"Darby: The man we"ll never forget

"IT will be discussed for ever more. Kerry people want to forget about it. Offaly people never tire of talking about it. Mick O"Dwyer was in tears after it. The county was in a state of shock because of it. It was all about one substitution, one kick, and one goal.

Three weeks ago two hundred people sat down to a big reunion in Offaly to recall the event and one name was on every person's lips " Seamus Darby. The name itself conjunctures up all sorts of nightmares for Kerry people and I know many who will not discuss the happening and turn away from their television sets when ever it's re-played. It's difficult to believe that many Kerry footballers of today were not even born when it occurred and fail to appreciate just how much it impacted on the mindset of Kerry people at the time.

I refer, of course, to that goal Seamus Darby scored for Offaly against the Kingdom 25 years ago this year. September 15, 1982 to be exact. Kerry were attempting to become the first county to win five All-Irelands in-a-row. It seems like only yesterday, yet for those of us at the game time has failed to dim the memory of the dramatic events that unfolded before us that rain-sodden afternoon in 1982.

Recently that victorious Offaly team came together and were honored for what was one of the most remarkable and dramatic victories in the history of the game. The final score was Offaly 1-15, Kerry 0-17. Behind this common enough scoreline lies an amazing story of one man who came on to the field with minutes to go, got one kick, one goal and wrote himself into the history books for all time.

I was sitting in the old Hogan stand that day, my five-year old son Kieran sitting on my lap. I was more or less in line with the drama that unfolded before a massive crowd and thousands more watching worldwide on television. What I witnessed remains etched indelibly on my mind. In fact, as the years go by and I recall those dramatic moments in time it is as if I am watching the whole event in slow motion. The high kick, the nudge, the catch, the shot, the goal, the little dance of sheer delight by the scorer. All crystal clear.

I had more than just a Kerry interest in this particular final. Only weeks previously I had refereed the semi-final as Offaly beat Galway. Not a great game by any means. Offaly fell five points down at one stage, but came back to snatch it in a thrilling finish. The one thing that I vividly remember about that game was Offaly's patience and slow build-up and Sean Lowery and Johnny Mooney continually urging their team mates with words like "not to rush it, take your time" and "don"t give away the ball".

This tactic was to prove decisive in the final shortly after. I had also refereed some of Kerry's trial matches in the build-up to the final at the request of Mick O"Dwyer and there was nothing to suggest that this great Kerry team would not win the near impossible five in-a-row of All-Ireland titles.

Kerry beat Armagh in their semi-final by 3-15 to 1-11. However, and while it's easy to be wise after the event, let's recall something that happened three months earlier at a run of the mill training session in the Fitzgerald Stadium in Killarney. Now, what occurred there was to have a crucial bearing in Kerry's attempt to win the five in-a-row. I attend most Kerry training sessions in Killarney as I live just a drop kick away from the stadium. You will learn more about the team from observing training than at all the games played in competition. So it was on a June evening in 1982 I sat in the stand in the company of two great Kerry supporters who have since sadly answered the final whistle from the man above.

Murt Galvin was treasurer of the county board for many years and Mick Mahoney resided just behind the stadium. They were regular observers at training and two exemplary friends. Mick O"Dwyer had a session of backs and forwards in progress. Jimmy Dennihan was marking John Egan. Ten minutes into the session tragedy struck for Jimmy and Kerry. In a tussle for possession close to the corner flag a short, sharp crack was clearly heard in the stand from across the field. Deenihan was down.

Murt Galvin knew immediately what had happened. "His leg is broken," he said. And it later transpired that it was badly broken. Everyone gathered around and it was very evident that this was no simply injury. The training session was called off. Mick O"Dwyer was clearly upset, the ambulance arrived, Jimmy was whisked away and he never played football for Kerry again.

Corner backs like corner forwards are born, not made. Defending in this tight little area is a very specialised assignment. One slip here and your man is in for a score. By no means the classiest of corner backs Jimmy Deenihan was soundness personified around the Kerry goal mouth. Tough, hard, with a sure pair of hands and the closest of markers he rarely, if ever, slipped up.

His record speaks for itself. In his six All-Ireland Final appearances for Kerry in the corner he had conceded just two points to a long list of top class corner forwards. Now he would be missing from his usual position if Kerry reached the final. In my opinion what occurred in the Stadium that June evening cost Kerry the 1982 All-Ireland.

The country was agog with excitement as Kerry prepared for the five-in-a-row. Galleon, a Cork band, launched a new single entitled Five-in-a-row. In the week before the match tee-shirts proclaiming "Kerry, Five-In-A-Row" were on sale around the Kingdom. Huge crowds attended the training in Killarney. A major controversy also erupted over the strip Kerry would wear for the game. All of these events must surly have impinged on the mindset of the Kerry players. In all my years I have never seen such a controversial build up to a Kerry appearance in a final.

The rain cascaded down as Kerry led Offaly 17 minutes into the second half. Then the first dramatic occurrence. John Egan was downed in the square. Mickey Sheehy was assigned to take the penalty. Paudie O"Mahoney was in the dug-out as substitute goalie. He explained to me recently. "I felt that Mikey was not the man to take the kick and I shouted to Micko, let Jacko (O'shea) take it. I felt that he would blast it and even a point at that stage would be invaluable."

Sheehy saw his shot saved brilliantly by Martin Furlong as he dived to his right at the Canal End goal. Furlong was one of the great goalkeepers and one of the bravest I have ever seen play the game.

Six minutes to go and Kerry were four points ahead. Offaly were not rushing matters and playing slow, controlled football. Then two more incidents that also conspired against Kerry. P J McGrath, the Mayo referee, awarded Offaly two close range frees. Both decisions, in my opinion, were totally wrong. I saw no foul committed. Now there was just one point in it, with two minutes to go. Then it happened.

Pat Fitzgerald found Richie Conner with a quick free. He in turn passed to full-back Richie O"Connor who took a number of solos before sending in a high, probing cross to the Railway goal. Years later in a fascinating interview with me, Seamus Darby described in detail for the first time what unfolded in the following seconds. "Eugene McGee had come over to me on the sideline as the final whistle drew near and said "we need a goal I want you to stay in around the square and tell Matt Connor to stay in with you. Every one else is to move out expect the two of you".

"To be honest, I thought I was nearer to the goal when the ball was coming in and I was now behind Tommy Doyle and I was actually trying to get out in front of him. Then I realised at the last second that Tommy may have gone forward a little bit too far so I checked and I stopped. I took the ball down to my left because I knew that Jacko and John O"Keeffe and the rest were on my other side so I had to stay out of trouble. I think Charlie Nelligan thought I was going to the right as well. I went the other way to what they expected and shot as hard as I could. I connected beautifully and I think Charlie didn"t see it until the last minute."

The Kerry goalkeeper had come slightly off his line to cut the angle but, Darby's shot crashed high into the Kerry net.

The goal resulted from a left-footed shot so I put is to Seamus if he was naturally left-footed" "Well, I have a preference for my right, but I have got an odd score with my left."

And then the eternal question, did he give Tommy Doyle a little push or even a nudge as the ball was dropping" "Well, people can believe what they want; in Offaly they say no, while in Kerry they would probably say yes. The referee was standing right beside us and I don"t think there was any need for a free."

How many kicks did he get when he came on" "That was the only kick I got, just the one. Tommy Doyle had been moved back to the corner and Ger O"Keeffe had moved out to the wing at that stage. I had played all my football for Offaly in the corner and you learn a few old tricks as the years go by. I would have thought that the Kerry selectors would have left Ger O"Keeffe back in the corner. Thankfully for us they made that switch."

Darby's admission that he had learned a few tricks down the years was, for me, evidence that he had obstructed Tommy Doyle in some small way. This is a common trait with all long-serving, highly experienced players. The tricks of the trade you might call it.

Kerry had a last second opportunity to level the score. Captain John Egan set up Tom Spillane, but the Templenoe man wasted the opportunity and the dream had ended for Kerry. Another vital factor in the defeat was the fact that Pat Spillane was injured " a huge loss " though he did come on as a second half substitute for Ogie Moran.

What occurred at the Railway goal in Croke Park 25 years ago is the most talked about incident in the history of Gaelic games and the name Seamus Darby will be forever associated with Kerry football. And all these years later the debate rages on and on. Did Seamus Darby foul Tommy Doyle"



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