| The Great Days of 1967
IN 1967, New York was a wonderful place! While Ireland was just beginning
to emerge from the turbulent decades of emigration that decimated the
countryside and forced thousands to leave their homeland New York, despite
the recently changed arrival laws in 1965, was alive with the music and
culture of home.
Gaelic Park was the place to meet and greet, to find a job and meet a
wife. To socialize with old friends and find new. The GAA scene was brimming
with vitality, exuberance and life.
The New York football and hurling squads were having a renaissance with
competition with Ireland due to the return of their participation in the
National League. The footballers enjoyed unparalleled success with a win
over Dublin in the 1964 National League final. A win over Offaly at the
end of the trip around the world of 1964.
Victories in games against Longford in the ‘66 League final second
leg (Longford took the title on aggregate), and close losses to Galway
in ‘65 (they beat Galway in the first leg 0-8 to 1-4) and Kerry.
When the Tribesmen won the home League title in 1967, and were preparing
for the trip to New York for the two legged affair against the home squad,
they had also won the Sam Maguire for three consecutive years, ‘64,
‘65, and ‘66.
They were at the pinnacle of the sporting world in Ireland and the team
was a who’s who of superstars. Johnny Geraghty, Enda Colleran, Noel
Tierney and Matte McDonagh were just a few of the names that dotted the
team sheet of the Tribesmen lineout.
New York were, however, to cause a monumental shock to the footballing
and GAA world. The first leg was a played on May 14, 1967 and it was a
win for the home side 3-5 too 1-6 in front of 12,000 fans at the Mecca,
A week later the five point win was duplicated this time with a 4-3 to
0-10 scoreline. The squad that achieved this National League title win
was as follows: starting lineup first leg, 1) Willie Nolan (Offaly), 2
Kenny Finn (Louth), 3) Peter Nolan (Offaly), 4 Peter Maguire (Kildare),
5) Dermot Finn (Louth), 6) Seamus Nugent (Kildare), 7) Sonny Kenna (Roscommon),
8) Brendan Tumolty (Wicklow), 9) Tommy Feighery (New York), 10) Tommy
Furlong (Offaly), 11) Jim Foley (Kerry), 12) Mike Moynihan (Kerry), 13)Jimmy
Halpin (Meath), 14 Brendan O’Donnell (New York), 15) Dessie Ryan
(Tyrone), Paddy Cummins (Kildare), Mike Foley (Kerry), Rory Finn (Louth),
Mike Fitzgerald (Kerry), John O’Connor (Kerry), Eamonn McGuinness
(Cavan), Tony Brady (Louth), Pat Caulfield (Offaly), Danny Byrne (Wicklow),
Noel McGuinness, manager (Kilkenny).
This team will be honored when New York play Sligo in the Connaught championship
on May 13 this year to mark the 40-year anniversary of the feat. As the
date approaches we will take a closer look at the players that were part
of the game, with a couple of Galway greats giving their views and memories
Where better to begin on the voyage that will end with a look back at
the two games in detail than in the full back line where two superstars
stood side by side, Peter Nolan and Kenny Finn.
Like a host of great teams in all counties over the years that have had
deep family connections, the Connollys of Galway, the Lowrys, and Connors
in Offaly, Spillanes, O’Keefes in Kerry to name a few. New York
had the Nolan brothers, the three Finn brothers and the Foleys.
The Finn lads come from Dundalk, Co. Louth, and while the first question
to the majority of players is what was your club, Kenny Finn’s response
was a stunner. He stopped playing football at 15, until he arrived back
to New York at 21.
The 1950s were a different time, and you could not play both soccer and
Gaelic. Kenny signed a contract with Dundalk soccer club at 15, and thus
the GAA took a side seat for a period.
His soccer career was tremendous, it must be said. He captained Ireland
youths in 1955 at Goodison Park and won a FAI cup medal in 1958 when Dundalk
created a record that can not be beaten.
They did not concede a goal on their way to the Cup win, with Finn lining
out at left back. They beat Shamrock Rovers In the final that year.
He had been invited to trials with Louth minors as a 15 year old, but
Dundalk’s gain was certainly the Wee County’s loss. When he
arrived in New York, he continued to play soccer for the German Hungarians
and was capped for the U.S. when they played in qualifiers for the 1960
World Cup against Mexico.
He also played against Colombia as a defender, but was an emergency goalkeeper
when the regular keeper was injured. He kept a clean sheet for 45 minutes,
as the goals in a 2-0 loss were in the first half.
On arriving in New York in the fall of 1958, football returned to his
life as he was immediately asked into the New York panel after just three
games at Gaelic Park. No one knew him as a Gaelic player due to his soccer
career and the questions were, “Who is this lad!”
He proved his worth immediately. Center half back was his natural position,
and he played both their and in the full back line for the county.
He was on the conquering Kilkenny club team that took home a New York
county title, and also won a senior B title with his native Louth in New
When asked of the players and opponents of the time, he remarked, “You
always knew you were in a game with Jim Foley, he always came to play.
Johnny Creedan, who had played for Cork in Ireland, was another who was
tremendous. Paddy Casey, Peter Nolan, Paddy Cummins and Jimmy Halpin were
outstanding players.” Kenny Finn went on to play for New York for
16 years, but he said his vivid memories of the ‘67 final were the
fact that they made changes to suit Galway.
“We had five players that could play center halfback and we made
the changes needed and Galway was not able to threaten. There was a huge
crowd on hand and it was a fantastic win,” said Kenny, who presently
lives in New Jersey with his wife.
Standing beside Kenny Finn as the ball was thrown in was another star
of the 1950s from Ireland, Peter Nolan. Nolan had done it for Offaly while
Finn plied his trade with Dundalk.
Nolan was a county minor for the faithful in 1953 and was also on the
senior panel at the end of that year. His club was Clara in Offaly and
he was a mainstay for his club for seven years before immigration brought
him stateside. He won a county medal with Clara in 1960 when they beat
Tullamore in a replay.
As the 1950s unfolded, Nolan established himself on both the Offaly team
and the Leinster squad in the Railway Cup, which was a prestigious competition
at the time. He was on the winning Leinster team in 1959 that beat Munster,
and had Kevin Heffernan as a teammate and Mike O’Dwyer as an opponent
on that day.
He also was selected on the Ireland team that played the combined universities,
and on that day he had Frank Stockwell as a teammate and the other half
of the terrible twins Sean Purcell as a direct opponent.
“I always seemed to end up on Sean, and he was a handful, but I
enjoyed the challenge,” he said.
While establishing himself as a defender of class, the most amazing statistic
of Nolan’s career in Ireland is his name on the scoring charts.
He shares with Matt Connor, the star player from the seventies and eighties
for Offaly, the top scoring achievement when he scored 4-3 against Laois
in the first round of the 1958 championship in 60 minutes. He lined out
at number 11 that day. Connor scored 2-9 versus Kerry in seventy minutes
in the All-Ireland semifinal in 1980.
Nolan played in the first round of the All-Ireland championship in 1960
when Offaly beat Carlow luckily, and then headed for New York. That Offaly
team went on to the All-Ireland semifinal where they lost to Down in a
replay by two points. His brother Willie captained Offaly in the 1961
final where they again lost to Down, this time by a point, 3-06 to 2-08.
Nolan was a permanent fixture for the Big Apple for the next nine years
and was at full back when New York beat Dublin for the 1964 league title,
and was also on the trip around the world that culminated with a win over
Offaly at Tullamore a week before the Offaly minor team won the All-Ireland
Of the League final in 1967, Nolan had some distinct memories. “We
felt the games were over before the end, Galway could not keep with us.
If we had more competitive games at the time and if we were allowed in,
we could have had a real shot at the All-Ireland,” he said.
“The players in New York were top of the line in the 1960s. Brendan
Tumolty and Tommy Furlong were unbeatable in Gaelic Park. Jimmy Halpin
had a superb pair of hands, the softest I ever saw, and he could get up
in the air brilliantly. Paddy Casey was outstanding. They were fantastic
Peter Nolan currently resides in Williston Park, Long Island with his
wife, and their son Peter is well known to the Gaelic Park brethren as
a reporter and former player who represented New York at underage level.
In the weeks ahead we will delve further into the team of 1967, possibly
the greatest team ever in New York!