(Part 4 of 4 with Jack Kelly)
When participating in sports there’s only one goal…to win!
That’s what we strive for, no questions asked. Look, I totally understand about the “sportsmanship” side of this, but when you walk on the field or the court, you are there for one thing; to beat the opponent!
There’s no, “Everyone who participates gets a trophy” mandate.
In football, you want to be the last team standing at the end of the season. To be holding that championship trophy. To be popping the bubbly! That’s every competitor’s goal.
And for some reason or another, if you come up short, well, you look back, back adjustments and come back stronger the following season.
It’s been 30 years since McBears beat Farrell’s for the championship down at Farragut Road. It was a memorable day for all involved. Farrell’s was the big brother, McBears the little brother. McBears was the new kid on the block, Farrell’s, well let’s just say they owned the block!
Jerry Kavanagh, who played with Farrell’s had this say about Jack Kelly: “Jack was an undersized defensive lineman who was all business preparing for and during the games and a pleasure to be around after the games. A great teammate on Farrell’s and competitor on McBears.”
Container Diaries: Jack, as a member of McBears football team, tell us about the championship game against your former team?
Jack Kelly: Well if it was the previous year, we would have collapsed and not made the playoffs. But that championship year we were a different team and a big reason was Paulie Kenny. Paulie was the coach for Brennan’s and after Brennan’s beat Farrell’s for the championship the previous year my brother Mike and a friend of mine from Brennan’s Eddie Leahy, told me that Paulie did not want to coach Brennan’s.
Mike and I went out to the bar while they were celebrating and I asked Paulie if he would like to be the coach of McBears, I barely got the words out of my mouth and he answered “absolutely!”
Boy did it pay off. Paulie kept us focused.
The next week against Skee’s (one of the top three teams we never beat) we won, 19-6. Then the next week we beat Kits and the week after that we beat Brennan’s (another of those teams we never beat) 6-0. On the last week of the regular season after clinching a playoff spot, we beat Hollywood Knights so bad that in the second half the offense played defense and the defense played offense. We were a confident and dangerous team going into the Playoff Game against Skee’s and we beat them 15-6 setting up the showdown against the only team left in the league we never beat. That was our goal and what better place to do it than in the Championship?
Container Diaries: Tell us about the week before the game?
Jack Kelly: It started the Sunday after we beat Skee’s and Farrell’s beat Brennan’s. It was emotional for all of us on both teams but as the week went on I began to notice that while the Farrell’s guys were feeling the pressure we were bursting with confidence and it goes back to the first practice after game six when Farrell’s beat us bad, 15-2 dropping our record to 2 and 4.It was a week where players from both teams were going to each others bar’s setting the tone for the game. It was during that week I began noticing something different about Farrell’s and I understood immediately , they had everything to lose. Christmas night before the game Paulie called me and I mentioned to him how tight the Farrell’s players were and that’s when he told me about a play he wanted to run against Farrell’s for a while but he wanted to wait for the right moment and he laughed as he said, “I guess tomorrow is the moment.”
Container Diaries: The coin toss is always one of my favorite scenes leading up to the game; what was it like at mid-field with your ex-teammates?
Jack Kelly: Right before the coin toss as the Captains were going out to the middle of the field I remember before going out asking Paulie five times what to do if we win the coin flip and what to do if we lose, because I couldn’t think of anything else except the game.
Container Diaries: Describe the first half?
Jack Kelly: The first set of downs for Farrell’s offense set the tone for the rest of the game. Against us Farrell’s liked to use two quarterback’s, Gerard and Charlie Kawas. Those two had different styles and John Devaney didn’t want our defense to get comfortable but as they say “if you want to make God laugh tell him about your future plans.”
Gerard was knocked out of the game on Farrell’s first offensive possession. So that left just Charlie and we knew him very well and what he liked to do. A group of us learned so much about him on defense from so many afternoons practicing against him while we were playing for Farrell’s. On our second offensive possession Paulie called me and said here it comes, and just as he described to me the night before Ronnie pumped short then dropped a bomb right into Anthony Page’s arms for a touchdown. Paulie later told me that he knew it would work but he never wanted to do it during the regular season because John and Mike would’ve remembered and defended against it.
He said he knew we would be in the championship against Farrell’s that’s why he said yes the day I asked him to coach us; now that’s confidence.
Two possessions later we scored another touchdown and the extra point taking a 13-0 lead. But when you play a team like Farrell’s you don’t celebrate until it’s over. Charlie K ran the throw off back for a touchdown and after the extra point a 13-0 lead became 13-7 at halftime.
Container Diaries: The second half, what was it like?
Jack Kelly: The second half was very tense with a few guys getting kicked out, including yours truly. Our offense scored again putting the game away with only a few minutes remaining, 19-7. Our defense and offense was the story that day, a complete team victory with both sides of the ball dominating. The defense shut Farrell’s offense down with their only score coming from a run back and our offense scoring three touchdowns against a Farrell’s defense that was second to none. We beat the last of the teams that dominated us for so long.
Container Diaries: Victory! How did it feel?
Jack Kelly: Now we were the best and the celebration lasted for months or as some ninth avenue guys say, “It’s still going on.”
I knew that was my last game, I was hurt the entire year with a bad ankle but what I didn’t know was that it turned out being the last game ever played in the league. The league folded the next year.
This December 26th will be the 30th anniversary of that game and the funny thing is I can’t tell you about last week but I remember 30 years ago like it was yesterday. Perhaps it’s because I have the Championship Trophy and the game ball on my mantle or maybe it’s because my father is still wearing the McBears Championship jacket me and Michael got for him but whatever it is…. December 26th, 1982 McBears was Champions.
To conclude, it’s all about the ring. It’s about giving everything you have and winning the ultimate prize; the championship. Just ask Jack Kelly who has the championship trophy sitting at home?
Thanks to Jack Kelly for taking the time to share his thoughts on his experience with Farrell’s and McBears football.