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O'Connell shines brightest in the battle of the giants

1959 All-Ireland semi-final

Kerry 1-10

Dublin 2-5

"I have no doubt," declared the Irish Independent GAA correspondent of the time John D Hickey, "that yesterday's majestic All-Ireland semi-final at Croke Park was the best, the most enthralling and the most incident-packed football encounter I have seen."

Echoing some of the commentary of more recent times, the game, he reflected, "made me wonder what is the limit of human endeavour and endurance".

"This game, believe me, had everything," he summed up.

That it should be played before a record 70,148 crowd for an All-Ireland semi-final, eclipsing the 65,939 that saw the Meath/Kerry match in 1947, only added to the sense of occasion.

Dublin were reigning All-Ireland champions, Kerry in the early stages of their longest sequence of Munster wins with a new-look team built around the imperious presence of Mick O'Connell.

"The more I see of the Valentia-based player, the more convinced I become that he must rate as one of the greatest midfielders the game has known," observed Hickey after this game.

O'Connell still had the lion's share of his career ahead of him at that stage.

Dublin lost their goalkeeper Paddy O'Flaherty to a shoulder injury in the opening half and he was replaced by Mick Bohan.

The exchanges in the first half were so compelling that the players were afforded a standing ovation as they made their way off. But the best was yet to come.

Kerry led by 1-5 to 0-4 as that rapturous applause rang in their ears and would advance their advantage to 1-10 to 0-4 before Dublin staged a gripping late recovery.

Cathal O'Leary's switch to midfield with Des Foley helped to dilute the influence of O'Connell and as Dublin pressed, cracks in the Kerry defence began to appear.

Padraig 'Jock' Haughey and Oliver Freaney grabbed goals and Freaney pointed a free to reduce the deficit to just two points, Kerry requiring a spectacular O'Connell catch to ease the pressure.

But Tom Long wrapped up the victory with the last score to put the result beyond Dublin's reach.

The lasting memory of this match carried as far as 1977 when it was recalled in the eulogising of that great game as the best previous meeting between the famed rivals.

The victory afforded O'Connell and Mick O'Dwyer the first of many All-Ireland final appearances.

Scorers – Kerry: D McAuliffe 1-4, P Sheehy 0-3, M O'Connell 0-2, T Long 0-1. Dublin: O Freaney 1-4, P Haughey 1-0, M Whelan 0-1.

Kerry – J Culloty; J O'Shea, N Sheehy, M O'Dwyer; Sean Murphy, K Coffey, Moss O'Connell; Mick O'Connell, Seamus Murphy; D McAuliffe, T Long, P Sheehy; D Geaney, J Dowling, J Brosnan. Subs: T Lyons for Moss O'Connell, G McMahon for Brosnan, Moss O'Connell for Geaney.

Dublin – P O'Flaherty; J Crowley, L Foley, J Timmons; J Boyle, C O'Leary, J Brennan; J Joyce, D Foley; P Haughey, D Ferguson, M Whelan; P Farnan, O Freaney, , K Heffernan. Subs: M Bohan for O'Leary, C Meehan for O'Flaherty, O'Leary for Bohan, N Fox for Ferguson, Ferguson for Fox.

Irish Independent