Sunday 15 September 2019

Dublin’s decline: Micko's men take over as Sheehy's free symbolises changing of the guard

1978 dawned with high hopes of a third All-Ireland in-a-row, but the wheels would soon come off the Dublin wagon

Referee Seamus Aldridge points Dublin's Paddy Cullen away as Kerry's Mickey Sheehy picks up the ball to take his quick free, Picture copyright: Jim O'Kelly
Referee Seamus Aldridge points Dublin's Paddy Cullen away as Kerry's Mickey Sheehy picks up the ball to take his quick free, Picture copyright: Jim O'Kelly

Rónán Mac Lochlainn

There was ambitious talk of an unprecedented three-in-a-row as Dublin reconvened for competitive action ahead of the 1978 season and there seemed little signs of a hangover during the National League as Dublin secured their sixth title when beating Mayo by 2-18 to 2-13 in the final.

That form was maintained through Leinster as John McCarthy kicked 3-7 in Dublin's 6-15 to 2-9 quarter-final win over Carlow in Croke Park.

A trip to Portlaoise followed, with Dublin pushed to the pin of their collar as they edged Offaly by 2-9 to 0-12 with Jimmy Keaveney contributing a vital 1-7.

Kildare were accounted for by 1-17 to 1-6 in the Leinster final and another rematch with Kerry was confirmed as Jimmy Keaveney kicked 1-6 in Dublin's 1-16 to 0-8 All-Ireland semi-final win over Down.

Everything appeared to be going to plan as Dublin opened up an early 0-5 to 0-1 lead, with corner-back Gay O'Driscoll stating "never has a Dublin team so completely dominated Kerry as in that first 20 minutes".

However, a John Egan goal out of nowhere stalled Dublin's momentum before referee Seamus Aldridge took centre-stage with one of the most contentious decisions ever made in the history of the game.

The Dublin management team had flagged their disapproval at the choice of Aldridge as the match referee in advance of the game due to his role as secretary of the Kildare County Board, a position which many of the Dublin players felt rendered him unfairly partisan in his dealings with Dublin.

Their fears were confirmed when Aldridge controversially awarded a 14-yard free against Paddy Cullen. While the Dubs keeper protested, Mikey Sheehy chipped the ball superbly over his head into the net.

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The late, great Con Houlihan described the goal as such: "And while all this was going on, Mick Sheehy was running up to take the kick - and suddenly Paddy dashed back towards his goal like a woman who smells a cake burning. The ball won the race and it curled inside the near post as Paddy crashed into the outside of the net and lay against it like a fireman who had returned to find his station ablaze.

"Sometime, Noel Pearson might make a musical of this amazing final and as the green flag goes up for that crazy goal he will have a banshee's voice crooning: 'And that was the end of poor Molly Malone'."

The wheels fell off from that juncture as Eoin 'Bomber' Liston helped himself to a second-half hat-trick as Kerry eased home by 5-11 to 0-9.

"I don't think anyone was in any doubt as they left Croke Park that evening that they had seen the end of one era (Dublin) and the beginning of another (Kerry)," said Kerry manager O'Dwyer.

Kevin Moran in conversation with Mrs Máirín Lynch, wife of the Taoiseach, at a post-All-Ireland reception at the Green Isle Hotel, Clondalkin

O'Dwyer's prophecy proved well-founded as talk of retirements and Kevin Moran's signing for Manchester United dominated their landscape.

Manager Kevin Heffernan, who had returned to the hot-seat later in 1978, set about re-invigorating the Dublin team with a new full-back line of Mick Kennedy, Mick Holden, and Dave Foran installed.

The Dubs did manage to secure a sixth provincial title on the bounce when, after getting the better of Louth and Wicklow, they edged Offaly in the provincial final by 1-8 to 0-9 following a spirited comeback with Bernard Brogan's late goal dramatically saving Dublin after Jimmy Keaveney's sending-off.

The match and goal itself was immortalised by The Wolfe Tones, with their famous song 'Fourteen Men'.

"In the second half, Dublin should be proud,

"They put it in the net twice to get the goal allowed,

"The Dubs may come, and Dubs may go,

"While history was made, six Leinsters in-a-row

"And then came the goal, it came from centrefield,

"Briany fists a tall ball down to Pat O'Neill,

"Anton O'Toole's pass I never will forget,

"Bernard Brogan kicked a bomber, it landed in the net."

Dublin scraped past Roscommon in their All-Ireland semi-final as freetaker Michael Hickey made the most of a first start in the championship (replacing the suspended Keaveney) by kicking 0-9 in Dublin's 0-14 to 1-10 victory.

There was a sense of Dublin papering over the cracks while Kerry looked to be heading in a different direction, with their crushing 5-14 to 0-7 win over Monaghan in the All-Ireland semi-final a serious statement of intent.

The script unfolded as expected with Dublin missing the presence and big-match temperament of the suspended Jimmy Keaveney and an early Mikey Sheehy goal set the foundation for Kerry supremacy.

Seán Walsh and Jack O'Shea dominated at midfield and Sheehy equalled Keaveney's All-Ireland SFC final individual scoring record of 2-6 as Kerry completed a routine 3-13 to 1-8 win despite Páidí Ó Sé being dismissed.

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