THE Kerry juniors' superb All-Ireland final win over Mayo, 0-19 to 1-7 in Ennis last Saturday was in many ways a breath of fresh air.
Firstly Sean Moynihan the manager and his sideline generals must be highly complimented for a number of reasons. The fact that there was five under twenty one players on the starting fifteen and nine on the panel altogether was a first in my memory and a massive vote of confidence in those young Kerry men and will do their ambitions and football careers the world of good. And each and every one of those five starting acquitted themselves in tremendous style.
The half-back line of captain Marcus Mangan, Jack Sherwood and James Walsh were a revelation. The old adage give youth its head was never more evident as the trio drove forward in wonderful surging runs right into the heart of the Mayo defence. And what was most impressive for me was, when the run came to an end the ball was always used to great effect or passed to a college in a better position.
Great vision, skill and fitness, it was Kerry football at its very best. And then up front Niall Ó Sé and Conor Cox, the other two under twenty ones were outstanding and the Listowel Emmets man's point kicking was top drawer stuff. From far out, from all angles he was unerring, beautiful style, wonderful balance, trade mark Kerry points. Shades of Mickey Sheehy.
Of course, and this was the general opinion after the game, Mayo were poor. Sure they were poor, but were made look worse than they were by a superbly fit, well drilled, highly motivated Kerry side. And there was a huge gulf in skill and class between the two counties in most facets of the game. Each and ever one of the Kerry men were so comfortable on the ball. Catching, foot passing, scoring, supports play, running into the open spaces; it was great stuff to watch.
Whether Mayo were good, bad or indifferent makes no difference here, this was a superb display of football by our boys. And while I have mentioned in particular the under twenty one lads they certainly would not have been able to show their potential without their more experienced team mater. Sean Óg Ó Ciardubhan was winning his second junior medal as was Andrew Garnett. Two men who epitomise all that is great and good in a club footballer just like midfielder Alan O'Sullivan from the club who gave us the legendary Kerry captain Phil O'Sullivan. Play when asked, never complain, no presumptions, but massive pride in wearing the Kerry jersey. My kind of player.
The full-back line of Kieran Quirke, Brendan O'Mahoney and Kevin O'Dwyer were outstanding, rock solid; high fielding; close continuous marking and then the quick dash out for the ball ahead of their opponent. The perfect defenders. Great stuff to watch. At the other end of the field you have the stunning statistic that the Kerry full-forward line of David O'Callaghan, Michael O'Donoghue and Conor Cox between them kicked 3-47 on the march to this, the Kingdom's 15th All Ireland Junior title.
And finally our two dashing wing forwards, Paul O'Donoghue and Niall O'Mahony. The Spa speed merchant raised five white flags, all from play. Speed and penetration on the wings. The 2012 Kerry juniors, the near perfect side, evenly balanced from one to fifteen. No swarming, no breaking the ball at midfield, no negative tactics, the minimum of hand passing and the long ball whenever possible into the attackers.
Yes I can already hear the mutterings, "sure it's only the juniors and they beat a poor Mayo side". You might be right, but nevertheless from where I sat they were a joy to watch and made a wonderful change from the stifling, swarming, all defensive, sickening basketball style matches we have endured most of this year. Sean Moynihan, an interviewer's dream I hasten to add, his players and back room staff take a bow.
You have done your county and the game in general proud.
The greatest Kerry Junior team?
ON the May 14, 1968 in Ballylongford the Kerry junior team defeated Tipperary, 1-12 to 0-7 in semi-final of the Munster junior Championship.
They had overcome Cork two weeks previously in Macroom by one point. So what you may well ask is so important about these wins in relation to other Kerry junior triumphs? Well when you look at the Kerry team of that day in Ballylongford and realise that five of that first fifteen actually lined out, and one was a substitute some time later, Sunday, June 14 on a scorching hot day in Killarney in the Munster senior final against Cork and in a thrilling game beat the rebel county, 1-21 to 3-8.
Those five legends of Kerry football who lined out with the junior team that year were Mick O'Dwyer, Mick O'Connell, Liam Higgins, Seamus Murphy and Donie O'Sullivan. Pat Moynihan of Gneeveguilla fame was also part of that junior win and was a sub in the senior final. In fact eleven of that junior team played senior for the county at one time or another.
So was there ever a more honor laden or stronger Kerry junior fifteen fielded? Two of the team, Tommy 'Bracker' Reagan and John Bunyan were also dual players and gave massive service to the Kerry hurlers. Amazingly in the first game against Cork in Macroom the juniors landed with just thirteen players. The Kerry Intermediate hurlers had been defeated by Cork in the preceding game and two of that team Joe o Sullivan and Garry Scollard were called upon and made up the fifteen. Cork were defeated, 1-7 to 1-6.
That junior side of 1968 which fielded all those star players was: Peter Hanley (Kenmare), John Sheehan (Laune Rangers), Seamus Murphy, Jim Coughlan (Beautfort) (RIP), Jamsey O'Shea (Waterville), Donie O'Sullivan, John Maginer (Kerins O'Rahillys), Mick O'Connell, Pat Moynihan, Derry O'Shea (John Mitchels), John Bunyan, Colm O'Callaghan (Moyvane). Tommy 'Bracker' Regan (Austin Stacks), Mick O'Dwyer, Liam Higgins (RIP).
And for the record the fifteen who won that 1968 Munster title beating Clare in the final, 3-11 to 2-6, were Pete Hanley, John Magnier, Jim Coughlan, Paul Lucey, John Bunyan, Noel Power, Pa Kerins, Derry O'Shea, Pat Moynihan, John O'Shea, Dom O'Donnell, Christy O'Sullivan, Tommy 'Bracker' Regan, Mike O'Sullivan, Tim Kelleher. Sub: Kevin Donnelly.
Two weeks later the side travelled north to take on Tyrone in the All ireland semi-final but the home side proved too good on the score 2-9 to 0-8. Tyrone went on to defeat London in the final.