IT'S one of the great symbolisms surrounding Kerry football, which I have observed over the years and I can apply it to myself just as easily as I notice it in others.
Ask most fanatical Kerry GAA followers, always and ever men I hasten to add, the date of birth of one of their children, the date of their wife's birthday, or the year they got married or other major events in their life's journey and nine times out of ten they will fail to get the answers straight away. However, it is then you can apply that phrase, which I was taught in the class room when studying for my psychiatric exams.
"An association of ideas and dates", which then comes into play. Many hugely important events and occasions in a Kerry persons life is measured and dated in association with an All ireland final in which Kerry were involved. Phrases such as "I left Kerry for England before the 1955 final with Dublin", "I got married in 1960 the year Down beat Kerry in the final", "My Johnny was born in 1975, I remember it well it was the year John Eagan scored the early goal in the final against Dublin".
I could go on and on and detail years and dates which various friends have recalled for me over the years in relation to major events and milestones in their lives. And of course by virtue of the fact that Kerry have participated in so many finals this "association of ideas and dates" comes into play in a huge way in this county. My own memory in relation to special family occasions down the decades, I must admit to my eternal shame, is very poor and I too revert to the football years to tie together dates such as births, marriages and deaths.
I can never forget the date I was married because it was the year I gained my place on the Kerry senior panel, 1969. Just in the door from the honeymoon, the bags were as yet unopened when Kerry captain Johnny Culloty knocked on the door and informed me that I had better get the togs and boots out as I was to be present at training that very evening. Yes 1969 was the year I got married, I am absolutely certain of that thanks to Kerry football.
My father died in 1962, I will never forget that year because I was on the Kerry Under 21s, the first ever Munster championship in that grade and we won the title. For one of the strangest football reasons of all for me anyway I have vivid memories of 1999 they year my dear mother died, and it was a Kerry defeat to Cork in the Munster final. However, it was not the defeat that remains etched in the memory.
That year of 1999 was the only time I have ever witnessed a Kerry footballer being taken off, (and he was not injured) after scoring two goals in a championship game. I will let the reader figure this one out? One of my daughters was born in 1972, I am 100% sure of this because it was the year of the draw and replay between Kerry and Offally and Kerry lost the replay.
So that bring me right up to this year and my story surrounds the All Ireland football final in which Donegal beat Galway. What you may well ask has this year's final go to do with the term "association of ideas". Well I for one will never forget where I was when Jim McGuinness led his men to that much discussed victory. It was the very first time in forty years that I have viewed the final firstly in a bar and secondly far away from the shores of Ireland.
I was in fact on holidays in Portugal; In that beautiful sea side resort of Villamora and it was there I saw the Donegal victory. So it is an occasion that will remain etched in the memory. And another little snippet: it was the forty years since the showing of the very first All Ireland final live on television. It was in many ways an amazing experience. O'Shea's bar situated in a little side street in Villamora close to the sea front was literally jam packed and the atmosphere was electric.
It was all a complete new experience for me and I have often listened to stories of Kerry emigrants as they related their experiences of watching Kerry in the finals down through the years in places as far away as New York, San Francisco, Perth, Melbourne. London and other far flung outposts.
I was in position in good time and secured my seat before the giant screen. Just behind my back Manchester United were battling it out with Liverpool on the smaller screens and it was really an amazing scene. The place was ablaze with Donegal and Mayo colors sported by the rival fans.
One young couple from Mayo were seated on the floor in front of the screen and had their little six month old baby in their arm sporting the county colors.
At one stage the father had the baby in his arms as the child slugged down a big bottle of milk while in the other hand the father was downing a pint of the black stuff. Every time Galway scored the baby was hoisted high in the air and it was all wonderful joyful and safe exuberance. For one reason or another that scene remained in my mind.
Great stuff. I fell into company with a few more Kerry men and our distinct accents quickly drew us to the attention of others and once again as I have experienced all my life the fact that you were from Kerry and a football man quickly ensured a host of new friends.
At the final whistle the crowds quickly dispersed anxious to soak up the burning sun which we experienced for that week. And if I am ever asked "where were you when Donegal won their second All Ireland?" The answer will be simple. It's the Kerry association of ideas, dates and places.