1946 Kerry V Roscommon, We take on another County from the West

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When Kerry defeated Galway by four points in the 1941 All-Ireland Final they were repeating an even narrower triumph (one point) over the Tribesmen than in the previous year’s decider and at the same time they were capturing the Kingdom’s 15th All-Ireland title. And, in the process, they inched one ahead of nearest rivals Dublin in the title race.
But five long years were to elapse before Kerry were to capture the coveted title again. And, when they did, they were to achieve their success against another Western county which had emerged from the dark corridors of football obscurity to bring fame and renown to the county in the mid ‘40s and to reach heights of football greatness that are still proudly recalled wherever football is seriously discussed.

That county was Roscommon. The latter had come out of the West for the first time in 1943 and, after playing a draw with Cavan, they beat the Breffni men (2-7 to 2-2) in the replayed Final to capture the Sam Maguire Cup for the first time ever.

In 1944 Kerry met them in the championship for the first time, and in a Final at that. And what a game it turned out to be! Entering the last quarter Kerry were two points to the good and seemed headed for victory. But then Roscommon, led by that man of action Jimmy Murray, hit back.

Donal Keenan of the deadly left foot kicked two balancing points. And, in a surging finish, the Connacht men added match-winning points from Frankie Kinlough and Keenan to leave them winners and still champions by 1-9 to 2-4.

That victory is still dearly cherished by Roscommon folk. It well and truly eclipsed their triumph over Cavan in the previous year’s Final.

Kerry found themselves at the wrong end of the stick in the 1945 Munster Final against Cork at Killarney (1-11 to 1-6) and Cork went on to take the All-Ireland. Thus Kerry were something in the nature of rank outsiders in the 1946 title race. But they confounded the critics once more as they had so often before that. Victories over Cork, Clare, Waterford and Antrim.

On their way through Munster that year Kerry first came up against All-Ireland champions Cork at Killarney. It was a tensely close and exciting encounter with Kerry always just showing that bit more class and cohesion.

They led 0-5 to 0-3 at the interval. Then they got a rather lucky goal on the restart when a free by Teddy O’Connor was hit by Kennedy and just when goalkeeper Moll Driscoll appeared to have the situation under control he left the ball slip past him into the net.

Cork duly stormed back for a goal from Jim Cronin and he added a point to cut Kerry’s lead to two points. But Kerry were equal to the pressure and they came back to clinch the issue with two further points from Garvey and Burke to win by 1-8 to 1-4 in a game watched by 15,000 spectators.

Reporting on the game, The Kerryman stated:

“The champions were taken from their throne, but they had to be dragged every inch of the way, and it was not until the last seconds of a titanic battle that the monarchs had fallen.”

Clare gave Kerry a rare fright in the semi-final at Ennis, leading them for 50 minutes of the game. The Banner County men were in front 0-7 to 0-2 at half-time, Kerry’s only scores coming from Paddy Burke and Bruddy O’Donnell. On the resumption, Kerry found it hard to penetrate the home defence and it finally took a great goal by Jackie Lyne to pave the way for victory.

Jack Falvey levelled for the Kingdom and Burke and Lyne added the decisive points, to leave Kerry through on the score 1-6 to 0-7.

Kerry had little difficulty in beating Waterford in the Munster Final at Tralee. The Decies men kept in the hunt early on with a goal by full-forward T. Curran, to leave Kerry ahead 0-6 to 1-1 at half-time. The home county took complete control after this and with the forwards combining splendidly they riddled the Waterford posts.

Goals came from Falvey and Jackie Lyne and a flood of points from “Gega” O’Connor, Teddy O’Connor, Kavanagh, Falvey, Lyne and Burke overwhelmed the visitors whose only consolation was a last-minute goal by wing-back J. Baily, leaving Kerry provincial champions on the score 2-15 to 2-1. Kerry experimented with a new full-back that day, T. McElligott from Knocknagoshel, but he was not to make the grade and thereafter Joe Keohane again found favour with the selectors.

In their semi-final Kerry had come up against a great Antrim side in a match that will surely go down in history, such was the excitement, super-charged atmosphere and controversy that surrounded it.

Antrim had come out of Ulster that year after over 30 years of isolation and they introduced a style of Gaelic football hitherto unknown. They had developed a pattern of weaving, elusive football and had invented the famous hand-pass which was to be the subject of so much debate and acrimony in the council chambers of the Association.

But, unfortunately for the Northerners, they didn’t leaven their bewildering ball playing with judicious sideline advice and Kerry were quick to produce the solution to this new ploy.

The Antrim men stormed through from the centre of the field on dazzling attacks, but they persisted every time in trying to walk the ball into the Kerry net and this was something that just couldn’t work with hacks like Joe Keohane, Bill Casey, Teddy O’Connor and Eddie Walsh around.

As it was, the Kingdom’s hacks resorted to numerous fouls they admitted afterwards that it was the only way they could halt the lightning fast Ulster men—and this is reflected in the fact that seven of the losers’ ten points came from frees.

Kerry had two splendid goals that day, the first coming early on from the sharp-shooting Bruddy O’Donnell and the other being stabbed home by the wily Batt Garvey at a time towards the close of the game when Antrim were breathing down their necks.

Antrim Hills Waterfall

The losers pulled back Kerry’s early goal lead and went a point in front but points from ‘frees by O’Donnell gave Kerry a point lead. However, Antrim had drawn level (1-2 to 0-5) by half-time.

On the restart the sides exchanged points and then Kerry asserted their superiority with a flourish of points by Kennedy, Kavanagh and O’Donnell (two from frees). Soon, after, Kerry had their second disallowed goal of the game (this time from O’Donnell).

The Northerners came storming back and with’ the Munster champions’ defence under pressure they had to concede frees; three of these were converted to cut Kerry’s lead to the minimum. Then came Garvey’s match-winning goal and Kevin Armstrong had a point for the losers in the dying seconds. Kerry’s winning margin was just three points (2-7 to 0-10).

Exchanges became heated and over-robust in the second half and in the last quarter referee P. Ratty of Meath sent Kerry’s Bill Casey and Antrim’s Harry O’Neill to the sideline following an incident. In the furore a bottle was thrown at one of the Kerry players from the Cusack Stand. Subsequently Antrim objected to Kerry on the grounds of rough play and that Kerry’s tactics on the occasion, watched by 30,000 people, had brought the Association into disrepute.

In the course of the hearing of the objection by the Central Council on August 31 the referee reported that he had sent off Casey and O’Neill for striking. Mr. Ratty said the game was over-vigorous towards the end and he had to award several frees to Antrim.

Council chairman, Mr. D. O’Rourke, appealed to Antrim not to proceed with the objection. Mr. McFerran, chairman of the Antrim Co. Board, said what they were objecting to was the rough play of the Kerry men. He alleged that Kerry’s players had been sent out with a deliberate plan of action.

Thus Kerry was into the Final against Roscommon once again.

This match was to prove to be a game of agony and ecstasy for the men from the Kingdom. For wellnigh 55 minutes of the hour Kerry were outmatched and outplayed by their opponents who demonstrated all the guile and football skills they had learned in the preceding years of glory.

In the first half Kerry only managed a single point (from Batt Garvey) while the opposition totted up a tally of 1-5, their goal coming rather softly midway through the half from a harmless-looking centre from full-forward John Joe Fallon which Danno Keeffe misjudged.

Kerry chipped away at the lead after the interval with points from “Gega” O’Connor (two) and Paddy Burke. But Roscommon came back for a brace of points from frees by Donal Keenan to leave the Westerners leading by 1-7 to 0-4 and they looked destined to take their third title.

But in the last pulsating five minutes Kerry produced the spark of wizardry which can transform a beaten team into a rejuvenated one. They shot two goals as dramatic as any that have been scored in an All-Ireland Final . . . scores that are spoken of with almost awed respectability by Kerrymen to the present day.

The first was notched by the great Paddy Burke from Milltown who carved a niche all his own for himself in the annals of Kerry full-forwards in a comparatively short inter-county career. He won possession and, side-stepping full-back Casserly, he cracked the ball to the net. Then, as the game raced to a close, the wily Tom “Gega” O’Connor from Dingle gained possession from a ball by Teddy O’Connor and his high, floating shot deceived the defence and Gerry Dolan in the Roscommon goal and it rattled the net for as breath-taking equaliser as Croke Park has ever seen before or since.

The crowd of 75,771 (receipts £6,190) were caught in a paroxysm Of super-charged emotions and they shouted themselves hoarse as both sides strove mightily for the score that would clinch victory. But it wasn’t to be and the sides were still locked together when the final whistle sounded.

One report of the game contained this passage: “Roscommon’s de-fence held intact for the greater part of the hour and deserves high praise. Carlos was their outstanding man. The centrefield pair, Boland and Phelim Murray, proved very agile. Roscommon’s forwards were far superior to Kerry’s in the way of speed and positional play. Every movement seemed to be planned. There is no doubt but that Roscommon was the better team and was definitely unlucky in not winning.”

The names of Paddy Burke and “Gega” O’Connor will forever be linked with that famous drawn Final. Final score: Kerry, 2-4; Roscommon, 1-7. The drawn game had been postponed to October 6 because of the had harvest that year and this, in itself, was a blessing in disguise for Kerry as it meant they had the suspended Bill Casey back in the team.

The Kerry team in the drawn game was:

D. O’Keeffe; D. Lyne, J.Keohane, P. B. Brosnan; T.O’Connor (Killarney), W. Casey, E. Walsh; G. Cremin, D.Kavanagh; W. O’Donnell, P. Kennedy, B. Garvey; J.Lyne, P. Burke, T. O’Connor (Dingle). Subs.—E. Dowling and B. Kelliher for Kennedy and J. Lyne.

And so to the replay on October 27. Kerry fielded a much-changed team—an indication that there hadn’t been general satisfaction with the side’s performance in the drawn match.

Jack Falvey (Strand Broad) and Frank O’Keeffe (Boherbee) were brought into the side to the exclusion of Gus Cremin and Bill (Bruddy) O’Donnell, with a maze of positional switches. Jackie Lyne went from right corner-forward to right wing-back Teddy O’Connor and Paddy Kennedy formed the new midfield, moving from the defence and attack respectively; Falvey replaced O’Donnell at right half-forward, “Gega” ’Connor took over from Kennedy on the 40, O’Keeffe (father of Kerry star John) filled Jackie Lyne’s former right corner forward position and Dan Kavanagh was shifted from midfield to take over from “Gega” O’Connor at top of the left.

Roscommon considered themselves grossly unfortunate to have lost the first game was proven by the fact that their team was identical with that which had played in the drawn encounter. But Roscommon found themselves faced by a strikingly different team in more ways than one in the replay.

Kerry had learned by their earlier mistakes and their preparation had obviously been more thorough. Still both sides joined battle from the word go and the scores were tied no less than five times over the hour.

Keenan, after missing from the first free, opened the scoring with a Roscommon point from a placed ball, but “Gega” O’Connor duly levelled from a free at the other end.

Keenan pointed a free after seven minutes. The Connacht men continued to press and, despite good work by the Kerry backs, full-for-ward John Joe Fallon, moving out-field, picked up a loose ball and knocked over a good point.

Kerry hit back and when “Gega” O’Connor placed Batt Garvey the wily wing-forward fired over a point to leave his side just a point in arrears (0-3 to 0-2). Keenan stretched Roscommon’s lead at the end of the first quarter, but “Gega” O’Connor slotted another Kerry free over the bar. Then Jackie Lyne broke up a raid; his parting kick found Kennedy and the Kerry captain equalised with a fine point from 40 yards range.

Two minutes before half-time, Keenan again pointed a free. Then only a wonderful save by Danno Keeffe foiled Fallon of a goal, but the latter came back again to pick off a point and thus leave Roscommon ahead at half-time on the score (0-6 to 0-4.) “Gega” O’Connor cut the Connacht men’s lead to the minimum when he pointed a free for a foul on himself. Soon after he repeated the dose and the sides were level at 0-6. Then Keenan put Roscommon back in the lead.

Then Kerry struck a hammer blow to the opposition’s buoyant hopes. Kennedy found Garvey with a beautifully-timed ball; Garvey crossed to “Gega” O’Connor and he, in turn, centred the ball to Paddy Burke, who outsmarted Casserly and belted the ball into the net past Dolan.

It looked then as if the game was virtually over, but the Connacht champions had plenty of fight left in them. They levelled through Keenan and after Garvey had regained the lead with a point for Kerry the Westerners again got on level terms with a point from another Keenan free.

Then it was that Liselton’S Gus Cremin—he came into the side at midfield entering the last quarter showed his class. A free from him was cleared by big Bill Carlos, but Cremin regained possession and from fully 55 yards out flighted a mighty kick between the posts to nose Kerry a point in front once more.

Then, in the dying seconds of the game, Kerry finished off the job when “Gega” O’Connor sent a free into the goalmouth and goal-keeper Gerry Dolan was bundled, ball and all, into the net for a some-what controversial goal but one that was allowed after consultation between the referee and umpires.

With the final whistle sounding immediately afterwards Kerry had won their 16th All-Ireland title on the score 2-8 to 0-10.

Kerry’s mentors made a master move in the last quarter when they brought the gangling Gus Cremin into the game at midfield. Though captain of the team in the drawn match he had been dropped for the replay and the captaincy was entrusted to Paddy Kennedy.

Perhaps it was the ignominy of demotion that fired Cremin to produce a few real touches of brilliance when he came on. But, one thing is certain, his great long-range point that shot Kerry to the front for the last time will forever be intrinsically linked with the Kingdom’s 1946 triumph. The match was watched by a crowd of 65,000.

One writer said of the replay “The game was one of the most exciting seen at Croke Park for a number of years and was a definite improvement on the drawn game . Kerry played inspired football. The display of the players was completely the opposite to that seen three weeks previous. With plenty of speed they kept pace with the Roscommon men and in the end finished the stronger. Kerry’s defence covered itself with glory. The centrefield pair were hard set in the first half but improved on the change-over. Kerry’s forwards had a good day though their opponents often had the better of the exchanges.”

This latest Kerry win gave Danno Keeffe his seventh All-Ireland medal.

The teams in the replay were:

Kerry: D O’Keeffe; D. Lyne, J Keohane, P. B. Brosnan; J.Lyne, W. Casey, E. Walsh; Teddy O’Connor, P.Kennedy (capt.); j. Falvey, Tom (“Gega “) O’Connor, B. Garvey; F.O’Keeffe, P. Burke, D. Kavanagh. Sub.—G. Cremin for J.Falvey.

Roscommon: G Dolan; W. Jackson, J. Casserley, 0.Hoare; B. Lynch, W. Carlos, T. Collins; P. Murray, E. Boland; F.Kinlough, J. Murray (capt.), D. Keenan; Mc Quillan, J.J.Fallon, J. 1. Nerney.