14:53, 11 May 2012
Sligo and New York got the GAA football championship underway last Sunday as the quest for glory began again. For the lieks of Kerry, trophies seem to come easily but that's not the case everywhere. We take a look at some counties who are still struggling to fill column inches, headline banners and trophy cabinets.
They’ve reached five Ulster football finals (1914, ’53, ’45, ’82 and 2008) and still no success for the Erne County. They’ve lost to Monaghan, and twice to both Cavan and Armagh on the big days up north. Having been knocked out by Tyrone in the Ulster championship quarter-finals of 2004, Fermanagh actually went through the back door and beat provincial champions Armagh in the All-Ireland quarters to make it to the semi-finals. They drew 0-09 each with Mayo in the semis but lost by two lousy points in the replay. Kerry, unsurprisingly, picked up the pieces in the final. The only silverware attained by the Farneymen came in the Dr McKenna Cup in 1930, ’33 and ’77. 2010 was a write-off but after Division 4 promotion under Peter Canavan, 2012 could be their year.
They were actually the first winners of the Leinster football championship (strangely in the same fashion that Kerry won a hurling All-Ireland before they did so with the bigger, now more familiar, ball) but after two more titles were added by the Cats in 1900 and 1911, they have had just one more appearance in a provincial final, in 1922, which they lost to Dublin. They are currently the only side in the province not participating in the Leinster championship but may do so in the coming years, having now come back into the National League. Their first provincial title was in 1888 and, had it not been for the Irish players’ tour of America, known as the US invasion, which meant the rest of the championship was not played, they may have won that elusive All-Ireland. As it stands, the Cats’ last championship win was against Louth in 1929 and, on Kilkenny GAA’s current Wikipedia page, camogie is higher in the order of precedence. Took some horrendous beatings during the league where their highest tally in any one game was 1-6; their worst being 0-1.
As discussed above, Kerry actually started down the hurling path and had their first All-Ireland success with the small ball way back in 1891. That remains their only year of provincial and Liam McCarthy Cup success in hurling but they did contest the Munster title in 1899, 1890, 1892 and 1908. From 1926 – when they beat Waterford by 2-10 to 1-04 – until 1993, Kerry had not won a single championship match but they shocked the same county with a 4-13 to 3-13 despite Paul Flynn scoring 3-02 on his debut for Na Déise. Kerry last played in the Munster championship of 2004 when Cork put 4-19 past them and accepted only 1-07 in return. In 2003, the Kingdom actually beat three teams (Westmeath, Carlow and Ulster finalists Derry) in the qualifiers before being knocked out by Limerick. Most recently, Kerry lost the final of the Christy Ring Cup in 2010 but won it last year - although they have declined to enter the hurling champinship this time out. Championship silverware still looks a good distance off.
Possibly the most denigrated of all counties in Ireland for both it’s geography and it’s effect on sport. But while the deserts have been vast and many mirages have presented themselves, manna has rained down on a couple of occasions. In 1927 they won the Connacht championship with Sean O’Hehir (father legendary commentator Micheal) training the team. In 1994, manager John O’Mahony and star footballer Declan Darcy bridged a gap of 67 years when they beat Mayo by 0-12 to 2-04 at Hyde Park. Darcy, along with 1927 captain Tom Gannon, lifted the Tommy Nestor Cup that day. These, however, are the only two titles Leitrim have earned at senior grade up until now.
The Garden County, like Fermanagh, have never won a senior provincial title but one of their club sides, Bray Emmetts, did win an All-Ireland representing Dublin in 1902. Wicklow actually were pronounced champions of Leinster in 1897 when Dublin did not show up – as they presumed the game would be abandoned because of a heavy downpour. The referee awarded the Garden County a walkover but the Central Council ordered the game to be played again and Dublin won by six points. With Westmeath’s win in 2004, they became the only side in Leinster not to have picked up the title. Mick O’Dwyer has brought a change to the county’s fortunes these past few years, punctuated initially by a Tommy Murphy Cup win in 2007 and more recently when they went on a fine run in the 2009 qualifier series. O’Dwyer led the county to it’s first win at Croke Park in May 2008 as they beat a limp Kildare side by 0-13 to 0-09. Harry Murphy has led his side to a Division 4 league title in 2012 so Wicklow football can dare to dream.
Opinion: Cruciates - GAA must act
Follow us on Facebook and Twitter @eircomSportsHub
Chat to Shane Stapleton on Twitter @shanesaint