When GAA first took Man­hat­tan

... WELL UP­PER MAN­HAT­TAN TO BE PRE­CISE. HIS­TO­RIAN RYLE DWYER LOOKS BACK ON A MO­MEN­TOUS ALL-IRE­LAND FI­NAL IN NEW YORK’S POLO GROUNDS, EX­ACTLY 70 YEARS TO THE DAY WHEN CAVAN BEAT KERRY

The Kerryman (South Kerry Edition) - - NEWS -

THURS­DAY, Septem­ber 14, marks the 70th an­niver­sary of a unique All-Ire­land Foot­ball Fi­nal that was played in the Polo Grounds in New York City. It was the only time that an all-Ire­land se­nior fi­nal was played out­side this coun­try.

The two teams in­volved were Cavan and Kerry —the reign­ing all-Ire­land cham­pion from 1946. It was de­cided to play the fi­nal in New York in or­der to boost the GAA in United States, where the game had suf­fered as a re­sult of the vir­tual elim­i­na­tion of Ir­ish im­mi­gra­tion dur­ing World War II.

Play­ing the game in New York added in­ter­na­tional stature to the oc­ca­sion. The Mayor of New York, Bill O’Dwyer, was ac­tu­ally from Bo­hola, County Mayo, so the city pulled out all the stops to wel­come the Ir­ish. Some 1,500 peo­ple at­tended the ban­quet in hon­our of the oc­ca­sion.

The Polo Grounds left a lot to be de­sired as a foot­ball pitch, be­cause it was a base­ball park. The bare ar­eas on which base­ball play­ers ran be­tween bases re­mained, along the raised mound of earth that the base­ball pitcher used. The Polo Grounds would not hear of lev­el­ling the pitcher’s mound, or re-sod­ding the base­ball di­a­mond.

There were also many teething prob­lems, as­so­ci­ated with the Ra­dio Éire­ann (RÉ) broad­cast from New York. The Depart­ment of Fi­nance had to au­tho­rise the ex­pense of send­ing Micheál Ó Hehir to com­men­tate on the game.

The Di­rec­tor of Broad­cast­ing, Robert Bren­nan, and Tony O’Rior­dan of RÉ met with the pow­er­ful Sec­re­tary of the Depart­ment of Fi­nance J.J. McEl­lig­ott, who was ac­tu­ally a Tralee man. But he was not a sport­ing en­thu­si­ast, so he had to be con­vinced.

“Does any­one lis­ten to the broad­cast of th­ese matches?” McEl­lig­ott asked.

“The di­rec­tor and I looked at one an­other, then burst out laugh­ing,” O’Rior­dan re­called. McEl­lig­ott pro­vided the nec­es­sary ap­proval.

Peo­ple in Ire­land had to rely on Ó Hehir’s com­men­tary, which be­gan with the match pre­lim­i­nar­ies at 8 p.m., Ir­ish time. A tele­phone line was re­served for two hours.

“It was a game wor­thy of a great oc­ca­sion,” Mitchel Cog­ley re­ported next day in the Ir­ish In­de­pen­dent. “The pitch was con­crete hard, and the ball as lively as a kit­ten.”

Kerry set­tled fastest, while the Cavan team seemed to be suf­fer­ing from “stage fright.”

Ted O’Con­nor promptly had the ball in the Cavan net, but the goal was dis­al­lowed, as the ref­eree had whis­tled for a free, and Kerry had to set­tle for a point in­stead. Batt Gar­vey caught the kick-out and raced through the cen­tre to crash in a goal, leav­ing Kerry four points up af­ter only three min­utes. Af­ter Cavan scored their first point, Bill Dowl­ing fielded a ball in cen­tre field and raced through the mid­dle, like Gar­vey, and scored a sec­ond goal for Kerry, which added an­other point be­fore Cavan got a sec­ond point. Then Kerry added two fur­ther points and had an­other goal dis­al­lowed.

By mid­way through the first half, Kerry was lead­ing by 2-4 to 0-2. The game then be­gan to turn dra­mat­i­cally in Cavan’s favour. Bill Dowl­ing, who had been star­ring for Kerry at mid­field in place of the in­jured Paddy Kennedy, had to go off in­jured, af­ter he came down awk­wardly on the hard ground. Kerry were kept score­less dur­ing the re­main­der of the first half, while Cavan man­aged to score two goals and three fur­ther points, to lead at half-time by 2-5 to 2-4.

New York was in the midst of a heat­wave, and the younger, fit­ter Cavan team adapted bet­ter to the sti­fling con­di­tions. They tacked on six fur­ther points in the sec­ond half, while con­fin­ing Kerry to just 3 points. Con­se­quently, Cavan ran out wor­thy win­ners, by 2-11 to 2-7.

The match pre­lim­i­nar­ies with Mayor O’Dwyer, who threw in the ball, had over­run, and Ó Hehir feared he would be cut-off as the game it­self be­gan to over­run the al­lot­ted time. “I be­came fran­tic and started plead­ing to who­ever was in charge to give us five min­utes more,” he re­called. “Thank­fully there was some Amer­i­can who re­alised the im­por­tance of the oc­ca­sion to us.” The line was left open for the ex­tra six min­utes needed.

A crowd of 55,000 had been ex­pected. The Cork Ex­am­iner re­ported next day that the Polo Grounds were packed to ca­pac­ity, but the Sun­day In­de­pen­dent noted that there were some 25,000 empty seats. The paid at­ten­dance was only 34,941, de­spite the sta­dium’s ca­pac­ity for 60,000 peo­ple.

The at­ten­dance was down dra­mat­i­cally on the record set at the 1946 fi­nal be­tween Kerry and Roscom­mon. It had been wit­nessed by 75,771 peo­ple, who paid £6,190.

Even though the at­ten­dance at the Polo Grounds was less than half that of the pre­vi­ous year’s fi­nal, the $153,877 that the peo­ple in New York paid amounted to £38,469 at the ex­ist­ing ex­change rate. This was well over six times greater than what more than twice as many peo­ple had paid at Croke Park. The dif­fer­ence could be ex­plained by the price of tick­ets.

Tick­ets at the Polo Grounds had ranged from $2.40 to $7, which av­er­aged out at $4.40 per per­son, whereas the cost at the fi­nal in Croke Park in 1946 had av­er­aged out at frac­tion­ally less than twenty pence (1s. 8d.) each.

Play­ers and of­fi­cials had the ex­pe­ri­ence of a life time, and GAA en­joyed a wind­fall. The only peo­ple to lose out were the fol­low­ers of the game in Ire­land. But as they are the lifeblood of the as­so­ci­a­tion, the ex­per­i­ment turned out to be a once-off af­fair.

NEW YORK WAS IN THE MID­DLE OF A HEAT­WAVE AND THE YOUNGER, FIT­TER CAVAN TEAM ADAPTED BET­TER TO THE STI­FLING CON­DI­TIONS – RYLE DWYER

BE­LOW:

How The Ker­ry­man car­ried news of the All-Ire­land de­feat back home on the front page and inside. Photos used in the pub­li­ca­tion were amongst the first ‘wired’ across the At­lantic for use in news pub­li­ca­tions.

LEFT:

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.