He didn’t make the final cut for the 1966 county junior football final but Tom Lyons still has great memories of Dohenys’ epic adventure in the mid 1960s
A FEW weeks ago we took a look at the Darrara College junior football team that dominated West Cork football in the mid-1950s and this week we look at the proud record of the team that succeeded them as champions, the Doheny team that won seven South West junior A football titles between 1956 and 1966, contesting three county finals into the bargain.
Last Saturday night, at the Parkway Hotel in Dunmanway, the Dohenys GAA Club will honour the team of 1965 and 1966 that won the county title in 1966, exactly 50 years ago. About ten of the panel have since gone to their eternal reward but it is hoped to get as many of the survivors together as possible on Saturday night.
This tale is a personal one as we were involved ourselves and can recall almost every minute of those wonderful years when Dunmanway went football-mad and nothing else mattered but the Dohenys.
We were only seven years old when it all began in 1956 and by 1966 when the older brother Denis (DD) led the team to the county title, we were on the panel, along with a third brother, the late Raymie.
Like most of Dunmanway, our house in Rockview Terrace, not too far from the new Sam Maguire pitch, the old Bernard’s field, was a hive of GAA activity and, as young lads we lived in the pitch, watching our heroes until we too grew into the jersey.
The story begins in St Patrick’s primary school with the school leagues and subsequent underage success at U16 and minor levels in the early 1950s. Following the great clashes with Darrara in 1954 and 1955, Dohenys won the South West junior A football title in 1956 when beating Carbery Rangers in the local divisional final.
That Doheny team went on to dominate West Cork football, winning four titles in a row (1956-1959), beating O’Donovan Rossa, Clann na nGael and Ballinascarthy in three finals.
1959 produced the controversial incident that finished the reign of that outstanding team when they reached the county final against Dromtarriffe, the club’s first county final since 1935.
Dohenys lost to the Duhallow men that day but were certain Dromtarriffe had fielded an illegal team and so, lodged an objection. They failed to prove the objection to the county board’s satisfaction and lost again but the board executive subsequently investigated and found that Dromtarriffe were illegally constituted.
They ruled the Duhallow team out of the championship but refused to award the title to Dohenys.
The title was left vacant that season – a serious miscarriage of justice in the eyes of every Dunmanway man, woman and child.
Shattered by those board events, Dohenys lost their South West title in 1960 when regraded Bandon won the divisional title.
In the early years of the 1960s a great rivalry built up between Dohenys, Skibbereen, newly-formed Newcestown, Bandon and Ballinscarthy and they provided some hectic clashes, and no little controversy, on the playing fields of West Cork.
Skibbereen won in 1961, losing the county final, Dohenys regained the title in 1962, Skibb won again in 1963, following the incident of the match football, and newcomers Newcestown grabbed their first title in 1964 when Dohenys and Skibb fought a great board-room battle over Ned Roche, a case that made the national news and the British tabloids and forced a change in the rules of the association.
Whereas that case seemed to shatter the Skibb club, it strengthened the Dohenys who had the veteran Cork legend Eamonn Young back in their ranks for the first time since the 1940s.
Cue 1965 and my first appearance as a raw 16-year-old on the team, me in one corner forward position and the evergreen Eamonn in the other corner, three times my age.
Eamonn was in unstoppable form when Newcestown were beaten in the South West final but there was great disappointment when the county final was lost in a pure mud battle to Na Piarsaigh in Macroom just a couple of weeks before Christmas.
In the quarter-final that year Dohenys had beaten Kilshannig in atrocious conditions on the score of 0-2 to 0-1. The livewire Johnny Carroll kicked the winning point backwards over his head just before half time and no score was registered in the second half. Bad pitches and the old wet, heavy, leather football led to some dour contests in those days.
It seemed Dohenys were fated never to win the county title but luck swung their way in 1966 and the elusive title was finally landed.
The luck came in the South West final when a Newcestown team, backboned by four Kehilys, a load of Collinses and Cork minor and a schoolmate in Coláiste Iosagáin, Maurice O’Callaghan, played Dohenys off the pitch for 55 minutes in Bandon and then got caught for two late goals in semi-darkness as Dohenys won by two points.
It was daylight robbery in highly controversial circumstances and they still refuse to talk about it in Newcestown. But their glory came the following year with their first county title.
Dohenys, led by captain DD Lyons, swept on to the county final against Grange in the Athletic Grounds. By then I was a boarder in Coláiste Iosagáin, Baile Mhúirne, in preparation for a teaching career, and was only a sub on the team. Out of sight was out of mind, despite scoring 0-11 in a Corn Uí Mhuirí game against St Flannan’s of Ennis.
Before the final came the crashing blow from the county board that panels for the final were to be cut to 20. I was one of the subs dropped from the reduced panel and had to watch from outside the wire as my two brothers were part of a Doheny defence that held on for dear life against a strong wind in the second half to scrape a draw, 1-4 each, in another mudbath, as the Park often was in those days.
Lesson learned, there was no mistake the second day as goals from the great John Young, who died last month, young sub Andrew Collins and the mighty Johnny Carroll led to a superb 3-8 to 1-6 victory.
Inter-county stars Johnny Carroll and John Crowley were the stars that day as Eamonn Young finally won his first county medal with his native place at the age of 46, in the company of his three first cousins, Leo, John and Edda. Micky and Derry Farr were other brothers on the team that day.
Having to return straight to college after the game, I missed the great celebrations that followed that night in Dunmanway as the cup was paraded through the town for the first time since distant 1935 but I heard all about it when I got home for the Christmas holidays, and they were still celebrating then. And we had the cup at home on the shelf for 12 months.
As regards the subs who were disappointingly jettisoned for that final, only 20 county medals were issued by the board and the club never bought any extra.
I’m still waiting but it won’t stop me from celebrating with the survivors on Friday and saying a prayer or two for the lads no longer with us. Ar dheis Dé go raibh siad.
The Doheny team that won the county final was: Pat Cronin, Derry Farr, Michael Farr, Leo Young, Denis (DD) Lyons (captain), Kevin O’Donovan, Raymond Lyons, Johnny Carroll, John Crowley, Brendan O’Rourke, John Young, Edda Young, Paddy Burns, Harry McCullough, Eamon Young. Sub used was Andrew Collins. Other subs were Donal Crowley, Diarmuid Mawe, Pat McCarthy, Pat Smith, Tom Lyons.