Majestic Mick Kennedy was a top-class defender

FRIDAY afternoon. Mick Kennedy was at home. He lives in a lovely spot. Up past Finglas. A cosy cottage. The flowers were blooming in the garden.

e puts on the kettle. And sits at the kitchen table. A nice mug of tea and a slice of fruit cake.

He was one of Dublin’s most highly-regarded defenders. For 13 years he wore the Dublin senior jersey.

He chats about his primary school days at St Fergal’s and the influence of a teacher there, Mick Gleeson, who won two All-Irelands with Kerry.

His own father, Tommy, played in goal for St Margaret’s. “Goalkeepers hadn’t much protection in those days,” reflects Mick, who had a brief spell between the Dublin posts after the retirement of Paddy Cullen and the arrival of John O’Leary.

Mick’s brother, Tommy, was also a fine footballer, and Mick began to play for the Margaret’s seniors just as he came out of minor.

“We had a very good minor team. We reached the Dublin Minor Championship semi-final. Several of us went straight onto the senior team.”

He grew up admiring Paddy Reilly. “Paddy was my idol. He was a great hero around here. Still is. He was a great clubman. The heart and soul of the club for so long.”

Margaret’s were playing Division 1 football. “We reached three successive Dublin Senior Football Championship quarter-finals. It was straight knock-out then.

“There were some top sides around. Division 1 was very competitive. You had the likes of Civil Service, St Vincent’s, Thomas Davis, Scoil Uí Chonaill and Plunkett’s.

“There would be big crowds at the games. The old Fingal Championship was such a huge thing back then.”

Mick played for the Dublin minors for two years and for the Dublin U-21s for three years. 

His Dublin senior debut arrived in 1979. The Leinster Championship final against Offaly. Kevin Heffernan brought him off the bench. With the instruction – mark Matt Connor.

“Matt was such a marvellous player. A beautiful footballer. And then you had brilliant forwards like John Egan and Colm O’Rourke.

“It was a different game then, especially if you played in the corner, or at full-back. It was man-to-man marking. The ball came in a lot quicker.”

Mick also played under Tony Hanahoe, and the three-man management team of Brian Mullins, Robbie Kelleher and Sean Doherty. And then Gerry McCaul and Paddy Cullen.

“I remember we lost to Meath in the 1986 Leinster final. Dublin were going for their fourth successive Leinster. I’d say if Meath had lost that match, a lot of them might have packed it in. They had been around for a long time. But they then went on to win two All-Irelands.”

The Royals were also involved in one of the most famous duels of all. The four-game Leinster Championship saga against the Dubs in 1991. He played in all four matches.

“I have never even watched it once,” admits Mick, the disappointment still lingering all these years later. “It was a match we should have won. We had it won three times, but fair play to Meath. They kept coming back. 

“And it’s amazing to think it was only a Leinster preliminary round. They drew with Wicklow in the first round proper and, eventually lost to Down in the All-Ireland final.”

One of his favourite memories is winning the National League in 1987.

“We beat Kerry in the final. Gerry McCaul was the manager. I regarded him highly.

“In ’89 Cork beat us in the All-Ireland semi-final. I felt sure we might have won the All-Ireland that year.”

Mick collected much silver over the years – National League, an All-Star, Railway Cup, Leinster and All-Ireland medals. “I don’t even know where the medals are,” he smiles.

“I know it’s gone now but the Railway Cup meant a lot to us back then.”

He was involved in a few All-Ireland days. The routine was simpler.

“I had a motorbike at the time. I’d go over to my auntie’s house on Jamestown Road in Finglas. And Johnny Quinn of Na Fianna would give me a lift to Croke Park. We’d park the car and walk to the dressing rooms which were in the Cusack Stand.

“On All-Ireland final day, there would be a meal after the game, normally at the Green Isle Hotel, but on all the other days, you went down to Meagher’s for a couple of pints before heading home. It’s so different now.”.

He marvels at what the modern-day Dubs have achieved, and he says that James McCarthy is a player that would excel on any team, in any era.

“People ask me all the time to compare eras, but you can’t. The game changes. It’s a different game now.

“There’s so much systems and tactics involved now. I love to see players being allowed to express themselves. 

“Another big change is the number of subs that teams use. When I was playing, you nearly had to have a broken leg before you came off!”

He watches the matches on the telly these days. But he still looks forward to rambling down to support Margaret’s.

“The club is doing well. They have great facilities down there.”

They know their onions in the North County. And all agree that there weren’t many better Dublin defenders than Mick Kennedy.

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