Thursday, March 7, 1996

1935 All Ireland Final - Cavan v. Kildare

The Irish Press for Saturday the 21st of September 1935 had under a front page headline "Greatest Game This Year - Expectations for Final Tomorrow - Cavan -v- Kildare", the story of the second meeting between these two Counties in an All Ireland Final scheduled for the following day. The pundits expected the Final to go the way of the first meeting between the Counties when Kildare were victorious. "No Gaelic game for several years aroused so much interest" wrote the Press reporter who alerted his readers to "a minor sensation created when the Kildare selectors decided to drop the goal keeper who played in all their matches this year". The player dropped was Patrick "Cuddy" Chanders of Athy, the County team's regular goal keeper who had kept his goal intact throughout the Championship games leading up to the All Ireland Final. He was replaced by Jim Maguire of Naas who had played for some years on the County team but never as goal keeper. The G.A.A. Club in Athy were incensed at what they felt was unfair treatment of their Club member and sent a telegram of protest to the team's training quarters at Oakley Park, Celbridge. All to no avail, even though it was rumoured that the Kildare mentors were reconsidering the matter on the morning of the Final. Many of the team members including Paul Matthews, team Captain, and Tommy Mulhall both colleagues of Chanders in Athy, were unhappy with the Selectors decision as were Castledermot players Paddy Martin and Patrick Byrne.

Some persons have claimed that Chanders allegedly poor performance in a challenge game against Meath was the reason for his demotion. In that game he had conceded six goals but did so while playing behind defenders who were not regulars on the County team. Given his solid performances in the Kildare shirt since first being selected it does seem insufficient reason for dropping him on the eve of an All Ireland Final.

Kildare had beaten Cavan on their own home ground in a challenge game some months previously. They were expected to run out easy winners in Croke Park on All Ireland day. Maybe it was over confidence which led the Kildare mentors to pick Maguire instead of Chanders. The Athy man was seen as a "pick and shovel man" and might have been regarded as a less suitable ambassador for Kildare football than Maguire. This claim gained currency in the aftermath of Kildare's defeat given that as All Ireland Champions Kildare would be expected to travel to America the following May. As Paddy Chanders proved in his later life not least by his dignified acceptance of what was a very strange decision by the Kildare mentors he was as good an ambassador as any Club or County could ever hope to have.

The radio programme on Athlone wavelength that Saturday night included a short item immediately following the second news at 10.45 p.m. when the Captains of Cavan and Kildare spoke for a few minutes from the Dublin studio on their chances in the great match. Kildare Captain, 29 year old Paul Matthews from Athy said "I think we will win. We are better in fact than against Mayo and are by no means underestimating the strength of Cavan whom we know as great Championship fighters. There may not be a great deal in it but what little there is will I think be on the side of Kildare".

Another Athy Club player on the team was Tommy Mulhall described by the Press with Mickey Geraghty, Frank Dowling and Jimmy Dowling "as the smartest quartet of footballers seen out in the past ten years". Tommy at 24 years of age was playing in his first All Ireland Final at right half forward.

The papers on Monday the 23rd of September told the sad tale so far as Kildare followers were concerned. "All Whites had no answer to Brefni, bustle and dash" ran the headline in the Irish Press. In a game in which the older style of high-catching and long kicking of Cavan was matched against the skill and craft of Kildare, Cavan were victorious. The splendid fielding of the Cavan men was especially noted at midfield where Paul Matthews did not play as well as expected and where his colleague Kit Higgins was injured early in the first half. Cavan ran into an early lead and were 1-5 to 0-1 in front three minutes before the end of the first half. Tommy Mulhall then scored a goal after the ball had rebounded off the upright following a shot by Tom Keogh. The half time whistle blew with Cavan leading 2-5 to Kildare's 1-2.

On the resumption Cavan continued their scoring spree adding another goal and point before Kildare replied with a point by Paul Matthews. But the result was inevitable and despite Kildare's efforts to cut back on the Cavan lead, the final whistle went with Cavan running out relatively easy winners on the score line of 3-6 to 2-5.

Paul Matthews, a Louth man who had never played football before coming to Athy, in the post-match interview acknowledged that on the day Cavan were speedier and showed rare dash and opportunism. As the last Kildare team Captain in an All Ireland came off the field at Croke Park he wished Cavan every luck and promised that Kildare would soon be back. Paul was not to know that 61 years later the short grass County is still awaiting its opportunity to erase the memory of the All Ireland defeat of 1935.

Interestingly enough Jim Maguire who played in goal in such controversial circumstances "had not much of a chance of stopping the three shots which beat him", according to the Irish Press report of the match. Jim played three more matches in goal for County Kildare letting in nine goals, an average of three per match. Cuddy Chanders was recalled to the County team two months after the All Ireland final and continued to play as County goalkeeper until February 1936.

We will never know if his presence on the team on All Ireland day would have made the difference between defeat and victory. Certainly the Kildare defence did not play as well as expected. Were they unsettled by the controversy surrounding Chanders? We will never know. As Patrick Chanders sat on the substitutes bench on All Ireland day in company with Jim Fox and Barney Dunne, another Athy Club player, he may have wondered what part Athy's defeat by Castledermot in the first round of the Championship in Narraghmore on the 11th of August 1935 had played in his demotion. Castledermot represented by Paddy Martin and Patrick Byrne, fellow County players, put four goals past the County goalkeeper that day. Was it an ominous sign which first planted the seeds of doubt in the minds of the Kildare mentors?

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