The GAA’s timely reminder about their digital archive — gaa.ie/gaa-now/archive/ — is sure to provide some succour to those suffering Gaelic Games withdrawal symptoms during this lockdown. What can be learned from a deep dive of footage, including All-Ireland senior finals and club finals, going back to 1961?
Many a GAA quiz has featured the following information but the first four senior finalists to bear a sponsor on their jersey were the 1991 quartet: Tipperary (Tipperary Water), Kilkenny (Mahon McPhilips), Down (Kersten Hunik), and Meath (Kepak). Kilkenny and Tipp had also contested the minor final that year while Cork (Barry’s Tea) won the football equivalent.
These days we’re no strangers to one element apply to hurling and another to football. It appears, from looking at the archive, that goalkeepers wore different coloured jerseys to their outfield team-mates from the 1963 All-Ireland football final between Dublin and Galway.
However, the first time it seems to have taken place in a hurling decider was as late as 1975 when Kilkenny’s Noel Skehan (in a all-yellow jersey) and Galway netminder Michael Conneelly (in Connacht colours, a white jersey and blue shorts and socks) wore unique kit.
Whether it was 10 points in 1969 or 2-19 they scored the September later, Kerry still claimed All-Ireland senior football titles. Not surprisingly given the disparity in the scoring, the duration of the game had changed in the interim from 60 to 80 minutes. In 1969, Kilkenny’s winning total was 2-15. Cork’s 12 months later was 6-21. A compromise in 1975 saw games reduced to 70 minutes.
The first appearance of a helmet in an All-Ireland senior hurling final was in 1969, worn by Cork’s Donal Clifford and Ray Cummins. Earlier that year, Congress had passed UCC’s motion to allow protective headgear be worn.
Clifford had been a UCC college mate of Micheál Murphy who had become the first person to don a helmet when lining out for the university in the county final the previous year. The pair wore ice hockey helmets. Forty years later, the last All-Ireland final when helmets were discretional took place.
Up to the 1964 finals involving Tipperary-Kilkenny in hurling and Galway-Kerry in football, it was customary for dignitaries to start the game with a throw-in while the referee blew his whistle and started his watch. It was often the case a patron such as an archbishop was given the honour of doing so with players often kissing his ring.
It was also 56 years ago that the last finals were commenced with eight players from each team, the three half-forwards and three half-backs joining their midfielders, anticipating the throw-in between the two 65m lines. A year later and the only four permitted were the midfielders.
The US Masters rewind last week reminded people that Jack Nicklaus, while the most successful golfer ever, also had to put with finishing second 19 times in Majors.
Kilkenny are six ahead of Cork in the all-time All-Ireland SHC titles list (36 to 30) but are also eight “better off” in the runners-up stakes, finishing second 27 times to Cork’s 19. The Cats reached 35 of the finals in the archives, winning 13.
As for 37-time All-Ireland SFC champions Kerry, they have been runners-up 23 times, seven ahead of Cork. The Kingdom feature in 30 of the chronicled finals, victorious in 18.
Just as they were the first games live on RTÉ TV in 1962, the Railway Cup finals were also the first shown live in colour nine years later. The first set of All-Ireland finals shown live in colour were those in 1972.
It’s appropriate the archive goes back to 1961, which marked the greatest All-Ireland final attendance ever recorded for a final when 90,556 saw Down beat Offaly. That same year, 67,866 took in the Tipperary-Dublin final. The largest gathering for the hurling decider remains the 84,856 that saw Christy Ring claim his eighth All-Ireland medal in 1956 when Cork beat Wexford. The lowest football final crowd since ’61 is 58,684 in 1994 when Down beat Dublin. For hurling, it’s also 54,458 in ‘94. Capacities were reduced as a result of work to the Cusack Stand.
In the 59 years, just six of the finals have taken place outside September — the 1972, 1988, 2000, and 2016 football final replays were all staged in October while the 2018 and ‘19 hurling finals were August occasions.