Listening to Johnny Cash with Páidí Ó Sé, trash talk in Irish and lifting Sam Maguire on the pitch




This article is a part of 2000: Revisited, a week-long series of features looking back on some of the headlines and the forgotten stories that filled the sports pages 20 years ago.

Below, Sinéad Farrell takes you through the 2000 All-Ireland football final between Kerry and Galway which went to a replay. Aodán Mac Gearailt and Paul Clancy, who both lined for the respective sides, remember what it was like to play in those games.

PÁIDÍ Ó SÉ often told his Kerry players that he loved the dark evenings. That’s what bookended their season, whenever things went to plan of course.

In an era when the National League commenced before Christmas, every team started their season under the cover of darkness. The starting blocks. Many teams were wiped out before the sun started staying out late, and only a few would survive long enough to see the evenings drawing in again.

At the turn of the Millennium, the inter-county football championship was a ruthless shooting gallery. One life each, no second chances. It would be another year before the safety net of the All-Ireland qualifiers would be introduced.

But for now, Ó Sé was providing assurance to his players that Kerry would be around for the changing of the seasons to reach the All-Ireland final. He just didn’t know that their road to glory would almost bring them right back around to their winter starting point.

“‘We’re gonna get to the dark evenings in September,’” says former Kerry footballer Aodán Mac Gearailt to The42, quoting the great Ó Sé.

“He always mentioned that to us, even at the start of the year when we were struggling with pre-season training.”

There’s no easy earning involved in winning the Sam Maguire, and Kerry were squeezed all the way to becoming champions in the year 2000.

Aodán Mac Gearailt in action in the 2000 All-Ireland final.

Source: Patrick Bolger/INPHO

A 3-15 to 0-8 win over Clare in the Munster final propelled them straight into the last four of the All-Ireland championship where they were paired with Armagh.

That tussle went to extra-time and a replay before the Kingdom prevailed by three points to book their place in the decider. On the other side of the draw, the 1998 All-Ireland finalists Galway and Kildare renewed their rivalries to determine who would take the other place in the final.

For a second successive time, Galway triumphed over the Lilywhites. They were back in an All-Ireland final, but would have to march into Croke Park without key forward Ja Fallon — the star of their 1998 success who was sidelined by a cruciate ligament injury earlier that season.

“We had watched all the clips, and the players they had,” says Mac Gearailt about studying that talented Galway outfit.

“These were all good footballers. We had watched a lot of footage prior to the game. They had serious pace in their team and we had actually played them in a few challenge matches in Mary I in Limerick.

“One week we might win, the next week they’d win. They were very tough but the pace Galway played with was frightening.

“Without the Armagh games, we definitely would have struggled against that Galway team and I think it brought us to another level.

“I think we needed those two games. We kind of breezed a bit to the semi-final and we were very young, it kind of battle-hardened us.”

Paul Clancy battles for the ball in the air with Séamus Moynihan.

Source: Lorraine O’Sullivan/INPHO

Moycullen attacker Paul Clancy didn’t start the 1998 All-Ireland final against Kildare. He did feature in the Tribesmen’s famous charge to victory, but a hairline fracture sustained in the Connacht championship cost him a place in the starting lineup. 

He was injury-free for the 2000 final, securing the number 10 jersey for the Kerry encounter in Croke Park. He would even go on to orchestrate one of the greatest goals in All-Ireland final history when the tie went to a replay.

But Clancy didn’t get to play the orthodox half-forward role for long in the drawn final.

It was a disastrous start for Galway, slipping into a 0-8 to 0-1 deficit after an early Kerry bombardment. Mike Frank Russell, Johnny Crowley and Liam Hassett all chipped in with two points each to help push the Kingdom into that ascendancy. 

Pádraic Joyce was at the edge of the square for Galway from the throw-in, with eventual Footballer of the Year, and Kerry captain, Séamus Moynihan keeping him company. The pair knew each other from their college football days at Tralee IT, and were well versed in each other’s style of play.

Looking for a way back into the contest, Clancy and Joyce swapped positions for Galway.

“I remember them storming ahead,” Clancy recalls of that early burst from Kerry that left Galway chasing shadows.

“I remember us being quite flat getting into it, where we had a nice kind of build-up that morning. But once we got to the pitch, we were just a little bit flat.

“To switch it up slightly, I went in there to try and get on some ball and give Séamus Moynihan a different look.

“Sure Séamus is Séamus. He’s a tough player, he’s quick and aggressive.

But there’s no point standing back so I think we had a good enough tussle in 2000 and I was able to win a good bit of ball. And then Pádraic started playing a lot better at centre-forward and we just clawed our way back into it.”

In a previous interview with The42, Dara Ó Cinnéide — who lined out in the Kerry attack that day — remarked that his county were accused of coughing up leads too easily in those years.

Mac Gearailt also remembers that perception following them around at the time, and points to their Division 1 semi-final against Meath. They scored 1-18 against the Royals but fumbled their advantage before crashing to a two-point defeat in Thurles.

With defeats like that in mind, Ó Sé often told his players that outsiders looked upon them as “chokers,” according to Mac Gearailt.

Kerry’s gameplan for the final was to be relentless if they got their noses in front, but Galway exposed their underlying frailties, forcing their way back into contention to draw level.

They even had a few late chances to snatch a victory, but a replay was the final result as the scoreline read 0-14 apiece. 

“We did slip in the second half and maybe we got a bit complacent but again, that Galway team was a very good team,” Mac Gearailt continues.

We had our purple patch but we didn’t drive it home and maybe that was a lack of experience by some of us but I think in the end, we were relieved to get a replay.”

Mac Gearailt was surrounded by Ó Sés throughout his career. He shared a club dressing room with them as a forward with An Ghaeltacht. He also played through the underage grades with Tomás and came into a Kerry senior team that had Darragh

towering at midfield. 

Páidí Ó Sé on the sideline for the All-Ireland final replay in 2000.

Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Dara Ó Cinneide was part of the Ghaeltacht pack representing the Kingdom too.

They often travelled together for county training, with manager Páidí driving the car and providing entertainment for his passengers.

“It was good craic,” says Mac Gearailt of those days.

There was a lot of Johnny Cash on the go. I suppose the Last Word [with] Eamon Dunphy [as well]. Darragh Ó Sé, Dara Ó Cinneide, they’re interesting guys with strong opinions on things so there was more than football discussed.

“There was other things that I can’t talk about. There was politics, it was very interesting. Even the phone calls that would be coming through to his phone. He’d have them on speaker and there was great craic in the car.”

There were plenty of laughs in the car with Páidí but the air could get frosty too.

“If you weren’t going well, or if the team wasn’t going well, there was a maybe slightly different atmosphere in the car,” Mac Gearailt remembers. “You could sense that and Páidí, he might pull you to the side from time to time and tell you where you need to go and what you need to improve on.”

The replay took place on Saturday, 7 October, two weeks after the 0-14 all clash. Saturday All-Ireland final replays are not a rarity these days. Dublin finally completed their five-in-a-row heroics last year in those circumstances, but in 2000, this was a less familiar sight in the GAA.

It was, Clancy admits, a challenge to reset for the replay when you see All-Ireland final day “as the end of your season.” That conclusion doesn’t normally require a second day out in Croke Park. But as a general point, Clancy downplays that aspect of the 2000 decider.

“It was an All-Ireland final. On a Saturday evening? Who cares?” he notes.

Round two between Galway and Kerry was a comparably different game to the one they played out in September. It was a tight affair right up until the final stages where Kerry pulled away with a few decisive scores.

There was no drama in the end but the replay did feature the only goal of the two matches.

It arrived in the early stages of the first half, a superb team move from Galway that originated at Martin McNamara’s goals. The ball is eventually worked out to Joyce on the wing, who cuts a fine footpass along the ground into the arms of Clancy.

While the play is building up, Galway defender Declan Meehan is advancing at speed along the opposite side of the pitch. With one glance over his shoulder, Clancy spots the run and delivers a perfect crossfield pass for Meehan to collect mid-stride and finish with a powerful shot into the corner of the net.

“It comes up again and again and again because people want to know if I meant it,” says Clancy about the public’s enduring fascination with that pass.

“It was a really good team move. John Divilly did exceptionally well. Pádraic would never be back that far normally and he played a one-two to find himself out on the wing, and then he played the kickpass.”

Elaborating on the intricacies of the move, Clancy continues: 

“I would have been playing on that side with Deccy [Meehan] since we were underage. I would have hit that pass underage and the corner back would have cut it out a couple of times. 

“Once the ball starts to move, he’s gone. We would always know that and I was after playing full-forward, so the only risk on that pass is if someone is in behind you.

But I was actually in there so I knew there was nobody behind me. And when I saw him gone, I thought ‘ok, I’m gonna drop this in front of him.’ But he just met it on the button and smashed it into the corner. Fair play to him.”

An incredible score that will go down in the annals of GAA folklore, but it wasn’t enough to prevent a Kerry victory as they sailed to a four-point win.

Due to renovation works at Croke Park, the cup presentation took place on the pitch. There were no steps to climb as captain Moynihan lifted the Sam Maguire in front of his team-mates.

“It was a bit of an anti-climax,” Mac Gearailt recalls of that peculiar post-match procession. 

None of our family or close friends were on the pitch. My mother had to shout at me through a barrier, small things like that. It would have been nice to go up [into] the stand and lift the cup and have a moment with those closest to you, but it didn’t take away from it.”

Galway would go on to win the All-Ireland the following year, after coming through the qualifier route in its inaugural year in the football championship.

Kerry players celebrate after receiving the Sam Maguire cup on the pitch.

Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

There was a unique sense of camaraderie between the Galway and Kerry teams of that era.

Although Clancy was marshalled by Moynihan for much of the 2000 All-Ireland, he was also marked by Éamonn Fitzmaurice before the switch with Joyce. Clancy received a card from Fitzmaurice wishing him the best before the ’01 final, and he repaid the favour to his opponent when Kerry reached the decider in ’02.

Both teams had Gaeilgeoirs in their ranks as well, and their rivalry always had an undercurrent of respect because of that.

“I was speaking in Irish to Seán Óg De Paor coming off Croke Park,” says Mac Gearailt, who was marked by the An Cheathrú Rua defender in 2000.

I can still hear the verbals between Darragh Ó Sé and Seán Ó Domhnaill, they were having a right cut off each other through Irish during the game, which is a lovely memory.

“There was a lot of Gaeltacht connections between Galway and Kerry. There was a lot of respect among the players.”

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