Saturday 18 November 2017

'Cream of Leinster football is whipped cream now' - How the media reported Mayo's All Ireland win in 1951

Ger Keville

Ger Keville

On Monday September 24, 1951, you had to ruffle through a couple of pages of classified ads and death notices before you came to any meaty content in the Irish Independent.

Joiners were wanted at 3/6 per hour, civil engineers had a chance to go work on building sites in England and asbestos waterman pipes were available for 35 shillings per pipe.

A Naas dog won the Cork Show Championship, a farm science conference in Dublin ended and there was a decrease in criminal offences in the country.

While every paper in the country tomorrow will have blanket coverage of the All Ireland final between Dublin and Mayo, 1951 was a very different lanscape.

Page seven gave us our first teaser, a bizarre blurb of a picture with the attendance - 78,210 - before a match report by John D Hickey on page 10.

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The Irish Examiner followed a similar path, with just one picture making its pages.

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Examiner.jpg

The Meath Chronicle was drenched in positivity despite the Royals' defeat.

"A WAVE of pessimism seemed to engulf the Royal County and drown the commonsense of many of its football supporters following Mayo's defeat (2-8 to 0-9) of the challengers in the All-Ireland final, at Croke Park on Sunday," read the into.

"There is absolutely no justification for this outlook about the future of a team, that has lost only three times in nearly fifty games. Criticism there will be. For Meath gave their most unimpressive display for two years. Disappointment there must be. For Meath failed to produce that death-or-glory finish that would have wiped away the memory of their earlier eclipse.

"But let us have no more talk about has-beens. Meath's unique record in Gaeldom, established through their spectacular achievements over the past two years, cannot be devalued, let alone erased, because Mayo succeeded in beating them at the fifth successive attempt. The law of averages must prevail sometime. You can't keep a good team, no more than a man, down. Meath will rise again. The least they are entitled to now are the loyalty and continued enthusiasm of their supporters. So let us send the old, blood-tingling battle-cry ringing even across the Atlantic: "Come on, Meath!"

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Over in the west, we were treated to  a headline for the ages. 'Cream of Leinster football is whipped cream now' screamed the Ballina Herald the Saturday after the final.

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Here is the full match report from the Ballina Herald.

It was the All-Ireland anti-climax. The Mayo-Meath All-Ireland senior football championship final was the great anti-climax.

Nowhere to be seen was me toe-to-toe struggle, the pace-for-pace battle, the neck-for-neck race which was to have made the 64th All-Ireland the "greatest, ever.

And the reason—Meath were not in the picture.

It was Mayo from the moment Most Rev. Dr. Walsh threw in the ball to the last second when Referee Bill Delaney blew the full time whistle, which gave Sean Flanagan and his fourteen teammates the right to carry the Sam Maguire Cup over the Shannon and into Mayo for the second year in succession.

And Meath were a sad and sorry sight—beaten beyond all doubt by a brilliant, rugged Mayo.

What happened? The Mayo team happened. They played football like masters, every man doing his job as he wanted to do it - kicking, fielding, splinting, doing just the right tiling. Mayo played football—though it was a rugged, fitful game—and forgot about everything else .

But it was a disappointing game from the point of view of football. Everybody expected a first-class exhibition by two great teams. It didn't happen. It didn't happen, because there was only one team there to play football, and that was Mayo. But it was a great to see Mayo trounce the team which the critics had heralded as favourites - greater still to see Sean Flanagan carry the cup off Croke Park.

It is just two years ago since there was a very corny line used in the account of the Mayo-Meath semi-final of 1949. It read: "Mayo may have been the cream of Connacht football, but they were whipped cream on Sunday last!"

Well, everybody knows by now what happened the cream of Leinster football on Sunday. Meath were licked beyond a shadow of a doubt — and beyond what the scoreboard indicated. After fifteen minutes their fate was sealed when Langan got his jet-propelled goal - a goal that seemed to weave in and out between the Meathmen before striking the net. It was a goal in a thousand, and only Langan could score it.

But to Mayo's defence must go the chief honours of the day as a division. They were indomitable, ruthless, aggressive—anything you like to call it.

They strangled the Meath forwards as far as goals were concerned, and the points that were notched came from moves which should have been goals.

Time and again the ball came up to the five yards mark, but Forde, Flanagan or Prendergast were always there, and out of the ruckus cleared safely and made the Meath forwards realise that there was a ‘No goals today’ notice slammed across the Mayo goal. So they took their points, clever, fast and accurate ones that they were. But after a while they didn't even get points!

TWAS 1949 IN REVERSE

Meath tried to crowd Carney, but, unlike 1949, Carney refused to be crowded. .He took punishment like very few footballers in Croke Park do. He was charged, sandwiched, and charged again from all sides, but always he came out with the ball to lash it down the field to the waiting forwards.

Nothing could stop him. The same went for Henry Dixon, Joe Staunton and Peter Quinn—they simply refused to let three Meath men put them down. And, in sheer desperation, the Meathmen tired. And John Forde, veteran of the corner—he played as sound a game as a Connacht Colleges' star—and they can play some.

He worried his man, he charged him hard, and refused to say he'd be beaten. He was always in the middle of every ruckus.

GOING UP!

There were Mongey and McAndrew—two men who gave Taaffe and Connell more than they ever expected. After the first few minutes both Mayo men soared for balls, caught them, and thereafter dominated. The clean-cut McAndrew-jump, the perfect-timing Mongey—they were class. Then Carney came out, and no bunching Meathmen could put him off. It was peerless football as far as high jumping and determined clearing was concerned. It was football which Meath could not come near.

The forwards were good. They moved fast, and if they lost ball control in the last stages there's no one going to blame them now.

Mayo has won the second All-Ireand and everybody's happy. In the first half the forwards played classic football. Mulderrig, Irwin, Carney, "Joko," Langan and Mick Flanagan were like grey hounds, running into position, trapping balls against a devilish breeze, and always finding the opening as they ran.

They were up against it from the weather and the Meath backs but neither stopped chem. They showed Meath's Byrne, Smyth and McDermott how to weave through to the goal, and left O'Brien, Hand and Kelly just watching. And how the crowds gasped as Mick Flanagan raced from forty yards out with the ball on his toe.

FINDING EXCUSES

But for all the thrills, football was scrappy for the most part, and there was more rough play than there was football. Jersey-pulling, netty fouls and tripping took away from the continuity of play and bunching by Meathmen prevented the man-for-man duels which marked the National League clash earlier this year as a good exhibition of football.

There was a lot of catch and kick football, but too much of the rucking stuff—every man trying to get in his kick irrespective of direction.

The game won't live as a classic encounter. But it will live as a record to Mayomen who completely wiped out a fancied Meath team in a manner which left no doubt as to where the best bunch of footballers in Ireland are today.

It will also live in the memories of those metropolitan scribes, who will remember 23rd September, 1951, as the day they had to rack their brains to find excuses for a Meath team which existed only in their imagination. Mayo did it for the third time and it won't be the last. One last word—"Well and truly done, Mayo.' 

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