Kerry V Meath 1939, When They Won In The Dingle Colours

Following on their memorable triumph in capturing the 1937 title with their dynamic replay win over Cavan in the Final, Kerry had something of a shock in store for them the following year when, after playing a draw with Galway in the Final (John Joe Landers’ point not being allowed as the final whistle sounded), the champions had to give best to the gritty men of the West and lost their title on the score 2-4 to 0-7. That was Kerry’s first time ever losing a Final replay.

In May, 1939, the Kerry and Galway teams went on tour in America. The Kerry party consisted of: W.Kinnerk, J. Keohane, W. Myers, W. Dillon, W.Casey, T. (“ Gega”) O’Connor, J. Walsh, S.Brosnan, P.Kennedy, C. O’Sullivan, T. McAuliffe, M.Regan, M. Doyle, T.O’Leary, P. B. Brosnan, M.Kelly, J. J. Landers, G. Teahan, E. Walsh,M. Raymond.

Earlier that year, on March 26, Kerry had met and had been beaten by Mayo (1-6 to 0-6) in the Group “A” Final of the National League. The Westerners, who were winning their sixth successive League title that year, led at half-time by 0-6 to 0-1 and contained Kerry’s best efforts to get on terms in thesecond half.

They Played in Tralee and watched by an attendance of 10,000, the game marked the Kingdom’s first defeat on their home pitch since their sensational eclipse by Dublin in the 1934 All-Ireland semi-final.

Upon their return from the U.S. Kerry awaited the forthcoming Munster championship, getting a bye in-to the Final. Here they met Tipperary at Clonmel on July 23, with the Premier County men searching for their first provincial crown since 1935. Kerry lined out without Tim (“Roundy”) Landers, Jim(“Gawksie”) Gorman and Sean Brosnan.

Despite the fact that Tipp did most of the early pressing, their forwards were unable to outwit thestern Kerry defence and gradually Kerry took control with Johnny Walsh and Paddy Kennedy ruling the midfield scene.

Kerry set the pattern for success with a lightning goal. Walsh opened up play at midfield; he foundwing forward J. (Mitchel) McCarthy and he in turn sent the ball across to Tony McAuliffe on theother wing and the latter slammed the ball to the net.

Tipp were finding the going very tough, althoughthey did manage two points in this half, at the end of which Kerry led by 1-5 to 0-2. McAuliffe retired injured in the opening half when playing very well and Paddy Bawn Brosnan was brought into the game.

Kerry struck again shortly after the restart : a sweeping movement saw the ball pass from Myers to Dillon to Kennedy to McCarthy before Murt Kelly put the finishing touches to it with a fine goal.

Kerry were now leading by 2-4 to 0-2 and thereafter the game became one-sided. In the end, the Kingdom ran out easy winners by 2-11 to 0-4, with further scores coming via Johnny Walsh, O’Sullivan,Ml. Lyne, Kelly and O’Connor.

The Kerry team which won the county’s fourth successive Munster title that day was: D. O’Keeffe;W. Myers, J. Keohane, E. Walsh; W. Dillon, W.Casey, T. (“ Gega”) O’Connor; J. Walsh, P.Kennedy; T. McAuliffe, C. O’Sullivan, J. McCarthy; M. Kelly, M. Doyle, M.Lyne.

So, Kerry were through to yet another All-Ireland semi-final. This time their opponents were to beMayo who had defeated All-Ireland champions Galway in the Connacht Final, after the latter returned from their American tour. And there wasto be much controversy, hostility and furore before that show-down with Mayo was resolved.

This semi-final meeting, played at Croke Park on August 13, proved to be a hard, dour, uncompromising tussle between two vastly experienced sides.

But despite the hectic first half exchanges the scoring was at a minimum. Early on Mayo had theball over the bar but the score was not allowed, the referee deeming that the ball had been thrown.

Hoban gave the Connacht champions the lead with a point from a free after seven minutes. Then, afterPaddy Moclair had had a hard drive for goal stopped by Danno Keeffe, Mayo stormed back for wing forward Carney to gather the ball and punt it over the bar.

There was no further score for the rest of the half and this left the Mayo men leading by 0-2 to nilat half-time. In between times, Kerry had put in some tremendous work, with midfielders Walsh andSean Brosnan setting up some fine movements, but the forwards frittered away scores by the new time.In point of fact, Kerry would have been much further in arrears at the short whistle had it not been for the heroic defensive work by the half-back line of Bill Dillon, Tom (“ Gega “) O’Connor andEddie Walsh.

There was high drama before half-time when Burke in the Mayo goal saved a rasping shot from MurtKelly on the line and with the Kerry forwards rushing in on him many people were of the opinion that the goaly had crossed the line with the ball. But the referee gave a free out to Mayo.

Kerry quickly got on terms after the restart. First Kelly placed O’Sullivan for the Munster men’s opening point and then Kelly himself levelled the scores after three minutes of the half.

Mayo were on the break in the 37th minute when they were awarded a free on the 21 yards mark and Tommy Hoban promptly shot them back in the lead with a fine point. Eddie Walsh sent Dan Spring away but he was fouled about 50 yards out and Sean Brosnan’s low free kick bounded off goalkeeper Burke’s fist and over the bar for the equaliser (0-3 each).

Then after Burke had effected a good save from Sean Brosnan, the Kingdom midfielder set supporters cheering when he booted Kerry into a one-point lead. Kerry were definitely proving superior now, but their forwards were unable to capitalise on their chances and they paid the penalty when Flannelly boxed over a point forMayo, to make it a draw at 0-4 each.

Mayo were a shade unlucky towards the close when it seemed they might be given a 21 yards free, but,instead, the referee hopped the ball.

The game, played in bright sunshine, was watched by a crowd of 32,160. The replay was fixed forSeptember 10.

Afterwards, Mayo players and officials claimed that they had been ‘blackguarded’ by their opponentsand ominous rumblings emanated from Mayo’s ruling body.

The following is an extract of a report which appeared at the time in the Western People (the Mayo paper, published in Ballina): “Captain Paddy Moclair was indignant at the manner in which Mayo were treated in the closing stages, when they were deprived of a ‘ free’ which was theirs by right, and which, had it been awarded, would undoubtedly have won the day for them. ‘Anyway, we’ll win the replay—-that’s one sure thing. We were blackguarded out of the decision today and the rules of the Association were blackguarded, but we won’t be done out of it the next day!’

“Many of the Mayo players bore traces of the rough treatment to which they had been subjected, andsticking plaster was freely used. But one and all they expressed confidence in their ability to bring off the replay.”

The Western People reporter spoke to Kerry’s Sean Brosnan “the towering, broad-shouldered captainthought that the result was a fitting one.

Brosnan was quoted thus : “The majority of ourplayers were dissatisfied with the refereeing. We got so many chances to score at the opening that we should have won the game in the first ten minutes. I think that with collective training we should win the semi-final by a comfortable margin, and indeed had we been better prepared today we would have won the game. Personally I had onlythree days’ training.”

The Kerryman reported thus: “ When the indecisive battle had ended and the war clouds cleared the Mayo men returned to their native fastnesses. But in due course the clans assembled and were addressed by the Big Chiefs. There was alengthy peroration from Mr. T. Forde. Other chiefs joined in, and added trimmings which will fillGaelic Ireland with amazement. In fifty long years the Gaels of this country have never been favouredwith such a discourse.

“It is a good many years since Dickens wrote : ‘What is exaggeration to one class of minds and perceptions is plain truth to another.’ On that basis no Kerry and Mayo critic would be expected to see eye to eye on what happened in the drawn match.”

It is worthy of note that Bill Casey missed the drawn game because of injury as did Paddy BawnBrosnan. Kerry’s line out that day was: D. O’Keeffe; W. Myers, .1. Keohane, T. Healy; W. Dillon, T.O’Connor, E. Walsh; S. Brosnan, .J.Walsh; T.McAuliffe, C. O’Sullivan, P. Kennedy; M. Kelly, D.Spring, M. Lyne.

The replay at Croke Park on September 10 never lived up to prematch expectations. Despite the boon of an early opening goal Mayo were soon over-taken by the resilient Kerryrnen and once the latter hit the front there was just no halting their sweeping, decisive style of football.

The Kingdom led by 2-5. to 1-3 at the interval and they added 1-3 to Mayo’s solitary point in the second half to finish runaway winners on the score 3-8 to 1-4.

It was a free-riddled game, Mayo getting 33 to Kerry’s 32, but any lingering doubts about which was the superior side had been irrevocably settled. Kerry lined out as follows for thereplay : D. O’Keeffe; W. Myers, J.Keohane, T. Healy; W. Dillon, W. Casey, E. Walsh; P. Kennedy, T.(“ Gega “) O’Connor; j. Gorman, S. Brosnan, J.Walsh; C. O’Sullivan, D.Spring, T. Landers.

And so it was to be a new pairing in the All-Ireland Final of 1939. Kerry, the evergreens of the game, in quest of their 13th crown, and Royal Meath bidding for their first-ever championship success.

Football fever was rampant in Meath. And little wonder. They had succeeded in annexing the Leinster title that year for the first time since as far hack as 1895 (when, represented, on March 15, 1896, by Pierce Mahony’s they were pipped0-4 to 0-3 by Tipperary, represented by Arravale Rovers, in the All-Ireland Final).

In the ‘39 semi-final Meath easily took the measure of Ulster title holders Cavan on the score 1-9 to 1-1.But the consensus of opinion still strongly favoured Kerry to take the title at the Royal County’s expense.

Nevertheless, excitement was high in Croke Park on that Sunday afternoon of September 24 as Kerry and Meath came out to do battle for the coveted Sam Maguire Cup, watched by an attendance of 46,823 (receipts £3,726)

With both counties traditionally sporting green and gold jerseys, there had to be a toss to see which team would wear the colours. Meath won it and so Kerry lined out at the start in the red and whitecolours of county champions Dingle.

In the enforced absence of Sean Brosnan, the captaincy of the Kerry team was handed over to “Gega” O’Connor who moved from midfield to the 40 for the Final.

Kerry started in whirlwind fashion with a point from Murt Kelly after the throw-in and this was followed by a storming goal by Dan Spring, the green flag being hoisted after some consultation by the umpires. Kerry 1-1; Meath nil. Kerry kept up the pressure and were twice deprived of Charlie Sullivan scores by the cross-bar.

Meath began to rouse themselves and they managed two points from frees by sharp-shooting centre half-forward Tony Donnelly. But a “Roundy” Landers point from a Free left the Kingdom three points to the good. However, the Leinster champions hauled themselves back into contention before half-time when they stormed through for amagnificent goal to level the scores at 1-2 apiece.

The goal was scored by Meath captain Mattie Gilsenan and one report of the match described the score as not only the best of the game, but the best of the season, and one of the best in the records of the G.A.A.

Again Kerry started in lightning manner after the interval. Murt Kelly put them ahead with a pointfrom a free; then “Gawksie” Gorman made the opening for Spring to crash home a goal and when the same player added a point after 11 minutes of the half it looked like Kerry were going to run away with the championship (double scores 2-4 to 1-2).

But these Meath men were doughty battlers, ever ready to fasten on to the half chance. In one such sweeping movement full-forward Jack Cummins placed winger Jim Clarke and the latter bangedhome a great goal which was greeted by prolonged cheering.

Kerry managed to come back for a further point from Spring after Dillon had centred, but this was promptly answered with a similar score fromDonnelly, to leave but two points separating the teams.

Many Kerry hearts were fluttering in the hectic closing minutes as the Meath men fought back with all their might. But the staunch Kingdom backs stood firm in face of the danger and at the final whistle, sounded by referee P. Flaherty of Tullamore, they were again All-Ireland champions, regaining the title Gaiway had stripped them of in the previous year’s replay. It was a case of 13th time lucky for Kerry. Final score Kerry 2-5, Meath 2-3.

Kerry’s backs again shone O’Keeffe, Casey, Keohane, Myers, Healy and Dillon made a grandbedrock and the North Kerryman (Eddie Walsh) held Gilsenan, the Meath captain, well for the bulk ofthe hour. O’Connor and Kennedy were just a shade too good for Joe Loughran and his partners.

The Kerry forwards were not impressive, despite Spring’s big range of scores. They met a grand lot of backs—McEnroe, Beggarl, McGuinness, Donnelly, Meade, O’Reilly and Kearney. Indeed, this 1939 Final was, in the main, a triumph of backs overforwards.

The Kerry Team: D. O’Keeffe; W. Myers, J.Keohane, T. Healy; W. Dillon, W. Casey, E. Walsh; P. KennedY, J. O’Gorman; M. Kelly, T. (“Gega”) O’Connor (capt.); J. Walsh; C. O’Sullivan, D. Spring, T. (“Roundy “) Landers.

The Meath Team: H. McEnroe P. Beggan, T.McGuinness, P. Donnelly; T.Meadé, C. O’Reilly, j.KearneY M. O’Toole, J. Loughran; M. Gilsenan (capt.), T. Donnelly, J. Clarke; W. Brien, J.Cummins, K. Devin. Subs., H. Lynch, M. Clinton.