TV show charts colourful clash of 1975 final

THIRTY years on, former referee John Moloney has admitted he never saw Sean Doherty's notorious tackle on Mickey Ned O'Sullivan in the 1975 All-Ireland football final between Kerry and Dublin.

Moloney is one of the participants in 'Play it again Sam', a documentary airing on TG4 on Sunday night which takes us back to one of the most colourful clashes between the game's greatest rivals.

The Dublin and Kerry players involved amassed over 300 Celtic crosses in 13 years, with great names such as John O'Keeffe, Paddy Cullen, Jimmy Deenihan, Brian Mullins, Páidí O'Sé, Jimmy Keaveney, Ger Power, Robbie Kelleher, Mike Sheehy, John Egan, Pat Spillane, Tony Hanahoe and many more gracing Croke Park September after September.

Programme producer Evan Chamberlain said: "It was my own idea to make the documentary. As I'm in my 30s, my memory is of playing underage after watching the likes of Brian Mullins and Jack O'Shea, but it also came partly from Kenmare GAA Club, who decided in September to bring Sam Maguire down to Kerry. They invited the Dublin and Kerry players of 1975 for some golf, a few drinks and a presentation in the Gleneagle - Sean Doherty presented Sam to Mickey Ned.

"I produced the first series of Underdogs with Mickey Ned and felt that this was probably the last opportunity of getting those Kerry and Dublin lads together. Some of them weren't there for the night but the vast majority of them made it. We dedicated the programme to Tim Kennelly, for instance, because he couldn't make it to Kenmare as he was at his son Tadhg's Grand Final down under with the Sydney Swans.

"It was an opportunity to finally remember these fantastic footballers, great characters and individuals. I said to the likes of Jimmy Keaveney and Paddy Cullen that they must be sick of talking about it, but they enjoy the interest."

Chamberlain focused on the 1975 final as a watershed in Gaelic football - Dublin had won the All-Ireland in 1974 and were confident of overcoming a very young Kerry side.

"Paidi Ó Sé recalls arriving into Heuston Station for the final. When he stepped off the train, he was asked if he was on the minor team. People felt Dublin would win handily and, as Mick O'Dwyer says in the programme, if it hadn't worked out he'd have bought a boat and gone fishing.

"They were a great team, of course. Ó Sé says he reckons the team of '75 would beat any team now - and that it'd only take them 15 minutes to do it! Kerry hadn't won an All-Ireland in five years but they came of age in '75," says Chamberlain.

For many people, the abiding image of that final is Mickey Ned O'Sullivan waltzing through the Dublin defence until being stopped by Sean Doherty. Unceremonious would be a kind description of the tackle, and Chamberlain says referee John Moloney gives a unique perspective on the incident.

"In the documentary, John Moloney explains that he saw Mickey Ned going through the Dublin defence, as he'd done a couple of times before. He saw him take the first tackle but he let that go. Just before Doherty tackled him someone shouted at John from behind and he turned around, so he missed the actual tackle. He says in the programme that he doesn't know why he didn't consult his umpires at the time.

"Mickey and Sean have their own comments on the incident, but John Moloney points out that back then, football was a game where you gave and took hits. He says he disagrees with the diving and so on that you see in the game now - back then fellas didn't like to be down, and they got up as quickly as possible. Sadly for Mickey Ned, he didn't get up that day."

Other revelations give an insight into the contemporary Dublin follower.

"Brian Mullins recalls it was the beginning of press and media attention in Dublin, Heffo's Army and so on. Micheal Ó Muircheartaigh recalls an incident when Kevin Heffernan was walking down Clonliffe Road late in 1974 when he heard some lads saying 'ask Heffo.' He went over to them and eventually someone said: 'Are we in Europe yet?'"

It was a time of innocence in Kerry as well.

"Paidi Ó Sé remembers Kerry staying in a hotel in Malahide," says Chamberlain. "The day of the final, a meal was laid on for the county board while soup and sandwiches were prepared for the players. The Kerry lads were so innocent that when Pat McCarthy went into the dining room early, he thought the full meal was for the players.

"Páidí remembers him tucking into the full three courses - roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, apple tart and ice cream - and then went out to give a man of the match performance the same day! As Páidí says - dieticians!"

* 'Play It Again Sam' is on TG4 on New Year's Day at 8pm.

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