Seamus Darby: ‘Tommy and I would talk about everything except the goal’

In an extract from his autobiography ‘ About That Goal ’, Offaly great Seamus Darby reveals his friendship with the man whose life he changed forever, Tommy Doyle.
Seamus Darby: ‘Tommy and I would talk about everything except the goal’
Offaly's Johnny Mooney and Seamus Darby celebrate. Photo: INPHO/Billy Stickland

In an extract from his autobiography ‘About That Goal’, Offaly great Seamus Darby reveals his friendship with the man whose life he changed forever, Tommy Doyle.

THE SHOT THAT STUNNED A NATION: Seamus Darby scores Offaly’s match-winning goal against Kerry in the 1982 All-Ireland final, a late, late intervention that denied the Kingdom a famous five in a row. While Darby was hailed as a hero, Kerry’s Tommy Doyle was cast as the villain of the piece for allowing the Offaly man the chance to alter history. Picture: Colman Doyle
THE SHOT THAT STUNNED A NATION: Seamus Darby scores Offaly’s match-winning goal against Kerry in the 1982 All-Ireland final, a late, late intervention that denied the Kingdom a famous five in a row. While Darby was hailed as a hero, Kerry’s Tommy Doyle was cast as the villain of the piece for allowing the Offaly man the chance to alter history. Picture: Colman Doyle

Tommy Doyle and I got to know each other well down the years after the two of us became the centre of attention for different reasons after that match.

For as sure as I was given the starring role of hero, he was cast, particularly by Kerry fans, as the villain of the piece.

His critics said he was naïve to allow me catch the ball and that somehow it was all his fault that Kerry didn’t win the five in a row.

I often thought of Tommy in the weeks and months after the game and hoped he was coping with the abuse that I sensed would be hurled in his direction.

There may also have been guilt on my part because there was contact between us and he could easily have come out and said in his own defence that it was a push and therefore a foul. He would have been entitled to do that.

To his credit he never did; instead he took the haymaker on the chin and I admired him greatly for showing such character in adversity.

The wheel of fortune goes around as we all know and I don’t suppose there were too many outside Kerry happier than myself in 1986 when Tommy not only won another — his seventh — All-Ireland medal, but captained the Kingdom to glory as well.

As I watched him lift the Sam Maguire over his head in Croke Park that day, I felt a huge surge of pride and satisfaction inside. I suppose it is like the sort of feeling you experience if a member of your family achieves something.

Offaly's Johnny Mooney and Seamus Darby celebrate. Photo: INPHO/Billy Stickland
Offaly's Johnny Mooney and Seamus Darby celebrate. Photo: INPHO/Billy Stickland

There had been no five in a row but Kerry under Micko had backed up their four in a row with this — a three in a row. At least that was the way I looked on it from the outside — and I was absolutely thrilled to see a good, decent guy, as Tommy certainly is, end up as the main man.

Tommy also won three All-Stars in a row in ’84, ’85 and ’86 — the years after the ‘push’ incident. That also showed the true mettle of the man. He drove the toxic tongues down the throats of his detractors with the consistent high level of performance he achieved after ’82.

Around the time of the 1986 All-Ireland, I was working as a rep driving all over Ireland. I knew I would be in his neck of the woods over the following fortnight and I wanted to meet up with him. Tommy was also a rep — he was with a beer company while I was selling wallpaper across the 26 counties.

We hadn’t arranged a rendezvous before I set out and in a time when there was no internet or mobile phones, making contact was much harder. I was in Kerry getting orders and supplying wallpaper and I wanted to get my work done before I went looking for him.

I was walking down the street when I just happened to bump into him in the middle of Killarney. If I had planned it, it couldn’t have worked out any better. Naturally, we went for one. That turned into another and in the end we spent most of the night out together.

What did we talk about? Well, I know I told him how happy I was that he was captain and had led Kerry to an incredible achievement on top of what they had achieved before the ’82 final.

And he was a hero now in Kerry eyes and feck any begrudgers who were left.

Tommy and I would talk about everything except the goal. Neither of us ever brought it up directly. We probably knew what each other’s thoughts — and simply left it at that.

I think it was the time together in Killarney that cemented our friendship. We had a long chat that evening and it created a bond. It was one of the good things for both of us that came out of that goal.

In the aftermath of the 1982 game, I know I was thinking purely about the goal from my own and Offaly’s perspective. There was so much backslapping with people around me celebrating our victory that Sunday night that I had little or no time to think of Tommy. That’s the truth.

I was shocked the day after when Mikey Sheehy and Jacko met me at the lunch for both teams at the Burlington Hotel, which was the tradition at the time. I’d looked around to see if I could see Tommy but he wasn’t there. I asked the lads where he was and they said he was feeling pretty low after what happened and had decided to skip the event.

They suggested that maybe I should give him a ring.

Now I was really upset; both with myself for not thinking that for every upside, someone has a downside and also because I now knew for sure that Tommy was suffering.

The last thing I’d ever want to be is in the limelight at someone else’s expense. Sport does that, it turns out heroes and villains and when you are on the wrong side, it can be a very lonely place to be.

As I had just found out.

I gave Tommy a ring as the lads suggested sometime later and we talked for a few minutes. I don’t know what we said, but I think we agreed to meet up the next time either of us were in Offaly or Kerry.

I can’t put a true timeline on it, it might have been the following year, but I remember my Rhode and Offaly team-mate Jody Gunning, myself and our two wives and kids were on a break in Kerry and we went into Tommy’s pub which he was renting in Tralee at the time.

Tommy gave us the royal treatment on his premises. As always we had a great chat about football and how Kerry and Offaly were looking that year. Not a word about the other matter. I was thankful for that and I know he was as well. Even Jody, who’d be a good man to hop a ball any time of the day or night, was aware of the sensitivity and instead he -Jody- allowed us to slag him about how poor a referee he was becoming.

We didn’t see each other much after that for a good while. Like myself, Tommy had his ups and downs in his enterprises and went to London to try his hand at the business over there.

Seamus Darby.
Seamus Darby.

He told me he had given up the pub a short time before and as far as he knew, he’d gone back to work in Ireland.

Tommy and I have met up many times since and I can tell you he’s done me several good turns. I remember there was one time a player I knew in Offaly had applied for a job which Tommy had the power to give out. We chatted about it and when he came back to me, the young lad was delighted to tell me he had got the position.

That goal though is never far away from either of us. I am all too aware that it is liable to crop up at any time in any company. I remember a night shortly after I had bought the The Greyhound Bar in Toomevara when the place was packed. Tipp FM do a live show called Down Your Way, which is presented by Eamon O’Dwyer and I was the subject of their attention in this particular programme. I had invited Tommy and his wife up for the occasion and they stayed overnight with us.

There was a great atmosphere and people from all over the midlands as well as Tipperary came in for the special occasion.

One of the people there was a regular, a really lovely man called Charlie Murphy, who originally hailed from Ballylongford in Kerry.

As the radio interviewer was talking, Charlie was propped up in his usual place in the corner where he always stood when he was having a drink in our place.

Eamon was interviewing Tommy and me and said something about the ‘push.’ Tommy shrugged it off, saying nothing more than: “The ref didn’t blow it,” and left it at that.

I followed by saying something similar: “Some refs would blow for a foul and others would let it go.”

That sort of thing.

We were trying to tiptoe around the issue which, of course, is the real question journalists always want to have answered.

Just as the Tipp FM man was about to move on to next topic, Charlie shouted as clear as day from the background: “He did fucking push you, Tommy.”

That went out live across the airwaves and everyone laughed — except the horrified presenter. I knew then that one of my customers, Lord have mercy on him, went to his grave convinced that I had committed a foul before scoring the goal.

I’d do anything for Tommy and he has always been the same for me. Over the years, a few of us in Offaly have got very close to a group from that Kerry team.

They’re all sound fellas who like to play a bit of golf and have a bit of craic afterwards.

Seamus Darby, Offaly, and Charlie Nelligan, Kerry goalkeeper, at the GPA Former Players Event in 2015. Picture: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
Seamus Darby, Offaly, and Charlie Nelligan, Kerry goalkeeper, at the GPA Former Players Event in 2015. Picture: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

Someone I know heard an interview with him on Radio Kerry and recorded it for me. I think the show went out shortly after the terrible criticism Éamonn Fitzmaurice had to put up with when Kerry were knocked out of the inaugural Super 8 series when they didn’t qualify for the All-Ireland semi-finals.

Tommy spoke for the first time publicly about the sack-loads of hate mail he got in the post, berating him for Kerry’s failure to win the five in a row. Up to then, he only ever confided in a few people very close to him about what had happened.

He explained that he didn’t have long to wait for the critics to come at him — he got it once the final whistle was blown in Croke Park.

“I had hardly finished shaking hands with Seamus Darby beside me when I got hit by a left hook,” he revealed.

He said he was in a state of shock, like the rest of the team, after the match ended but he was knocked down to the ground by that box from a so-called Kerry supporter, with four or five other fellas shouting at him: “You cost us £10,000.”

A number of Kerry County Board officials saw what happened and immediately came to his aid as the cowards ran off into the crowd. He said he had got some real “bad letters, really nasty stuff” which was exacerbated because they lost out again in ’83, that time to Cork in the Munster final.

“I got anonymous letters then, but social media brings it to another level entirely.”

Tommy and I arranged that he’d call in to me for breakfast on his way to Eugene McGee’s funeral. We were both very sad at the passing but had a good chat about different things that morning. It would have been lovely for the two of us to drive up to Longford together but he had to be back for a certain time and I knew I’d be there with the Offaly boys until very late.

We met up again that day at the church and three of us sat together in the same pew — Tommy and the two guys he marked in the final, John Guinan and myself.

After the ceremony we were hanging around outside the church, and Guinan winked at me behind Tommy’s back and says: “C’mon Darby, we have him now.” The three of us laughed. One time sporting adversaries who are bound together by the great legacies of 1982 — it gave both sides new friends for life.

The late Weeshie Fogarty probably summed the whole 1982 episode up better than anyone when he wrote an article commemorating the 25th anniversary of the occasion.

“What occurred at the Railway End goal in Croke Park 25 years ago is the most talked about incident in the history of Gaelic games and the name Seamus Darby will be forever associated with Kerry football.”

As an Offalyman, I like that line of being associated with Kerry football.

It’s an honour and I cherish it.

- About That Goal is more than a book spawned from arguably the most famous goal ever scored in GAA history — it is a chronicle of a man’s triumphs and tragedies inside and beyond his sporting life. Former Offaly star Seamus Darby uses the platform to put the record straight on rumours that have followed him around almost since that dramatic All-Ireland winning day against Kerry in 1982. Now in its third print, the book, which was shortlisted for Sports Book of the Year last year, is still available in all good bookshops or at ballpointpress.ie.

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