Magical memories of '92 still etched clearly in Donegal minds
TWENTY YEARS ago Michael Carruth won gold and Wayne McCullough won silver at the Olympic Games in Barcelona, Leeds United won the championship in England, Nick Faldo won the Irish Open in golf, Shelbourne won the League of Ireland and Bill Clinton became president of the United States of America.
In the world of the GAA, Kilkenny won another Liam MacCarthy cup and Donegal won their one and only All-Ireland senior championship – and I was lucky enough to be part of it.
The years have dulled many of the memories of the past, but the championship of ’92 and a wonderful summer when the whole county went mad are still etched firmly in the mind. It may be hard for supporters of the traditional counties to understand the hysteria that surrounded that campaign. We had won Ulster championships in the past but had fallen at the semi-final stage and many of the squad’s older players might have thought their chance of ever getting their hands on Sam Maguire was behind them.
When we went back to train after the Ulster championship we decided that if we were going to break our duck we had to get fitter, we had to get mentally stronger. And the fear of Croke Park had to disappear. We didn’t play well against Mayo but we went into the game believing that we could win it; not many Donegal teams in the past had that same belief.
We couldn’t have asked for better when Dublin defeated Clare in the other semi-final. We knew most of the attention would be on them. They would go into the game as clear favourites and their supporters would demand success. We had nothing to lose and, having played Dublin in the quarter final of the National League earlier in the year, knew we had a chance and didn’t have any reservations about playing the Dubs in their back yard.
The build-up to the game was surreal. There were four of us from the Killybegs club so the town was awash with green and gold. Everyone wanted a ticket and if they didn’t get one they were going to Dublin anyway. The only things left in the harbour that weekend were the seagulls and the boats.
The night before the game we stayed in Finnstown House in Lucan, had a brief team meeting, watched Match of the Day and then played a bit of cards. Everyone was relaxed and looking forward to the game.