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Kildare's defeat in the National League Final of 1958

 Leinster Leader 22 May 2008

Dublin machine too good for All-Whites in pulsating final

The ‘always the bridesmaid never the bride’ story of Kildare football seems to be imprinted in the genes of the county’s Gaelic followers. How often has great promise been shown in the early stages of league or championship campaign only to evaporate in the white-heat of the Croke Park cauldron? That was certainly the case in the National League final of 1958 when Kildare seemed poised to break the bad luck of decades and grasp the county’s first league title and indeed its first national senior success in thirty years.
And on that May Sunday of 1958 the legion of All-White supporters who converged on Croke Park were given every grounds for optimism. As the opening line in the Leader report of the game related ‘When the All Whites led at half time by four points against Dublin in the final of the National Football League the large gathering of enthusiastic Kildare supporters visualised an All-White victory’ but it was too good to be true and the note of bewilderment coming through the report is palpable ‘However, whatever the reason, the Kildare men did not play the same brilliant brand of football in the second half as in the first and Dublin definitely were the superior team in tactics and skill.’ And perhaps it was a mark of the writer’s despair that the blame-the-referee card was played ‘ … Kildare held on grimly until five minutes from full time, when Dublin got a goal which many Kildare supporters maintain should never have been scored had the referee, Simon Deignan (Cavan), been on the mark to witness a Kildare back being fouled in play’.
However there is a long tradition in the local press of finding the moral victory in defeat: ‘though beaten we were far from disgraced’ was the scribe’s verdict. And credit was given to where it was due – the distinctive passing pattern of the Dublin side known to other commentators as the ‘Dublin machine’ was in evidence in the 1958 season: ‘Dublin are adept at combination play. The players have a wonderful knowledge of each other’s tactics’.   And moral victory or not the Leader correspondent did not hesitate to scold some of the Kildare team for their shortcomings: ‘Kildare players were warned and warned time and again of the necessity of close marking but in some cases the advice fell on deaf ears. Dublin’s first goal came from lax marking and when players fail to take the advice given them they lose the confidence of the Selectors’.
Credit was given to Kildare’s better players but there was a scolding sting in the tail of the Leader reporter’s assessment: ‘The opposition was great and some of our players did not shine as brightly as we expected but Flood, Gibbons, Tom Conolly, S. Moore, and Treacy reproduced their old wizardry. This however does not detract from the hard work of the other players and if some of the backs had marked more closely and used their brains more quickly we might have held our opponents to the end.’ 
The robust nature of the play is indicated by the account of substitutions and injuries: ‘During the course of the game S. Maguire and ‘Pa’ Connolly had to retire injured. They were replaced by P. Timmons and M. Doyle, both of Sarsfields. Pa Connolly was attended at the Mater Hospital where he is retained for a few days with an ankle injury.’
Such swipes at the lax performance of the backs alternated with renewed declarations of a moral victory at Croke Park that day: ‘All around the county we hear nothing but praise for the All-Whites … There were many who looked askew at us when we prophesised a great future for this combination. Some of the pessimists now are loud in their praise forgetting that they held out little hope of Kildare going far in the League.’
And the praise for the All-Whites was celebrated in a tangible way in the capital: ‘The team was entertained to dinner in the Ormonde Hotel later in the evening by the Kildaremen’s Association in Dublin. Over 130 guests attended and loudly praised the Kildare team when they appeared.’
No doubt the toasts of ‘Cill Dara Abu’ echoed across the Liffey as Kildare’s appearance on the stage of national football greatness was celebrated in the capital city.
Series No. 68

Liam Kenny in 'Nothing New Under the Sun,' Leinster Leader 22 May 2008, comments on the defeat of Co. Kildare in the National League Final of 1958 by Dublin. 

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