Tom Lyons recalls another famous last-minute victory for the Rebels back in 1983:
Never try telling Cork football supporters that history does not repeat itself, as they’ll probably fall around laughing. Then they’ll look you straight in the eye and say, ‘Go tell that to Kerry footballers.’
Tell the truth: nobody, but nobody, saw this coming and if they really did, they certainly couldn’t have imagined the manner of Cork’s victory a week ago in the Páirc. For those of us old enough to remember, it was like replaying the dying seconds of the 1983 Munster final all over again.
We have never forgotten that one and, as a result of that famous last-minute goal, Tadhg Murphy of Glanmire became a household name all over Cork, earning immortality in the Cork GAA story. The similarities between Mark Keane’s goal on Sunday and Tadhg Murphy’s famous goal 37 years ago are uncanny.
First off, Kerry had been beaten in the previous year’s All-Ireland final, going for the famous five-in-a-row, with Séamus Darby’s late winning goal topping the list of most famous GAA goals ever scored. In 2019, Kerry had again lost the All-Ireland, this time to Dublin, who were claiming the first-ever five in a row in the history of the GAA.
Roll on 1983 and Kerry were going for a record nine Munster titles in a row when they travelled to the fairly new Páirc Uí Chaoimh to take on no-hopers Cork. Most of the Cork team on duty that day had never beaten Kerry in the Munster championship.
In 2020 Kerry arrived in town looking for their eighth title in a row, to equal the record of the 1975-1982 team. Only three of Cork’s team on Sunday last had ever experienced a win over Kerry in the senior football championship.
And the weather! In 1983, the lightning flashed, the thunder rolled, the rain lashed down and many roads were flooded. The result was that one of the smallest crowds ever to attend a Cork v Kerry Munster final, less than 16,000, turned up on the day. Why risk the journey when Cork had no hope whatsoever?
In 2020, torrential rain leathered down on the players in the span-new Páirc Uí Chaoimh as a handful of mentors and stewards watched the semi-final behind closed doors because of Covid-19 regulations. And, just like 1983, for the first time in 20 years, this semi-final clash was straight knock-out because of the unusual Covid championship.
Would Kerry have been so uptight if there was a backdoor as during the past two decades? The Kingdom didn’t realise the gods were conspiring against them before a ball was even kicked.
Back in 1983, an unrated Cork side, inspired by Kevin Kehily, Mike Hannon, Jimmy Kerrigan, Colman Corrigan, John Cleary (1-6), Dinny Allen and Tadhg Murphy, refused to bow the knee to the Kerry superstars and, despite the best efforts of the O’Keeffes, O’Sheas, Lynch, Kenneally, Power, Egan, Sheehy, the Bomber and company, the sides were level for the fifth time, shades of 2020, in the 56th minute. Then, in the 60th minute, sub Seánie Walsh, not fit to start, rammed home a goal and when Mike Sheehy followed with a point, the Kingdom were four in front and Cork’s gallant effort looked doomed to failure, as the sun finally broke through the clouds.
It might have been all of 37 years ago, but we can still see the points from Murphy and Cleary in injury time that brought gallant Cork back into contention and as we feared to look at our watches, as we waited for the final whistle, two points in arrears. Another game to add to the long list of brave defeats.
Then it happened, a fast ball out of defence to Dinny Allen about 50 yards from the Kerry goal. He wa hauled down. A free.
Sub Tadhg O’Reilly, knowing time was up, thumped the free in the direction of the Kerry goal. The backs misjudged the flight of the ball and Tadhgie Murphy slipped in behind them, grabbed the dropping ball, turned, took a few strides and from the right of the goal, let fly right across the goalkeeper, Charlie Nelligan, and it struck the far post and bounced into the corner of the net.
Time for no more, the great steal by Cork, utter delight, immortality for Murphy, despair again for Kerry, twice in 12 months. 3-10 to 3-9.
Roll on 2020. Playing into the same Blackrock goal, two points down, time almost up and Luke Connolly kicks a wonder point from a free near the sideline. The game drifting into injury time, one minute only, Cork in possession, playing the same keep football they had all day. Did they realise the time was up, the whistle in the ref’s mouth?
Then young newcomer Seán Meehan, outstanding on the day, bursts past a few Kerry backs to the left of goal. He must shoot for an equalising point, he doesn’t, and the ball is passed through a few hands and back out to Connolly near the left sideline again. A yard of space, Connolly shoots, up into the air.
Our hearts stop, time stands still as the ball begins to drop towards the Kerry goal but appears to be going wide to the right. It doesn’t, and the returned Aussie Rules player, Mark Keane, the surprise choice on the panel, from Mitchelstown, is standing on the edge of the square, the same side from which Murphy had scored his famous goal, marked by sub, Tommy Walsh, who seems to misjudge the dropping ball and it falls cleanly into Keane’s lap.
A quick turn, first-time shot and the raindrops are exploding off the back of the Kerry net. Goal! Time up, Cork are winners, 1-12 to 0-13.
This was only the semi-final, nothing won yet, but this was Kerry and knocking them out of the championship with a last-minute goal happens only once in a lifetime, or is it twice?
Who said history doesn’t repeat itself?