The Avondhu - By The Fireside
1975 - AN EVENTFUL YEAR
The period of confinement due to the Covid-19 epidemic gave me plenty of opportunities to take a few trips down memory lane. Over the months of ‘social distancing’, my mind often drifted back to the summer of 1975.
It was a special one for me and my family. I celebrated my 30th birthday in May in Waterford, where I worked as a District Court Clerk. The same year I got promotion, bought a site for a new house and the sporting year ended with a truly memorable day at Croke Park for the Bunyan family.
One of my last tasks in Waterford was to help organise who would be Waterford’s nomination for the Rose of Tralee competition. Later I got a promotion in my job with a choice of eight different locations around the country. I opted for a move nearer to home and the town of Fermoy, which as the old saying goes ‘is all to one side.’
At that stage, my wife and I had two young boys. We rented a bungalow in Rathcormac, then a sleepy village, and bought a site for a house on the outskirts of Fermoy.
When you are born in Kerry there is always talk of the senior team’s prospects in the All-Ireland final. After a few lean years there was guarded optimism in the Kingdom in ‘75 when a former star Mick O’Dwyer was appointed manager
For me the interest in Kerry’s fortunes was extra special in ‘75 as my younger brother Johnny was on the Kerry senior team and the youngest family member, Robert was captain of the Kerry minors. The previous year, Ballydonoghue minor team were county champions and the honour of captaining the county minors fell to Robert. Johnny played with Kerry minors in 1967. They were beaten by Cork in the Munster final in the Old Athletic Grounds in Cork.
Kerry folk will tell you that Fitzgerald Stadium on a summer Sunday in July for a Munster final against Cork is part of our DNA. Well ‘75 was no different and O’Dwyer’s plan to put Johnny in a full forward to keep Millstreet’s Humphrey Kelleher busy, worked. If the truth be told, had Denis ‘Ogie’ Moran been fit to play, Johnny probably would not have started.
Johnny was the only married man in the Kerry team, the other 14 were bachelors and they beat Cork the old rivals by ten points. Earlier it gave me great joy to see Robert being presented with the Munster minor trophy after their two point win over Cork.
TAKING NO PRISONERS
In those days Kerry supporters didn’t travel to Croke Park in huge numbers for the All-Ireland semi-finals. But with Johnny keeping his place at full forward for the semi-final against Sligo and Robert captaining the minors against Roscommon, there was no stopping The Kingdom.
Early in the first half Robert and his North Kerry colleague Johnny Mulvihill, worked on their practiced ‘scissors movement’ and the Roscommon net bulged as Robert scored the first of Kerry’s three goals. Kerry went on to be easy winners.
John Brennan, the Sligo full-back was in the mould of Humphrey Kelleher; he took no prisoners in the Connacht championship. There were a few robust exchanges between the two exceptionally strong men. Brennan ended up on the grass holding his jaw and Armagh referee Gerry Arthurs wrote Bunyan’s name in his black book.
Sligo were the Connacht champions. The team included the great Mickey Kearins; they were no match for Kerry who ran out easy winners.
Naturally we were back in Dublin the Saturday before the final. As we waited at Heuston Station for the arrival of the Kerry train, one of my friends from Tipperary remarked ‘‘Are ye putting out two minor teams this year?’’ Yes, the senior team looked young enough to play at under 18 level.
All-Ireland final day and wife beside me in the Lower Hogan; pure bliss! Kerry beat Tyrone 1-10 to 0-4 in the minor final and Robert delivered his acceptance speech in Irish after receiving the Tom Markham Cup a few feet away from us.
With Ogie Moran back to full fitness, O’Dwyer opted for a Bachelor sextet in the Kerry forward line and my brother Johnny had to settle for a place on the substitutes’ bench.
Mickey Ned O’Sullivan, who fell foul to a few cynical tackles from Dublin defenders, will be remembered as the Kerry captain who never accepted the Sam Maguire Cup.
O’Dwyer was never a manager to use subs unnecessarily. Only one Kerry sub, Ger O’Driscoll, who replaced the injured captain, saw action as the young Kerry side surprised the Dubs, who were reigning All-Ireland champions from 1974.
There is no doubt, Johnny not playing in the final was disappointing, but the Bunyan family home in the small rural parish of Ballydonoghue had two AllIreland medals that autumn.