ball went to the waiting Boylan; as the Kerry backs closed in on him he whipped the ball over the bar for what seemed to most of those watching a winning point.
The referee had, however, blown for a foul against the Cavan player for throwing the ball, though the whistle was not heard in the deafening din that was Croke Park at that precise moment. At the finish the result was announced over the public address as a point win for Cavan and, apparently, listeners to radio were led to believe the same.
Hence the furore and the argument when the correct result was subsequently announced around the ground as a draw (2-5 to 1-8).
Kerry showed changes for the replay, played at Croke Park on October 17. Paddy Kennedy was absent through injury; Miko Doyle was moved from centre half-back to full-forward, with Dillon going from right wing-back to centre-half and O’Donnell moving from the No. 14 spot to right half back; Sean Brosnan went from right wing forward to partner Johnny Walsh at midfield, with Flavin coming on in Brosnan’s position; Tim O’Leary replaced Fitzgerald at top of the left.
Again the build-up for the replay aroused tremendous excitement all over the country and when the day of the match came round the attendance in Cork Park was 51,234 (receipts £4,286), slightly smaller numbers than at the drawn game.
Then after 11 minutes Kerry grabbed the lead. Sean Brosnan sent the ball into the goalmouth, John Joe Landers crossed it in front of the square and the nippy Tim O’Leary was there to punch the ball into the net for the lead for the Kingdom—1-0 to nil. Soon after, Smith and Miko Doyle collided and Smith retired.
Magee had two points for the Breffni men who were battling as gamely as ever they did. Then after Johnny Walsh hit the Cavan cross-bar Devlin tied the scores with a fine point and this left the sides level (1-0 to 0-3) at the half-time whistle.
Against the slight wind Kerry tried to surge ahead but it was Cavan who took the lead with a Devlin point and another from a free by Magee put them two points clear.
Then Kerry struck again in majestic manner. Tadhg Healy sent a free to Flavin and from him the ball went to Tim Landers; he sent a low ball hurtling goalwards and there was Miko Doyle, the team captain, to finish it to the net. Kerry were again leading (2-0 to 0-5). Then after 12 minutes of the half Tim Landers was fouled and he pointed the free.
It was the turn of Tim’s brother, John Joe, to set up the next vital score for the Kingdom; he eluded a tackle, gave the ball to Tim Landers who found Tim O’Leary on the edge of the square and again the Killarney man found the net. That score really crippled Cavan and set Kerry on the high road to victory. They were now leading by 3-1 to 0-5 and seemed to have broken Cavan’s resistance.
Kerry piled on th e pressure and stretched their lead with a brace of points by Tim Landers, the first from a free. Then, after Danno Keeffe had saved and was bundled over the line, the referee allowed a goal to Cavan. A Paddy Smith point immediately afterwards left Kerry just a goal in front (3-3 to 1-6).
But the Kingdom men promptly killed any hopes of a Cavan victory. After Tim Landers was fouled Brosnan sent the free dropping in the square where John Joe Landers was on to it like a flash and he sent a low drive hurtling into the net. Tim Landers and Paddy Smith (both frees) exchanged points before the final whistle to leave Kerry convincing winners and once more All-Ireland champions on the score 4-4 to 1-7.
The Team That Day Was: Kerry D. O’Keeffe;
W. Kinnerk, J. Keohane, W. Myers; T. O’Donnell, W.Dillon, T. Healy; .J. Walsh, S. Brosnan; J. Flavin, C. O’Sullivan, T. Landers; J. J. Landers, M. Doyle (capt.), T. O’Leary. Sub., Tom (“Gega “) O’Connor
for T. O’Donnell. Cavan: W. Young; E. Finnegan,
J. Smith, M. Denneny; D. Kerrigan, T. O’Reilly (capt.), J. J. O’Reilly; V. White, P. Smith; D.Morgan, P. Devlin; J. Smalihorn; P. Boylan, L.Blessing, M. Magee. Subs., T. O’Reilly, J. White, W.Carroll, j. Mitchell.