Kerry V Galway 1940

As reigning All-Ireland champions Kerry were generally regarded by football folk as the crowned kingpins of Gaelic Football as the 1940 championship campaign got under way. Kerry’s first outing in defence of their Munster and All-Ireland titles was against Limerick at Glin on May 19.

This proved to be little more than a workout for theKingdom and the fact that the pitch used was only a temporary one—the regular sportsfield was not available—plus the fact that there were no Press arrangements warranted as much notoriety as thegame itself.

Kerry’s combination and experience were all too much for the unfortunate Limerick men and goalsfrom Spring, Jimmy “Gawksie” Gorman and McAuliffe left a yawning gap between the teams at half-time, at which stage Kerry led by 3-6 to 0-2.

Although Limerick did manage a goal fairly early in the second half from D. Cotter Kerry had matters pretty much their own way and they trotted home the easiest of winners, aided by another Gorman goal.

The final score was Kerry 4-9, Limerick 1-2. Right wing back that day for Kerry was Strand Road’s JimBawn Fitzgerald who showed some nice touches in linking up with the attack.

Nor was Kerry’s Munster semi-final outing against Tipperary at Cork on the last Sunday in June any more demanding on their energies. In its report of the game The Kerryman called it a farce and made the point that it was not the brilliance of Kerry that proved decisive but rather the sheer incompetence of the Premier County men. “Anyone who paid a bob for admission got very poor value for his money,”

The report stated. “-Murt Kelly and “Gawksie” Gorman had opening points for Kerry before Gorman found the Tipperary net from a Sean Brosnan pass.Johnny Walsh added another point before the challengers came away for a point—their only score of the half.

Two fine goals by Dan Spring all but sealed Tipp’s fate and at halftime Kerry led by 3-5 to 0-1. Thesecond half was little better, with Kerry easing off and allowing their opponents some leeway. But the Premier County brigade were out of their depth and Kerry ran Out easiest of winners on the score 4-8 to1-5.

The Kerry defence had all the big guns—Danno in goal, Myers, Keohane and Healy in the full line, Dillon, Casey and Walsh (Eddie) in the half; “Gega” O’Connor was at midfield with Paddy Kennedy, while the attack comprised Johnny Walsh, Sean and Paddy Bawn Brosnan, with Murt Kelly, Spring and“Gawksie” Gorman inside them. Jim Bawn Fitzgerald came on as a sub that day.

So, it was onto the Munster Final in which Kerry were faced by Waterford, at the Gaelic Field, Waterford, on July 21. Waterford, for their partput up a tremendous battle, particularly in the opening half when they managed to call the tune more often than not and they held a surprising but well deserved three point lead at half time. But on the change-over, Kerry moved into top gear and coasted away from their opponents.

The Waterford paper, the Munster Express, in its report of the game, had this to say:

“Waterford’s strong defence and the splendidGoal keeping of Kett were the deciding factors in Waterford’s favour throughout this first Munster Senior Football final played locally. They changed over at half-time with a three point lead over their opponents and though unable to hold their own when faced by the famed passes, brilliant combination and over-head movements of the Kerrymen, one factor to their credit was that they left Kerry without a goal in the first half.

On the turn-over, however, Bill Dillon, Sean Brosnan, Murt Kelly, Dan Spring and Jimmy Gormanwere in top form and broke down all resistance, somewhat easily at times, to pile on one goal and eight points in this half to Waterford’s only score—a point—pulled off close on the final whistle.”

Waterford took the lead with a third minute point and towards the end of the first quarter the Deciesheld a two-point lead. Later a shot from winger Dalton was heading for goal but Danno Keeffe tipped it over for a point. Murt Kelly had Kerry’sfirst point before Dalton pointed a free for the home side to leave them leading by 0-4 to 0-1.

Kerry did a fair amount of pressing, but Kett inthe home goal made some tremendous saves. “Gega” O’Connor had a Kerry point before Moylanknocked over another Waterford minor to leave them ahead at half-time by 0-5 to 0-2, having played with the strong breeze.

In fact, the home side’s only score of the half, a point, came shortly before the call of time. Kerry’s scores in this half came from Brosnan, O’Gorman, O’Connor, Brosnan, then Brosnan (a goal), and further points from Spring (two) and McAuliffe.

Kerry were once again Munster title-holders on the score of 1-10 to 0-6, and they faced their old rivals,Cavan, in the All-Ireland semi-final at Croke Park on August 18, the same afternoon as Galway and Meath clashed in the other semi-final game.

Kerry showed one change from the Munster Final: Johnny Walsh resumed at right wing forward to theexclusion of Tony McAuliffe.

Kerry were in trouble from an early stage against the tremendously fit Cavan men, the remarkableand unanswered question being how did they manage to take such a drubbing in this half and still be only a point behind at half-time.

After fast up-and-down play Kerry took a point lead after five minutes when good midfield work saw Murt Kelly find Paddy Bawn Brosnan and he notched the opening score. Five minutes later Cavan were level when Paddy Smith drove the ball down into the right corner where Boylan had the better of atussle with Healy and levelled for Cavan. Under pressure, O’Keeffe in the Kerry goal was unbeatable.

But it was an entirely different into a one-point lead two minutes from the interval. Thus the score stood at 0-3 to 0-2 at half time and Kerry were regarded as fortunate to be only a point behind.

Shortly after the restart a Cavan centre was fumbled by Eddie Walsh and in stepped Smith towhip over a Cavan point (0-4 to 0-2). Cavan were in full flight now and they devastated the Kerrymenin all departments, their midfield completely submerging Kerry’s O’Connor and Kennedy.

Kerry’s goal was bombarded by the dashing Northerners, but their forwards missed many fine scoring opportunities. Smith stretched their lead eventually with a point from a free in the 10th minute of the half.

Then the game took an unexpected change-about. Kerry began to come more into the picture through the fine work of Sean Brosnan and Johnny Walsh.

After “Gega” O’Connor was fouled and missed the free himself, Sean Brosnan secured the kick-out and sent in a low ground shot; “Gawksie” Gorman was there to pull on the greasy ball and it flashed past the Cavan goalman into the net and the sides were level.

This was the signal for all-out Kerry warfare. Butthe next score fell to the Breffnimen; they first had a 50 and then got a free from it which Smith pointed for the lead again (0-6 to 1-2).

But there was no stopping the Kerrymen. On they surged and shortly afterwards Johnny Walsh, who was playing the game of his life, slid through on a 40 yards dash and sent the ball to Gorman whofinished it to the net again.

Kerry were two points in front. The stylishSean Brosnan won the ball from the kick-out and he sent Walsh away and the flying Ballylongford wizardghosted his way through the defence story in the second half, with Kerry dictating matters most of the time.

Cavan had let their chance slip and even though they came back for a point from Gully in the 25thminute they were a well beaten side.

The honour of notching the last score fell to Johnny Walsh—a point. So, Kerry had finished winners on the score 3-4 to 0-8 and were through once again to the Final, this time against Galway, who accounted for Meath by 3-8 to 2-5 in the other semi-final.

That 1940 Final certainly provided a platform for divergent opinions as far as the rival counties wereconcerned. On the one hand there was Gaiway, Kerry’s conquerors in the ‘38 Final replay, and, on the other hand, there was Dan Spring’s men, the reigning champions, who were chasing their third title in four years. And, no question about it,Spring’s men were hell bent on revenge!

For Kerry, the Final provided an additional challenge. Could they triumph and so draw level with mighty Dublin in the numbers of All-Ireland titles won (14).

Heavy rain fell as the teams lined out and there was considerable amusement among spectators when a duck, clad in green and gold colours, was let loose and waddled over the pitch.

The early exchanges were hard and uncompromising with play moving fast and furiously from one end to the other, but the greasyball and heavy sod were not making for a classical game.

Fifteen minutes elapsed, in fact, before the first score came and it fell to Kerry. “Gega” O’Connor,on the ‘40’, got the ball from a free by Sean Brosnan and though he was tackled by Beggs the wily Dingle warrior managed to get in his kick and he sent the ball hurtling over the bar to put Kerry into the lead.

Five minutes later Kerry stretched the lead after Murt Kelly was fouled. Kelly took the free himself and tapped it in to Dan Spring, who found the target with an over-head kick.

Galway came back and forced two frees, the second of which, from 45 yards range, was pointed by JohnDunne. But Kerry promptly replied, Sean Brosnan sent a free to Spring who found the elusive CharlieO’Sullivan and from a difficult angle in the corner O’Sullivan had the white flag waving again.

It was then Gaiway’s turn to take the fight into Kerry territory and when Higgins was fouled in front of the Kerry posts Brendan Nestor made no mistake with the free, to leave the score at 0-3 to 0-2 in Kerry’s favour.

Just then, the game took a quick and unexpected change of pattern. The Connaght, champions had afree near the centre and when the ball landed in a tangle of players it was Galway midfielder Dugganwho managed to get a boot to the leather and it sped past O’Keeffe for a great goal and one that wascheered to the echo by the Westerners’ supporters.

Somewhat against the run of play Galway had shot into a two-point lead (1-2 to 0-3) and that’s the way the score remained until the half-time whistlesounded.

On resumption, Kerry launched a fierce offensive and in the process full-forward Spring was injuredand went off. Paddy Bawn Brosnan came on and took over at top of the left with Charlie O’Sullivan moving from there to take Spring’s place.

Paddy Bawn was only moments on when he pounced on a Bill Casey free and pointed from a sharp angle to leave only a point between theteams again.

Ned Mulholland raced through the Kerry defence and let fly for a goal, but the stout-hearted DannoKeeffe saved the shot, was fouled and there was a free out to Kerry.

Subsequently, when Sean Brosnan was fouled he sent the free to Charlie O’Sullivan, who was broughtdown and Kelly pointed from close range to make it 1-2 to 0-5 after 15 minutes of the second half.

Now Croke Park was a cauldron of excitement and pent-up emotions as both sides fought for the breakthrough which might decide the issue. In fact, it was Galway who fired the first shot when Burke pointed with a grounding drive.

But back stormed the eager Kerrymen and when Gorman was fouled Murt Kelly pointed the free to level matters once again (1-3 to 0-6).

With the sides dead-locked time ticked by and the game was in extra time (allowed for stoppages). It was then that Kerry mustered all their traditional fighting spirit.

With time virtually up, the Kingdom stormed to the attack. Paddy Kennedy punched a long ball to Charlie O’Sullivan who dashed out to gather it;the quick thinking Kerryman steadied himself and, from about 40 yards out, he cleared the cross-barwith a lovely left footed shot. It was the winner and Kerry had accomplished everything they had set outto do.

Reporting on the Final, the Dundalk Democrat said: “While the Munstermen deserved their victory,they experienced a particularly close call and, all told, were rather lucky to have decided the honours on this outing. The Anglo Cdt (Cavan) reported : “Few will dispute that on the day’s play the better team won as Kerry had most of the pressure,but any little luck to Galway would have made a draw of it. The winners suited themselves better to the conditions and it was remarkable the number of occasions that the Galway players slipped and fellwhen moving for the ball, an indication of faulty hoot studs.” The paper added that it was a poor display of Gaelic football.

Closer still to the heart of things, the Connacht Tribune (Galway) commented thus: “Failure to win scores from promising opportunities which were presented by frees in the first half and the opportunism and quick thinking of Charlie Sullivan which gave Kerry a point when extra time was being played, cost Galway the All-Ireland. Watched by a crowd of 61,000 the game was not at all a brilliant exhibition. The sod was too slippery, the marking was too close and keen and there was too muchroughness to allow much spectacular work to enter, but the closeness of the scoring and the gallant stand of the Galway defence made the game a thrilling one.”

The final score was Kerry: 0-7; Galway: 1-3.

The Kerry team was trained by former Kerry star Con Brosnan. There was a tremendous receptionin Tralee for the returning Kerry team, particularly for team captain Dan Spring from Strand Road. TheStrand Street Fife and Drum Band was on hand to play them in at the local railway station.

Kerry : D. O’Keeffe; W. Myers, J.Keohane, T. Healy; W. Dillon, W. Casey, E. Walsh; S. Brosnan, j.Walsh; j. O’Gorman, T. O’Connor, P.Kennedy; M. Kelly, D.Spring, (capt.), C. O’Sullivan. Sub.P. B.Brosnan for Spring.

Galway: j. McGauran; M. Raftery, M. Connaire, D.O’Sullivan; F.Cunniffe, R. Beggs, C. Connolly; j.Dunne (capt.), J. Duggan; j. Flavin, J.Burke, j.Canavan; M. Higgins, E. Muiholland, B. Nestor.