Sunday 15 September 2019

Bonnie Prince Charlie: The darling of the Hill finally gets his reward

17 September 1995, Dublin's Charlie Redmond, who was earlier sent off in the game, celebrates victory over Tyrone after the final whistle in the 1995 All Ireland Final, Dublin V Tyrone, Croke Park. Picture Credit: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE
17 September 1995, Dublin's Charlie Redmond, who was earlier sent off in the game, celebrates victory over Tyrone after the final whistle in the 1995 All Ireland Final, Dublin V Tyrone, Croke Park. Picture Credit: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE

The sweet taste of success. 1995. Goodness knows how that Dublin team deserved it.

They didn't need to be playing Heartbreak Hotel on their head-phones. Disappointment had been a constant companion.

"Every sporting career has its ups and downs," reflects Charlie Redmond. "You see both sides of the coin. But it's the downs that make the ups."

The years hadn't been kind prior to '95, as Charlie well remembers.

"We had been on a long road. In 1991 we had the four-game saga against Meath. Donegal beat us in the '92 All-Ireland final.

"We lost to Derry in the All-Ireland semi-final the following year and then Down beat us in the '94 final. So it was a road that we were determined to get to the end of."

Dublin would play Tyrone in the '95 All-Ireland final. On the Thursday before the game, Charlie was practising his free-taking at Erin's Isle.

"It was something I had done over the years. I'd go up there on my own to practise. I was trying to become more accomplished at the free-taking. I didn't really like anybody looking at me.

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"Then one day Wayne McCarthy's father said that Wayne would be willing to give me a hand. I was reluctant at first because I just liked working away on my own. But he was only a young lad. I think he was nine or ten at the time.

"He'd stand behind the goal and retrieve the balls. I always used to work with eight balls. Wayne became invaluable to me. He saved me so much time retrieving the balls. And I don't think I would have become the place-kicker I became without him."

Wayne himself became a future Dub. And an elegant striker of a ball in his own right.

Yet as Charlie fine-tuned his kicking a few days before that '95 All-Ireland final, he got injured.

"I was doing my usual free-taking stuff at Isles with Wayne. I had been hitting frees for about 35 minutes from different angles. I was finishing up with 14-yard frees when suddenly I felt something go in my groin.

"I was distraught. I rang Pat [O'Neill] immediately. He said he'd look at it that night at training. I didn't train. It was still bad on the Saturday. I wasn't sure would I be able to play or not.

"Pat said he'd give me a pain-killing injection before the match. So that relaxed me. I was sure in my mind that Pat would sort everything out.

"It was only later that I found out that Pat never gave pain-killing injections. He didn't believe in them. In Pat's book, you were either fit or you weren't. He only said that to me to put my mind at ease!"

1995-Dublin-final-team-#.jpg
17 September 1995; The Dublin team. Bank of Ireland All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Final, Dublin v Tyrone, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit; Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

All-Ireland final day dawned.

"If you look at the team picture, I am the only one still wearing a tracksuit top. Even at that stage I wasn't sure would I be able to play or not.

"Word had leaked out about my injury. I can remember hitting a 14-yard free and barely raising the ball off the ground, and the 'ooooh' reaction from the crowd.

"But I said to myself that I'd give it a go. If it goes, it goes. Luckily, I was able to get through it."

Dublin won by a point - 1-10 to 0-12. Charlie got the goal. But he gives all the praise to Jason Sherlock.

"The Tyrone 'keeper, Finbar McConnell, was a huge man. The ball broke. It was 50-50 between Jason and the 'keeper. Now Jason is about five foot two, nine and a half stone and is carrying sweets in his pocket! He showed great courage in getting to the ball.

"I thought it was going in. But when I saw that it wasn't, I became involved in a tug of war with my marker, Paul Devlin, in trying to get to the ball, and fortunately I was able to get a boot to it."

Later, Charlie was sent off. But he didn't go immediately. The game went on. And Charlie played on. Until referee, Paddy Russell, spotted him.

"I met Paddy a few years ago. We shook hands and had a bit of banter about it."

Charlie still sees many of the '95 side, who included two future All-Ireland SFC-winning Dublin managers, Pat Gilroy and Jim Gavin.

"Dr Pat O'Neill deserves so much credit for winning that All-Ireland. He raised the standard of fitness in the mid-90s. Dr Pat made that team into an un-stoppable force."

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