Saturday 20 January 2018

Billy Keane: History can inspire subjugated citizens of Kingdom to overthrow mighty empire

Eamonn Fitzmaurice and Jim Gavin at the end of last year’s final Picture: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Eamonn Fitzmaurice and Jim Gavin at the end of last year’s final Picture: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Billy Keane

Billy Keane

Dublin right now are invincible. Their attack could open a tin with a toe-nail. And if there was an RSVP in the GAA, most of their opponents would send in a 'no thanks' by return.

But Rome was at its weakest when it was at its strongest. The British Empire was taken down by small farmer's son from West Cork. The Iron Curtain was made of lace and was ripped open by shipyard workers from Gdansk.

And in 1975 a Kerry nursery of long-haired boys with baby faces beat the best and hardest Dublin team we have ever seen. So are Dublin invincible? And are we in the Kingdom of Kerry a subjugated people?

Yes, Kerry do have a chance. They tell me it's a slingshot chance. No more than that. Unless?

Unless Kerry play with gusto and might. With guts and skill. With brains and brawn. With anger and hurt, but above all with heart, and the inherited belief that we can beat anyone on any given day, no matter what the experts say, because we are Kerry.

Not only are we up against a team of superb footballers but we are also taking on the system. Dublin play every game at home.

If the Romans had fought all of their battles in the Coliseum, Latin would be our first language and men would be shaving their legs so as to look good in their togas.

I often think the Dublin players have been in some way cheated out of their proper place in the pantheon of the greats because they have never been allowed to leave home.

And then there are the referees, who haven't been good to us. If Kieran Donaghy was brought to the stone-breaker's yard and shot up against the wall, he wouldn't get a free. All we want is fair play

Dublin are sponsored by big business, although I'm fairly sure Leitrim people own mobiles and insure their cars.

Dublin's players are not receiving any illegal payments - they are in it for the love of the game - but their set-up is now more professional than any team in the League of Ireland and is at least on a par with the provincial rugby clubs.

The sponsorship monies should be put in to the one kitty and shared out among all the counties. The GAA is not about building empires. It was formed to take on empires and was always about the small man.

Soon enough big business and TV will decide how the GAA is to be governed.

Kerry went to our emigrants for funding and our diaspora were not found wanting. We had to adapt or die and we didn't start the fire.

I have massive respect for the Dublin supporters, the players and their management team. The Dublin fans are great fun and relish the day out.

This Dublin team has made a town out of a city. And it's lovely to see the unity.

Jim Gavin taught his boys how to become good winners. Dublin walk easy when their jug is full.

For the first time, Dublin are as skilful as Kerry, and I have attended every Kerry-Dublin championship game since 1975.

But Dublin are missing some key defenders. The two-in-a row tiredness has to kick in at some stage. Alan Brogan, who for me was the daddy and the fire-fighter of the team, is retired.

I have been told the Dublin half-forward line will blow away our boys with their power game. I have been told we will be run into the ground at midfield.

I have been told our full-forwards will be bullied and harangued. I have been told the Kerry full-back line is made of balsa wood. I have been told our half-forward line cannot possibly keep up with the Dublin flyers, who are hot-wired to an infinite energy source.

The burden of playing in the jerseys worn by the great footballers of the past has often weighed heavily on Kerry players. But tomorrow I believe the greats of the past will be our inspiration.

We were massive underdogs in 1955. The Dublin Machine changed football but a fiery Kerry team wiped them out. Dublin were hot favourites in 1975 and Micko's kids brought home Sam.

They're all with you, Kerry. Beside you, and inside you, at your left side and on your right side. You follow on in the great tradition of the jersey we honour and serve from that first kick in the womb to the last gasp.

We come from a county ravaged by emigration. A homeland that is far away from everywhere except Kerry.

Yet we all unite under the green and the gold. Football is all we have when it comes to getting fair play. All the power is in the East. The only place we could ever prove ourselves to be truly equal was on the field of play.

Men of Kerry, I know you well, and in my heart I believe you will honour those who went before us.

You play for Kerry people at home who cannot afford to go, or who are not able for the long journey, or who have to mind kids, or who have to work hard in tough times. We are a little bit further away from Croke Park than a bus ride.

Our supporters will be outnumbered five to one but it's 15 against 15 on the field.


Rage boys. Rage against the injustice. Remember the pain of three defeats in a row. Remember who are and where you come from.

It is time now for Eamonn's men to write their own history. Time to become the story we will tell by Kerry firesides when the wild wind blows in from the Atlantic and the house shudders and the trees bend in two.

Stand firm before the storm. There's a calmness in standing together.

When you pull the vestments over your head there is a forever moment in time when the green and gold half-light bathes your soul. Remember then beloved Kerrymen, brothers, you are never alone.

And when the final whistle blows in Croke Park tomorrow evening, it could well be there will be another Kerry team who have lived our impossible dream.

Irish Independent

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