Dinny Allen: the chaos of the new Páirc in '76

Dinny Allen Cork GAA Footballer


The revamped Páirc Uí Chaoimh, which reopened last summer, only truly comes alive this weekend when it will host its first Cork and Kerry championship clash.

Roll back 42 years though, and the original opening of the stadium revealed quite the afternoon down by the marina. So many people filled into the new venue that they were spilling out onto the field. A reported 40,600 people paid in, but another 10,000 flooded through a broken gate.

It was perhaps the most chaotic of provincial finals, with goalkeepers Billy Morgan (Cork) and Paudie O'Mahony (Kerry) having their sightlines obscured by the patrons.

Dinny Allen, who made his championship debut in 1972 but missed out on the All-Ireland a year later due to his soccer involvement, recalls the memorable scenes of the 1976 Munster final at the Páirc.

“It was a drawn match and it was a very wet day,” says Allen. “They let too many people in the match; how they got in I don't know. I think you were allowed to pay at the gates because it wasn't tickets at that stage. They were all sitting on the sidelines and sitting behind the goal and everything, because there were too many up in the terraces.”

“You couldn't faze Kerry anyway. I remember at one stage Ger Power tried to take a sideline kick and there were fellas pulling on his jersey trying to put him off as he tried to kick the ball. That was the way the situation was, and we drew the match (0-10 to 0-10) in a low-scoring game — there were no goals scored.”

“I didn't get much of the ball, to be honest with you, but I got the equaliser with the last kick of the game. Most of the talk in the papers was about the non-control of the crowd at the match.”

“They were like flies around the goals,” Allen says with a laugh. “When we got a point, a couple of hundred people would run out to the pitch and start clapping a fella on the back, and you had fellas then trying to get them off the pitch."

Kerry won the replay 3-20 to 2-19, also at Páirc Uí Chaoimh, after extra time and Allen says there was a huge turning point towards the end of normal time. Kerry were given a disputed goal down one end, while Declan Barron thought he had netted for the Rebels only for square ball to be called.

Ultimately, the Kingdom won the extra 20 minutes with something to spare, and it was to go down as the second of eight finals in a row in which they would beat Cork. When the tide finally turned in 1983, it was most unexpected.

“The saving grace of how I survived losing eight Munster finals in a row is that I was playing with my club Nemo Rangers who were successful. I was quite happy with my career, even in ‘83 when people were saying to me that ‘I hope you win a Munster final.’

“At that stage, I was philosophical about it: ‘if I win one, I win one; and if I don't, I don't.’ There are more important things in my life than having to win a Munster final. So I just went out and hoped for the best. Amazingly in 1983, the one that we won, it was one we didn't expect to win. The preparation we had for it wasn't great, and our attitude was about going out and trying to keep the score down. We ended up getting the goal in the last minute which change the whole thing.”

Tadhg O'Reilly sent a long ball upfield in the direction of Allen, but it bounced off the latter’s chest and onto the ground. He picked it up without using his toe, and even though referee John Maloney was only ten yards away, he never blew for the infraction. In fact, Páidí Ó Sé was instead penalised for wrapping his arounds around the Nemo man.

“I got up and I was looking for a short one, but next thing O’Reilly was coming behind me and all I heard was ‘get out of the f****** way’. So I put the ball down on the ground and he just ran from way back and pumped it into the square. Tadhgie Murphy got the ball, took a shot and it hit both posts and went into the net. It could have come out just as easily, and with the luck we had, we were expecting it to come out but it ended up inside in the net. The referee blew it up 30 or 40 seconds later. To do it that way it was unbelievable. It was one of the big memories.”

Allen left the panel in 1985 but manager Billy Morgan tempted him back once more in 1988. It turned out to be a masterstroke because Allen hit the decisive goal in a narrow Munster final win over Kerry. 

A year later, having just turned 37, Dinny Allen had the honour of lifting the Sam Maguire Cup — 16 years after missing out.

Billy met me maybe two or three weeks after the All Ireland final and said that he wanted me to be there again next year, and I said ‘Billy, I'm gone’. He was like a scalded cat knowing there was no discussing this. Get out while the going is good.”

This current Rebels side have gone through some tough days but the mood has been altered somewhat by a convincing Munster semi-final win over Tipperary. Kerry are chasing a six-in-a-row and their revamped team, featuring a horde of young talent, is hotly fancied.

“This is a big match now for Kerry, because they always like to set the standards and it will be their first time in the refurbished Páirc. It's a historic thing in one way. Kerry will be all out and they are obviously favourites and deservedly so.

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“Cork are up against it and there is no denying about whether we're going to beat them or anything like that. I think a lot of matches between Cork and Kerry depend on Cork’s attitude in the first quarter of an hour, whether there are there signs of an upset. But if Kerry look on their game in the first quarter of an hour, they generally go on to win, so that's very important. They are favourites and rightly so.”