Tuesday 17 September 2019

The Empire strikes back: Kerry's kids rekindle Gaelic football's great rivalry and put a halt to the Dubs march

After the many highs of 1974, Dublin fans were in an expectant mood the following year and talk of back-to-back titles was in the air... but Kerry's kids had other ideas

Kerry vice captain holds the Sam Maguire Cup at Croke Park. (Part of the Independent Newspapers Ireland/NLI collection.)
Kerry vice captain holds the Sam Maguire Cup at Croke Park. (Part of the Independent Newspapers Ireland/NLI collection.)

Rónán Mac Lochlainn

Such was the impressive nature of Dublin's campaign a year previously that hopes were very high in 1975 the Dubs could complete back-to-back All-Ireland titles for the first time since 1922-23.

With an increasingly vocal and colourful support to get behind the team, everything was in place, it seemed, as Dublin set off with the loftiest of expectations and the defence of their Leinster Championship title only helped in raising the levels of optimism within the county.

Their campaign began in in early June against Wexford at Dr Cullen Park, Carlow and while there were some issues in terms of their defensive security, Dublin did more than enough at the opposite end of the field to complete a 4-17 to 3-10 victory. Jimmy Keaveney was in imperious form as he kicked ten points as the Dubs pulled clear thanks to goals by Tony Hanahoe, David Hickey, John McCarthy and substitute Martin Noctor.

Their reward was a semi-final meeting with Louth in Páirc Tailteann , Navan and there were disconcerting lapses at the back once again as the holders eventually pulled through by 3-14 to 4-7.

Keaveney's contribution of 1-11 highlighted his importance to the team, with Dublin's other goals coming from his St Vincent's club-mates Bobby Doyle and Tony Hanahoe.

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Kerry vice captain holds the Sam Maguire Cup at Croke Park. (Part of the Independent Newspapers Ireland/NLI collection.)

While Dublin had stumbled somewhat through Leinster, they reserved their most convincing performance for the Leinster final as they cruised past a limp Kildare challenge by 3-13 to 0-8.

For once Keaveney was relatively subdued, restricted to just two points, but a brace of goals from Brian Mullins and 1-2 by David Hickey was more than enough to get the job done.

For their subsequent All-Ireland semi-final, Dublin faced a Derry team that had impressed in beating Down by 1-16 to 2-6 in the Ulster final.

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Dublin's tendency to leak goals was once again in evidence, but Jimmy Keaveney's nine points and two goals from Anton O'Toole - aka 'The Blue Panther' - helped confirm a second consecutive final appearance on a 3-13 to 3-8 scoreline.

In Dublin's path to back-to-back Sam Maguires stood Kevin Heffernan's old nemesis in Kerry, who had claimed their first Munster title in three years by comfortably beating Cork by 1-14 to 0-7.

Despite that result, Kerry remained firm underdogs for the final as the hype went into overdrive.

However, Kingdom manager Mick O'Dwyer, in his first season at the helm, had sprinkled his team with youthful promise and he was rewarded as Kerry eased home by 2-12 to 0-11 in treacherous conditions.

If there was one major difference between the teams, it was in the pace with which Kerry performed, leaving the holders looking, by contrast, somewhat laboured in their play.

As expected, there was a keen edge to the proceedings on the pitch and one of the most referenced challenges ever witnessed in the history of Gaelic games saw Kerry captain Mickey Ned O'Sullivan knocked out after being ambush-tackled by several Dubs.

When O'Sullivan woke up in hospital later that evening, he was informed of his side's success, with goals in either half from John Egan and Ger O'Driscoll proving more than sufficient for a Kerry victory.

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Dublin's John McCarthy anxiously looks around for support as Kerrymen Paudie O'Shea, left, and Jimmy Deenihan close in. (Part of the Independent Newspapers Ireland/NLI collection.)

"I knew we had the players but my one fear was that we were short of experience. Only John O'Keeffe and Brendan Lynch had played in senior All-Irelands. Still, I knew they all had great potential," said O'Dwyer.

Dublin were floored on this September Sunday but that winter they schemed up their next move of this great rivalry - one that was to bring great reward.

The Dubs, under manager Kevin Heffernan, were already plotting revenge on the young guns from down south.

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