By Mike Fitzpatrick
The form books went out the window long ago where senior football is concerned in New York. In this senior football championship on Sunday last at Gaelic Park, it was David versus Goliath, North versus South.
Donegal, heavy favorites from Ulster, stormed their way to the top of Div. 1, allowed nobody to stand in their way en route to this final, against Kerry, a young vastly less experienced Div. II side from a county which hasn’t won the championship in more than 30 years. Indeed, the last time Kerry won the New York championship, the Beatles were still performing together and Messrs. John Riordan and Paddy Kearney weren’t the seasoned Kingdom warhorses that they are now.
The largest crowd in recent times were in Gaelic Park to see this thrilling 70 minutes of football, where Kearney’s princes from the Kingdom held on to grab victory from the onslaught of the Ulster warriors.
The opening minutes were furiously paced, with two points registering for each side, Stephen Cassidy and Philip Clifford for Donegal, and John McGlynn and Dessie Farrell for Kerry.
After six minutes, all was square. Eunan Doherty made a great save from a Bingo Driscoll free which almost gave Kerry the lead, but Willie O’Donnell stormed through the Ulster side’s defense to hit his side’s third point to move into the lead.
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Kerry piled on the pressure, and for the rest of the half were well on top. Obtaining much of the possession in midfield with John McGlynn winning balls at every leap, Kerry stormed forward and grabbed points from Dessie Farrell, Bingo Driscoll, Mike Carmody and Dave McCarthy.
A Clifford point for Donegal was a mere consolation for the Ulster side as Kerry went in at the break leading by five points. But for some poor finishing from Donegal before the break, the scoreline would have been a lot closer. Eunan Doherty pulled off another great save from Carmody to save Donegal’s blushes a little, and half time was upon us.
On the changeover, Donegal seemed to discover their form a little and stampeded back into the tie in the first ten minutes. Stephen Cassidy was on fire, scoring two points, and linking well with Gary Dowd and Donal Breslin, only for Breslin to fire narrowly wide of goal.
Clifford and Dowd hit a point each, and a further Clifford point levelled the tie for the Ulster side.
Three wides in a row for Kerry had their fanatical supporters worried, having thrown away a five-point half time lead.
Bingo, Carmody and Dave McCarthy all came close to inching Kearney’s boys back in front, but were all denied by inaccurate efforts.
Cassidy and Kildare import Anthony Rainbow then got in on the wide action by wasting a couple of efforts until Mike Carmody restored Kerry’s lead with an effort which sailed over the bar. Bingo gave Kerry a two point lead, and following his second bookable offense, Donegal’s Stephen Cassidy was given his marching orders.
A four point lead for Kerry ensued, with McCarthy and Farrell nabbing points only for Clifford to hit two in a row for Donegal.
With three minutes left, Donegal needed a goal to win the tie, but the unforgettable image of a galloping Willie O’Donnell charging through the Donegal half back line gave Kerry their deserved victory.
The glory days may well be back at Gaelic Park. A huge crowd waved goodbye to the century, and with exciting sides such as this Kingdom team playing first division football next year, and New York’s hoped for return to the Connaught championship, the only way is up.
Kerry: Robbie Dowd, Peter Riney, Paul Gallivan, Paul Dillon, Paddy Connor, Johnny Driscoll, Kieran Driscoll, John McGlynn (0-1), Louis Holland, Mike Carmody (0-3), John Sexton, Bingo Driscoll (0-2), Dave McCarthy (0-2), Dessie Farrell (0-3), Willie O’Donnell (0-2). Sub: Paudi Mulvihill.
Donegal: Eunan Doherty, Gerry Kelly, Owen Cummins, Keith Murray, Donal Breslin, Pearse Coyle, Michael McClafferty, Dave McSweeney, Nicholas Murphy, Gary Dowd (0-1), Mickey Moran, Kieran Keaveney, Anthony Rainbow, Philip Clifford (0-6), Stephen Cassidy (0-3). Subs: Damian Meehan, Leslie McGettigan, Edmund Cleary, Tadhg Donovan.