Aidan Corr talks to Des Kennedy, who scored many goals for Limerick - including two against Real Madrid - in a distinguished career
A SCORING record of 137 goals for the Blues, league and cup winning medals in 1980 and 1982 and the distinction of scoring European Cup home and away goals against Real Madrid make Des Kennedy Limerick’s best ever centre forward.
Indeed, his achievements are unlikely to be matched although he surprised us this week by rating the pre-season friendly between Limerick and Tottenham Hotspur at Thomond Park on August 10, 1981 as one of the best football experiences of his playing career.
“Spurs had won the cup that year and it was Mick Crowe who got them to come to Limerick. The ground was very hard at Thomond Park two days before the game and Mick got the fire brigade out to hose the pitch and then hired a heavy roller to level it out.
“Spurs brought a squad that included Chris Hughton, Ricky Villa, Steve Perryman and Ossie Ardiles and that was the night that Glenn Hoddle lit up Thomond Park with four brilliant goals. We were well beaten but the atmosphere was fantastic.”.
Now that big time soccer is returning to his native city, Des is optimistic that the good days could be returning: “It’s great to see football in this city back in the top level again and the main aim this season is that they stay up. I wish them all the best of luck for the campaign and this is the time to create a good foundation for the years ahead. Obviously, I would like to see football return to the Markets Field. It would be handy for me,” joked the auto electrician whose premises are just two decent goal kicks from the now empty stadium.
A product of local sides Wembley Rovers and Janesboro, Dessie made his Limerick debut as a teenager in 1972 after spending five months on trial with Southampton at the Dell. An ever-present in the Limerick side for over a decade, he recalled the two goals against Madrid that are now part of Limerick football folklore.
“The goal in Lansdowne Road was a bit lucky. We had a free kick on the left hand side and Jimmy Nodwell played it into the box. Duggie (Gerry Duggan) won a header, the ball fell in front of me, I reacted and it hit my shin and went in. “
That goal, on 51 minutes, put Limerick 1-0 up and it stayed that way until 20 minutes from time when Madrid needed a penalty to draw level. Indeed they only got the winner with six minutes remaining. Given that they had beaten Bilbao 7-1 the previous weekend in the Spanish league, it was quite an effort from Limerick.
It was then back to Madrid for the second leg and Kennedy got in on the scoring act again.
“In the Bernabeu the build-up to the goal was similar,” he remembers.”Pat Nolan floated a free in and this time I met it on the volley and the goalie had no chance.”
“Eoin (Hand) told us going out that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity and we should go out there, play our own style of football and just enjoy ourselves. We were nervous taking the field with about 60,000 Madrid fans creating a terrible din but we settled down once the game got underway.
“We knew we were not going to win but we did not want to be disgraced. After the match we went off and had a few beers and that was it.” Real won 5-1 for a 7-2 aggregate success. But they would concede only one more goal en route to the final, that in the second leg against Inter Milan in the semi-final. They were beaten 1-0 by Liverpool in the final.
“I have never been to the Bernabeu in Madrid since that night. I have often threatened to go there so maybe when there is a big birthday beckoning I’ll consider going back.”
Des played under managers Ewan Fenton and Eoin Hand during his career at the Markets Field: “It was Ewan who signed me from Janesboro. Both had their own qualities and when Dave Mahedy came on board he too brought new ideas to the club. We had a good team in the 1980s, it was a very happy squad and we had some great laughs. We didn’t need bonding sessions like they do in the modern game, we all just got on well together and we enjoyed our football, it was as simple as that. We were like a big group of friends, we were enjoying ourselves and we never fell out.”