23 August 2007 Edition
The Matt Treacy Column
Dublin, Kerry & Elvis
Where you were when Elvis died? is supposed, depending on your age, to have the same status as where you were when you heard about JFK? or 9/11? I actually do recall it clearly because I was in the back garden kicking lumps out of the poor tree that had also seen service as a cricket stump when Viv Richards humiliated the Brits at Trent Bridge.
I wasn’t deliberately attacking the tree, mind, except when it interfered with my Anton O’Toole impression as I soloed towards the shed end to put Dublin further ahead of Kerry. I suspect that my mother was relatively pleased to see me playing football rather than hurling as the latter had already cost a number of panes of glass and led to somewhat frayed relations with the neighbours, none of whom appreciated my attempts to emulate Tony Doran and Joey Towell.
Elvis died on the Tuesday before Dublin played Kerry in a match that was costing me more than the normal quotient of sleepless nights. My mother stuck her head out of the window just as I, or rather Gay O’Driscoll, stylishly cuffed Mikey Sheehy around the earhole before launching a massive clearance in the direction of the piranhas collectively known as the Dublin forward line.
I ran into the house. “Elvis is dead”, she told me. “Oh.” I said. She looked sad. Admittedly I didn’t particularly care for the Las Vegas Elvis with the ridiculous suits and the big hair but you would need to have something amiss with you not to appreciate classic Elvis. Besides, my mother liked him.
At least my reaction was suitably chastened and not like the time when two years later she woke me one morning to tell me that the Pope had passed on. My reply had been “So what?” Her response had been a fair smack in the gub. She was not a fan of Doctor Spock. The child psychologist that is, not the Vulcan. Actually she couldn’t stand him either.
The Hill commemorated Elvis after its own fashion. “Elvis is gone, but the Dubs live on” proclaimed one blue and navy banner. But that was still days away and there was more worrying to be done and more pestering of my father to bring us to the game. I’ve never actually asked him why we didn’t go but I don’t recall being that upset. In fact sometimes it didn’t really matter whether you were there or not. It was like it was all around you anyway. Part of the air we breathed.
Instead we went to watch it in Granny Treacy’s. In some ways that was even better because she had a colour television and was very open about her dislike of anything that was not Dublin or, in deference to my grandfather, Tipperary. Indeed being from Dublin was not always a defence either. Anyway, the phrase “in your Granny’s” was never more apt as we could all openly vent our spleen at culchies and referees, the latter invariably being one of the former of course, without fear of offending anyone.
Kerry’s 15 point demolition of Cork in the Munster final, in contrast to Dublin’s allegedly ponderous passage through Leinster, had persuaded most of the pundits that Kerry would avenge themselves for 1976. Eamon Horan of the Kerryman predicted Dublin’s downfall at the hands of Father Time but he was a year too early. The bookies too favoured Kerry who were as short as 8/13.
The match itself of course has gone down as one of the best ever seen. The best in the view of many. And contrary to a certain media correspondent, that is not a myth. It was also uncompromisingly tough and not altogether free of controversy. All forgotten now, except maybe by Pat Spillane!
Before they left the dressing room Tony Hanahoe had these parting words of advice: “Don’t mind those who claim that we are finished. We are only starting.”
Kerry led for most of the match and were two points clear with just over five minutes remaining. For a moment the outlook appeared bleak and I contemplated escape to the garden. But you daren’t flee the scene of battle when Granny Treacy was around.
The last five minutes saw one of the most amazing turnarounds to take place in Croke Park. Dublin just seemed to have that small edge in fitness and power and it was that which made the difference. Dublin won a sideline around the halfway line on the Hogan side. Cans and various items of fruit were aimed at Brian Mullins. Maybe they thought he was hungry. He was.
He calmly cleared the debris before kicking towards O’Toole. Anton rode two crunching tackles from Ger Power and Ger O’Keeffe before kicking towards the square. John O’Keeffe dived to intercept but his punch only sent the ball to the gratefully awaiting Hanahoe who transferred to Hickey who buried it in the top left corner. Dublin were ahead.
My heart almost stopped as Kerry came hunting for the equaliser. A long ball was sent in towards the inside forwards. Sean Doherty seemed to rise 20 feet into the air to gather in the square before launching a massive clearance that dropped towards Paudie Lynch, I think, who was hit with hefty shoulders first by Pat O’Neill and then Bobby Doyle who took the ball, handpassed to Hickey whose pass found Hanahoe who looked up to see Brogan thundering past him. Brogan gathered, soloed and launched a pile driver that gave O’Mahoney no chance. And that was that and the extraordinary match ended with a Hanahoe point.
It was the day that Dublin team earned its place alongside the greatest, and certainly as the greatest team ever to wear the sky blue. Con Houlihan declared that they had “ – shattered myths that like Humpty Dumpty can never be put together again.”
A discordant note was struck by popular TV pundit – not then of course! – one P. Spillane, who claimed that some Dublin players should have been sent off. Eamon Horan of the Kerryman wrote that it “ – was obvious that tactics off the ball and blood-curdling, crunching assaults on the man in possession were going to become the rule rather than the exception.” Older Dubs like my father might have allowed themselves a wry smile, recalling lads like the Lucey brothers. Still, it is all in the eye of the beholder.
If Sunday is half the match it will be well worth seeing. And may the Brogans Minor bear down on goal like the oul buck.
An Phoblacht Magazine
AN PHOBLACHT MAGAZINE:
- Don't miss your chance to get the second edition of the 2019 magazine, published to coincide with Easter Week
- This special edition which focuses on Irish Unity, features articles by Pearse Doherty, Dr Thomas Paul and Martina Anderson.
- Pearse sets out the argument for an United Ireland Economy whilst Pat Sheehan makes the case for a universally free all-island health service.
- Other articles include, ‘Ceist teanga in Éirinn Aontaithe’, ‘Getting to a new Ireland’ and ‘Ireland 1918-22: The people’s revolution’.