Stripy Men author:
The late Joe Cody
John McGovern – One of Kilkenny’s finest half-backs
The death occurred on Thursday February 24th of Johnny McGovern , one of the all-time greats of Kilkenny hurling.
He was part of the golden era of Bennettsbridge hurling when they won 11 county senior titles between 1952 and 1971. Johnny played in all 11 victories. He won 2 All Irelands with Kilkenny, in 1957 and 1963 and was one of the finest half backs of that era. He was also a selector with Kilkenny from 1967 to 1978.
A spokesperson for Bennetsbridge GAA said that the club was deeply saddened to hear of the passing of their Club Vice President.
“Johnny was one of our greatest ever hurlers and 1963 and was one of the finest half backs of that era.
According to the spokesperson “Off the field Johnny was a quiet modest gentleman who avoided the limelight. He was a great neighbour, clubman and friend. We offer our deepest sympathies to Johnny’s wife Eileen, son Niall, sisters Peggy and Kathleen, to his grandchildren, daughter in law and extended family. Johnny was one of the greats. May he rest in peace”.
As a tribute to the late Johnny McGovern, The Kilkenny Observer is publishing an article of the 1957 All-Ireland, with thanks to ‘The Stripy Men’ GAA book.
NOW coached by Fr Tommy Maher, Kilkenny began the championship year by drawing with Dublin, 1-11 to 2-8, in a game that could have gone either way at the end. Although supporters held no great expectations for the replay, Dublin were beaten by six points, 4-8 to 2-8.
A record crowd of 52, 272 went to Croke Park for the Leinster Final. They saw the outsiders, playing superb hurling, bring off a stunning victory over Wexford, defending All-Ireland Champions, by 6-9 to 1-5.
All-Ireland Final opponents would be near neighbours Waterford, who had a 1-11 to 1-6 victory over Cork in the Munster Final.
This young Waterford team, playing a fluent brand of hurling, utilizing both wings for sweeping attacks, were said to have the style of Kilkenny and the determination of Munster sides.
1957 All-Ireland SHC Final
Dublin: Croke Park
September 1, 1957
Kilkenny 4-10, Waterford 3-12
This final exploded into life right at the start when Waterford attacked from the throw in.
Thirty seconds gone, John Kiely put them ahead with a point. A minute later, Philly Grimes, with a free, doubled their lead.
Kilkenny’s riposte was swift. They had the next five scores. The sequence began when centre-forward Mick Kenny pointed a free.
The same player slammed home a great goal in the seventh minute from 30 yards out on the left wing.
White and Blue’s defence was under severe pressure. Even at this early stage, they had to thank Austin Flynn and Tom Cunningham for keeping them in the contest when, respectively, they saved efforts from Paddy Buggy and John Sutton.
This relief was only temporary. When Mick Kenny released Denis Heaslip, the Knocktopher man extended the lead with another point. During this period, Mick Brophy and John Sutton were dominating midfield. When the latter released Kenny, another white flag was raised.
Less than two minutes later, Kenny slotted a free. So the crowd saw, 15 minutes elapsed, Kilkenny rampant and five points ahead, 1-4 to 0-2.
Yet the youthful Déise men began to find their feet and to play some lovely hurling.
They attacked relentlessly and were only denied major scores by the brilliance of Ollie Walsh, who made two point blank saves in a couple of minutes.
One save, while on his knees, brought the supporters to their feet in a mighty ovation.
Walsh’s second save finished over the endline and Philly Grimes gave hope when he pointed the 70. Although Waterford were now ascendant, a lineball taken by Paddy Buggy, which appeared to be going
wide, was blocked back by Billy O’Dwyer. Sean Clohosey added the finishing touch for a nicely worked point.
Still Suirside attacked. But another great save by OllieWalsh meant scant reward for their efforts. Eventually the gap was narrowed, when concerted efforts resulted in a Kiely point. A minute later, Grimes succeeded with another free.
Five minutes later,Mick Kenny blasted for goal from a 21 yard free. His attempt was blocked and cleared upfield.
The ball was moved quickly and wound up, after a tussle around the Kilkenny square, in the net.
Unfortunately for Waterford, the goal was disallowed since the referee had blown for a free in. Déise despondency soon turned to elation when Grimes hammered the free under the crossbar and into the net.
Not for long. It got even better for Suirside when Dónal ‘Duck’ Whelan, on half time, pointed for an interval lead of 1-6 to 1-5.
John Keane, the Waterford coach, took advantage of the break to make strategic positional changes.
These switches saw Séamus Power move to centrefield to partner Philly Grimes, with Johnny O’Connor now at left half-back and Mickey O’Connor now at right half-back.
On resumption, the switches had immediate effect. An attack originating in midfield ended up with Dónal Whelan in possession. He gratefully accepted the chance to score a morale boosting goal.
A minute later, the sweet-striking Philly Grimes struck over a centrefield free. The Munster Champions now had a five-point lead at 2-7 to 1-5.
It was now Kilkenny’s turn to dig deep. Their chance was not long in arriving and they took full advantage.
A 70 from John Sutton appeared to be sailing wide but a spectacular effort by Dick Rockett returned the ball to a well positioned Billy O’Dwyer, who outwitted the defence and scored a much needed goal.
Shortly afterwards, when Mickey Kelly fell to the ground, he managed, to cut over the ball while still on his knees. This superb score really raised Noreside morale.
It must also have galvanized Waterford. At any rate, they once more took control. On 48 minutes, Whelan broke through the defence and placed a beautiful shot out of Ollie Walsh’s reach. His second goal of the afternoon put his side four points ahead. Then, from the puckout, the ball was worked to Frankie Walsh.
His point pushed the Suirsiders five in front.
A successful Mick Kenny free was smartly answered by two similar scores within two minutes by Whelan and Tom Cheasty, keeping up momentum.
At this stage John Sutton had to retire with an injury. He was replaced by the veteran Bill Walsh. Kilkenny were in a bind.
However, this substitution gave Fr Tommy Maher the chance to make a positional change, in which Seán Clohosey switched with Mickey Kelly. This realignment on the left wing saw an upturn in Black and Amber fortunes and a determined bid to wrest back the game began.
The fightback commenced when Johnny McGovern broke up an attack and sent a relieving clearance into the heart of the opposition backline. It was fielded by Clohosey, who swiftly passed to O’Dwyer.
The bustling full-forward grabbed the sliotar and lashed home a goal that left only three points between the sides.
Waterford were not about to yield. The deadly accurate Grimes quickly established a four-point lead with another free.
The contest, when Kenny and Grimes swapped pointed frees, entered its last ten minutes with Noresiders fearing the worst.
They had no idea what was to come. This compelling final, played with pace and skill by two evenly matched sides, was about to explode into a glorious finale.
The denouement started from the last line of the Kilkenny defence when imposing custodian Ollie Walsh saved, danced off his line and raced out with the ball.
The flamboyant Ollie launched a mighty puck into the Waterford rearguard. The clearance found Mickey Kelly, who slipped a clever pass to Mick Kenny.
The Callan native, in a twinkling, crashed to the net.
Croke Park rocked with excitement as both teams gave their all in the tussle for ultimate glory. The last chapter of a remarkable story was about to unfold in favour of the Black and Amber.
Four minutes left, the Noresiders attacked. The wily Kelly slipped a ball to Clohosey. The renowned stylist from Tullaroan coolly shot an equalizing point.
Both sets of supporters were frantic. To captain Mickey Kelly fell the decisive blow. To rapturous approval, Kelly won the title when he struck the winning point from 45 yards.
Kilkenny, with their traditional charge, had come again in the final moments to snatch All-Ireland victory at the death. And so, despite the excellence of John Barron, Tom Cheasty, sharpshooter Philly Grimes, Larry Guinan, John Kiely, Martin Óg Morrissey, Frankie Walsh and DónalWhelan, Waterford came up agonisingly short.
Kilkenny had heroes all over the park. This victory revolved around the triangle formed by the half-back line (Paddy Buggy, Mick ‘Browly’ Walsh, Johnny McGovern) and the midfield pairing of Mick Brophy and John Sutton.
Of the forwards, Billy O’Dwyer, Mickey Kelly and ‘Man of the Match’ Mick Kenny (who scored 2-5) led the way. Yet, truthfully, the hearts of many supporters were captured by ebullient and effervescent goalkeeper Ollie Walsh.
Before the match, the movie star John Gregson, who was making a film in Ireland later released as Rooney (1958), had paraded with the Kilkenny team.
As both sets of supporters left Croke Park, it was more local stars that filled their imagination.
Kilkenny: 1 Ollie Walsh (Thomastown) 2 Tom Walsh (Dunnamaggin) 3 Jim ‘The Link’ Walsh (Dunnamaggin) 4 John Maher (Crokes: Dublin) 5 Paddy Buggy (Slieverue) 6 Mick ‘Browly’ Walsh (Slieverue) 7 Johnny McGovern (Bennettsbridge) 8 Mick Brophy (Danesfort) 9 John Sutton (Mullinavat) 10 Denis Heaslip (Knocktopher) 0-1 11 Mick Kenny (John Lockes) 2-5 (0-4f) 12Mickey Kelly (Bennettsbridge) captain 0-2 13 Dick Rockett (Slieverue) 14 Billy O’Dwyer (Foulkstown) 2-0 15 Sean Clohosey (Young Ireland Dublin) 0-2.
Subs: 16 Ned Fenlon (St Vincent’s) 17 Jimmy Murphy (Carrickshock) 18 PJ Garvan (Dicksboro) 19 Bill Walsh (Young Ireland: Dublin) for John Sutton [inj] (48m) 20 Liam Cleere (Bennettsbridge).
Extra-programme: 21 Jim Hogan (Móindearg: Dublin).
Waterford: 1 Dickie Roche (Mount Sion) 2 Tom Cunningham (Dungarvan) 3 Austin Flynn (Abbeyside) 4 John Barron (De La Salle) 5 Mickey O’Connor (Cappaquin) 6 Martin Óg Morrissey (Mount Sion) 7 Séamus Power (Mount Sion) 8 Johnny O’Connor (Abbeyside) 9
Philly Grimes (Mount Sion) captain 1-6 (1-5f, 1 70) 10 Mick Flannelly (Mount Sion) 11 Tom Cheasty (Ballyduff Lower) 0-1 12 Larry Guinan (Mount Sion) 13 Frankie Walsh (Mount Sion) 0-1 14 John Kiely (Dungarvan) 0-2 15 Dónal ‘Duck’ Whelan (Abbeyside) 2-2.
Subs: 16 Mick Lacey (Cappaquin) 17 Billy Dunphy (Dunhill) 18 Dom Enright (Abbeyside) 19 Joe Harney (Ballydurn) 20 Ned Power (Dungarvan).
Extra-programme: 21 Liam Doocey (Cappaquin) Unavailable: Batty Foley (Ballydurn) [ill].
Referee: Stephen Gleeson (Limerick).
Roll of honour: Cork (19), Tipperary (16), Kilkenny (14), Dublin (6), Limerick (6), Wexford (3), Clare (1), Galway (1), Kerry (1), Laois (1), London (1), Waterford (1).