The Sam Maguire Cup.
The Sam Maguire Cup.

All Ireland SFC Final 2022 - The anorak's almanac

By Cian Murphy

They rank first and third in the all-time roll of honour in Gaelic football. It’s no surprise then that Kerry and Galway should feature so prominently in the collection of stats and stories that decorate the history of the game since the first final in 1887.

Kerry wore a green and gold jersey for their first ever All-Ireland football final triumph of 1903 and have kept faith with the colours as their first choice ever since. Aside from county champions colours, they also wore a green and red jersey in the years prior to the winning combination.

The Kingdom’s maiden triumph came via a 0-11 to 0-3 win over a London team captained by one Sam Maguire. In the Home Final against Kildare prior to that, things were not so straight forward. Kerry won the first meeting 1-4 to 1-3 but the result was disputed and a refixture ordered which ended Kerry 0-7, Kildare 1-4. In the replay, Kerry were victorious 0-8 to 0-2. A letter to the papers after the initial game had suggested that the venue for the replay should be Crystal Palace in London.

Kerry footballers first reached an All-Ireland in 1892 but lost to a Dublin team by 1-4 to 0-3. Galway suffered a 2-17 to 0-1 defeat to Tipperary in the 1900 Home Final, and managed only a solitary point again when they were beaten by Kildare in the 1919 final 2-5 to 0-1.

Galway’s maroon and white colours became synonymous with the county ever since they sported them for their All-Ireland final win over Dublin in 1934, winning 3-5 to 1-9. Two of the Galway goals came from Kerry-born Michael Ferriter. The match was played before a then colossal crowd of more than 36,000.

Supporters this Sunday will be strongly advised not to enter the field of play before, during or after the match. One of the most bizarre finishes to a football final happened in the replay of the 1938 final between Galway and Kerry. The teams had drawn 3-3 to 2-6 the first day. Leading by 2-4 to 0-6 late in the game a whistle for a free by the referee was misinterpreted as the final whistle by jubilant Galway supporters who invaded the Croke Park pitch. After some time the referee and stewards managed to restore order and clear the field but by then some of the Kerry players had already left Croke Park. When play resumed Kerry had nine substitutes on the pitch to make up the 15 and managed to cut the gap to one point before Galway were 2-4 to 0-7 winners.

Galway’s Mick Donnellan was captain of the first ever Railway Cup winning Connacht team in 1934. An All-Ireland medal winner with the Tribesmen from 1925, his sons John and Pat were part of the Galway three-in-a-row winning teams of 64-66 and his grandson Michael was an All-Star forward on the 1998 and 2001 winning teams. The Donnellan’s are the first three generations of Sam Maguire winners in football with the Larkins of Kilkenny holding the distinction of being the first in hurling.

The pace of Gavin White and Stephen O’Brien in full flight is a sight to behold, likewise Shane Walsh and Damien Comer. The earliest GAA events staged at the City & Suburban Sports Ground on Jones’s Road, now Croke Park, date from 1892 and were all athletics based. The late Irish Olympian and renowned Irish Independent sportswriter Tom O’Riordan from Ardfert still holds the record for running the fastest mile recorded at Croke Park - at the Tailteann Games athletics festival of 1966 - when he clocked 4.12.1 over five laps of the pitch.

Long before JK Rowling invented Quidditch, the GAA had a ‘golden snitch’ type arrangement with goals in senior championship. From 1887 to 1891 teams were 21 a side and a goal outweighed any number of points. Dublin’s first ever football title was a win over Cork at Clonturk Park in

Drumcondra. Cork managed a hugely impressive 1-9, but the Dubs scored 2-1 and carried the day under the rules of the time.

From 1892 to 1895 the teams fielded 17 players a side and goals were revalued to being worth five points. The three-point valuation only arrived in 1896 and teams were only 15 a side from 1913 onwards. Matches were 60 minutes except for the period from 1970-1974 inclusive when they were increased to 80 minutes before being reduced to 70 minutes from 1975 to the present day. It means Kerry in 1969 were the last 60 minute All-Ireland champions ((Kerry 0-10, Offaly 0-7), the first 80 minute All-Ireland champions in 1970 (Kerry 2-19, Meath 0-18) and the first 70 minute champions in 1975 (Kerry 2-12, Dublin 0-11).

Families have always been part of the All-Ireland tradition. Both sides are bolstered with father-son combinations and then there is an added element with bands of brothers. Galway captain Seán Kelly has brothers Paul and Eoghan also on the panel. The Spillane brothers and the Clifford brothers fly the family flag with Kerry. The most famous family connection was the five sets of brothers on the Offaly team that beat Kerry in 1982 (Fitzgeralds, Connors, O’Connors, Lowrys and Darbys). But the most notable family achievement was the Delaney family from Laois. In the 1936 All-Ireland final there was Mick, Chris, Bill, Tom and Jack Delaney, all brothers, from Stradbally on the Laois team beaten by Mayo in the decider. Their uncle Tom Delaney was also on the field in goals. The Leinster SFC trophy is named the Delaney Cup in their honour and when it was first presented under that new title it was fittingly Laois who claimed the cup in 2003.

Kerry players have set several feats of endurance. In 1964 Denis O’Sullivan was the first to play All-Ireland finals at minor, U21, junior and senior football in the same year. Special credit is also due to Tom Collins from St Brendan’s Ardfert who according to records played in three Munster finals on the same evening. On July 29, 1956 in Killarney, he played for the Kerry junior hurlers as they won a first Munster title in 60 years. He then scored 2-3 in the Munster junior football final and before the day was done, he came on as a substitute for the Kerry senior footballers in the closing stages of their Munster final replay defeat by Cork.

The Media Centre at Croke Park is on Level 7 of the Hogan Stand and named in honour of the original voice of the GAA, Micheál O’Hehir. His first ever broadcast as an 18 year-old with Radio Éireann was for the 1938 football semi-final between Galway and Monaghan on August 14.

First presented to Bill ‘Squires’ Gannon as captain of the Kildare winning team of 1928, the Sam Maguire Cup has the distinction of being the only sports trophy we know of that features the image of the eponymous honouree on the front, with a fine likeness of Sam stencilled onto the front of the cup which is otherwise modelled on the Ardagh chalice.