Sport Gaelic Football

Thursday 26 April 2018

The dirtiest game ever between Kerry and Dublin

"I kept going to 1985. We lost a lot of matches in that time, but I kept going.' KH

Friday, April 28, 1978

The Dublin football team had been spending a lot of time at 30,000 feet while Kevin Heffernan was away.

Heff had had his fill of the All Star tour to the United States in 1974 and watching his lads filling up, on everything and anything at all, every single time a bottle was passed in front of them, was not his idea of relaxation.

Excessive drinking only annoyed him.

There was a time and place for it, of course, just not every day for over two weeks, afternoon, evening and night. Dublin went off to America in the spring of '77, a couple of days after losing to Kerry in the National League final.

Half of the Kerry team joined them on the trip. They started in Chicago. They got drunk, Jimmy Keaveney had his nose plastered across his face when he was on the receiving end of an accidental punch from John O'Keeffe, and they got drunk again making sure that Kevin Moran's 21st birthday celebration would not be forgotten, and then they flew out to San Francisco.

And it all started all over again.

It was standard for an All Stars tour.

In '78, everybody except Heff was up in the air again.

This time they landed in New York. And this time, the normal enough procedure of the All-Ireland champions playing the All Stars in a game which was half-paced, full of smiles, a few 'excuse me(s)' and the occasional 'sorry about that', was completely forgotten.

It wasn't Dublin versus the All Stars. Dublin were playing Kerry.

It was a special fundraising game. The next day Dublin were heading off to Los Angeles and San Francisco with the All Stars party.

Their holiday was only beginning, but the Kerry players who were not among the All Stars were heading home, double quick.

Kerry, therefore, were in a mood.

They'd lost to Dublin two years running and they had no interest in being 'dancing partners' on another All Stars tour. No thank you.

It bucketed down the day of the game in Gaelic Park. Tony Hanahoe brought the team to the south Bronx in a handful of yellow cabs, but the drivers were asked to keep their meters running.

Nobody thought the game would go ahead, which, for Dublin, was very wishful thinking.

Kerry were already togging out. They had come to play football.

And get some other things out of their system. And being left in the soaking rain waiting for Dublin to finally come to a decision to leave the slight comfort of their dressing-room meant that the 'systems' of a great number of players needed a lot of clearing out.

Even Eoin Liston needed some of it. And Liston was new, he'd no history with Dublin of any kind.

All of the Kerry lads called him 'the Bomber,' which was considered interesting, but tomfoolery, a bit of country foolishness, by those on the Dublin team who had never seen him before.

Eoin 'Bomber' Liston.

Hard to forget that name, whoever he was.

A big man too and he was in a mood also for no good reason!

He was captain of Kerry in the absence of his club colleague Ogie Moran, but he was not over-taxed by that responsibility for very long in New York. He was not on the field at the end. Paddy Reilly had been clobbered by Tommy Doyle.

Pat O'Neill had clobbered Doyle.

And the Bomber had clobbered O'Neill.

The whole of the Dublin team suddenly took serious interest in the new boy with the promising nickname, and, in the melee that followed, a great many got up close and personal for the first time with Eoin 'Bomber' Liston. Then, the Bomber was sent off by Seamus Aldridge.

At half-time, Kerry ran to the dressing-rooms. Dublin stayed on the field, drenched to the skin, and now slowly freezing as they stood around, waiting.

It had been agreed that both teams would stay 'out'.

The agreement was broken. It turned Dublin into a mood of their own. The mood deepened further when Kerry came back out for the start of the second half in a nice, dry new kit of jerseys.

The game descended further and further into the depths of unruliness. Then spitefulness.

And, lastly, complete and utter roguery.

It was the dirtiest game of football ever played between Dublin and Kerry.

Irish Independent

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