Ahead of the 50th anniversary celebrations this Saturday, TOM LYONS looks back on this famous all West Cork county final
A SAVE, a free and a wonder goal, how legends are made.
When Carbery and Clonakilty met in the county senior football final for the first, and only, time in 1968, those three moments in time decided a final that lasted over two hours and captured the imagination of the whole of West Cork.
It’s hard to believe that 50 years have elapsed since we cheered on the Kehilys, Hunt, Evans, Holland, Young, Crowley, etc., if you were a Carbery supporter, or the Hayes brothers, Tommy Connolly, Paddy O’Sullivan, Sam Tanner, Kevin Dillon, etc., if you were a Clonakilty GAA follower.
In 1964 Carbery and Clon came face to face in the county semi-final and a huge surprise saw Carbery beating hot favourites Clon for the very first time in championship football. Unfortunately, a Carbery team, split by the Ned Roch case, subsequently lost the county final to UCC.
The rivalry between the junior teams in West Cork was intense in those years, especially between Dohenys and Newcestown, and their deeds spurred each other on. Dohenys, after a highly controversial South West final win over Newcestown, won the county junior title in 1966 and Newcestown followed immediately by winning in 1967. In truth, so intense was the rivalry between the sides that it was a minor miracle that the Carbery selectors managed to blend them into a cohesive unit in 1968.
Blend them they did as Carbery beat Muskerry by 4-5 to 0-5, Johnny Carroll kicking two goals, but the defence was suspect. The quarter-final saw Carbery getting a walkover from Nemo Rangers, yet to win their first county title, as they were in dispute with the county board. A highly fancied UCC, who had beaten Carbery in the semi-final the previous year, were blown away in the semi-final in Clon on a score of 5-5 to 1-9. Nine goals in two games certainly had the football public taking notice.
Clon had a different passage to their first final since 1961. Big Tim F Hayes had all nine points as they beat Duhallow by 0-9 to 0-6 in the first round and veteran full back Tommy Connolly led the way as they scraped past 1967 intermediate champions, Urhan, by 4-4 to 1-10 in the quarter-final. It was even tighter in the semi-final against Seandún as a last-gasp free by Tim F saw them edging the game by 0-10 to 1-6.
It was no surprise that Carbery were installed as hot favourites for the final in the Athletic Grounds on September 29th. The much-anticipated final took on something of a David and Goliath clash, with Clon, population 2,500, taking on the might of parent division, Carbery, with 45,000.
Clon had eight of the 1964 team still playing and were proud of the fact that fourteen of their side were home-grown, Kevin Dillon, the captain, being the only outsider. They were dealt a blow before the start when impressive midfielder John O’Shea was ruled out through injury.
Carbery were determined to bridge the long gap back to 1937 and under the watchful eye of Sgt Jim Downing and Robert Buttimer of Dohenys, who trained many a Carbery football and hurling team, they put in some hard training leading up to the game. Carbery’s problem was that they had too much talent at their disposal and were uncertain of their best fifteen. They were missing Andy Burke of Bandon and Kevin O’Donovan of Dohenys through injury.
The Kehily brothers of Newcestown; Frank, who captained the Carbery team in 1968, Dermot, Norman and Kevin, the youngest at 18; Johnny Carroll, John Crowley, John Young, Mick Farr, Raymie Lyons and Dermot Mawe, all of Dohenys; Donal Hunt, just out of minor, Dan Dineen and Tom Bermingham of Bantry Blues; Teddy Holland of Bal, Bobby Evans of Skibbereen, Brian Desmond of Bandon, Tony Murphy of Ross and John Daly of Leap, were all outstanding footballers and household names in West Cork football in the 60s. It is debatable if Carbery ever fielded a stronger 15, before or since.
Taking on the might of this Carbery outfit were Clonakilty, bearers of a proud tradition but without a county title since 1952, a lifetime in a club that was nourished on county titles. Their star players were the three Hayes brothers (the talented Flor, Tim F and Pat), veterans Tom Connolly, Harry deLong, Paddy O’Sullivan, Sam Tanner and Tom Ahern, and promising youngsters, Pa McCarthy, ‘Cheeser’ Hayes, Dave McCarthy, Noel ‘Blackeyes’ O’Donovan, Aidan O’Regan, John Crowley, Eugene McCarthy, John Barry and Neilus Lane.
A huge crowd of over 12,000 witnessed what turned out to be a disappointing game as Carbery failed to ignite on the day and the goal-scoring machine came to a shuddering halt. Clon were the better side against the wind in the first half and trailed by only two points at half time, 0-5 to 0-3. When they hit the front in the third quarter the title seem to be heading to the Brewery Town but then came the incident that changed the whole game as Carbery goalkeeper Diarmuid Mawe brought off a miraculous save from John Barry. A goal then and it was all over but Carbery improved in the last quarter and the sides were level, 0-9 each, as time ticked away.
Then came the legendary free in the dying seconds, 60 yards out from the Carbery goal. Big Tim F, the hero of so many Clon battles, took the kick and it seemed to be heading over until it curled outside the post at the last second. A huge let-off for Carbery, heartbreak for Clon, a draw. A week later came the replay, another 11,000 in attendance, and this time it was a wonder goal that decided the issue. Clon, flying from the start, were six points in front, courtesy of a Harry deLong goal, before Carbery got going. Then came Donal Hunt’s wonder goal just before half time, described by Carbery (Seán Scully) in The Southern Star as the greatest goal he ever saw in Gaelic football.
Carbery trailed by a single point at half time and took control in the second half to win by 1-9 to 1-6. While Hunt won man-of-the-match, Bobbie Evans at midfield had the game of his life for the Carbery men.
The shattered Clon men were the first to congratulate their fellow-divisional men afterwards. There were great scenes of delight as Frank Kehily received the Andy Sannell cup from County Board chairman, Jack Barrett, a 31-year gap having been bridged at last.
The Carbery team included Diarmuid Mawe (Dohenys), Dermot Kehily (Newcestown), Frank Kehily (do.)(capt.), Tom Bermingham (Bantry), John Crowley (Dohenys), John Young (do.), Kevin Kehily (Newcestown), Bobbie Evans (O’Donovan Rossa), Dan Dineen (Bantry), Teddy Holland (Ballinascarthy), Norman Kehily (Newcestown), Donal Hunt (Bantry), Brian Desmond (Bandon), Micael Farr (Dohenys) and Johnny Carroll (do.).
John Daly (Kilmacabea) played in the drawn game while Kevin Callanan (Newcestown), Aidan O’Halloran (do.), Andy Burke (Bandon), Kevin O’Donovan (Dohenys) and Raymie Lyons (do.) also played in earlier rounds. Other subs included Tim Joe ‘Mackey’ Collins (Newcestown), Seán Ryan (do.), Pato Galvin (Dohenys) and Ger Holland (Ballinascarthy).
On the Clonakilty team was Sam Tanner, Aidan O’Regan, Tommy Connolly, John Crowley, Noel O’Donovan, Kevin Dillon (capt.), Pa McCarthy, Tim F Hayes, Paddy O’Sullivan, Teddy ‘Cheeser’ Hayes, Flor Hayes, John Barry, Neilus Lane, Pat Hayes, Harry de Long. Subs, Tom Ahern and Dave McCarthy. Eugene McCarthy played in the drawn game.