In 1957, I spotted the 16th man in Croke Park
Family Fortunes: How I spotted the extra player during All-Ireland final day 1957
AJ Hobbins with his dad on All-Ireland final day in Croke Park in 1957.
There we are in Croke Park in 1957 for the All-Ireland final, my dad and I hanging on to our raincoats and the Sunday Press while my brother Des took the photograph with my trusty Brownie Box camera. Limerick were not in the final but we had travelled up from there the day before. And my father had got tickets for Kilkenny v Waterford in the stand. He booked the three of us into Wynn’s Hotel in Abbey Street in Dublin and I remember the flashing red neon lights across the street that night.
We were up early and after a nice breakfast we were off to the match. The bus dropped us off and I almost burst with excitement as I caught my first glimpse of the stadium and we were almost guaranteed a cracker of a match between those two counties. I was impressed that my father had those precious tickets. No matter that there was some confusion and I had to share a seat with my brother.
The legends of the Mackey brothers from Ahane in Limerick as well as the Rackards in Wexford had been told to us many times but today they were nowhere to be seen as the teams ran onto the field. The crowd roared even louder as they marched below us behind the Artane Boys band.
I watched intently and as they marched I noticed something unusual about the Kilkenny team but kept it to myself as I did not want to appear silly. The game started and I wondered where Micheal O’Hehir was up here in the stand. I always listened to his match broadcasts on Sundays but today we were here watching with him.
The match was a thriller, score after score, level with seconds to go when Kilkenny’s captain shot over to win the game by a single point. We managed to climb onto the field to record the event. We ate the fish and chips on the way to the train and as the adults relived the game as we sped home a man asked the question: “Did anyone notice anything unusual about the teams as they marched around?” I piped up: “I did, there were 16 players on the Kilkenny team.” Smart lad I was told, I had unknowingly spotted the actor John Gregson who was playing the main part in the film “Rooney”, which was being filmed during the match.
Not a gripping tale but I was there to see it in the Savoy in Limerick a year later and there he was, the 16th man.