Friday 20 September 2019

Champions again at last: 'The players earned this the hard way. Hopefully we won't have to wait 12 years for another...'

After a string of heart-breaking, narrow defeats in the early 1990s, the Dubs finally lifted the Sam Maguire again in 1995

17 September 1995; Dublin captain John O'Leary lifts the Sam Maguire Cup after the All Ireland Football Final match between Dublin and Tyrone at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
17 September 1995; Dublin captain John O'Leary lifts the Sam Maguire Cup after the All Ireland Football Final match between Dublin and Tyrone at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Rónán MacLochlainn

After the near misses of the previous three years, Dublin dusted themselves down once again in 1995 as they looked to finally deliver on their undoubted potential.

The question Pat O'Neill's men had to answer was would the demoralising defeat to Down in 1994 effectively finish the team off or would it act as a galvanising agent as Dublin s199trived for their first All-Ireland title since 1983?

Their quest began in Páirc Tailteann against a Louth team that had already beaten Kildare and despite the concession of two soft goals, the Dubs eased home by 0-19 to 2-5.

That particular summer was blessed with sunshine as Dublin once again made the trip to Navan for their provincial semi-final against Laois.

In a tight, cagey affair, Dublin enjoyed a narrow edge throughout but with Laois refusing to crumble, it was a moment of inspiration from one of Dublin's fresh faces that effectively settled the issue.

Little was known of Jason Sherlock, a minor of the previous summer, prior to that championship but he more than made his mark with a goal that underlined his brilliance and set the tone for his legendary status among Dublin supporters.

20 Aug 1995. Dublin's Jason Sherlock blasts the ball past Cork goalkeeper Kevin O'Dwyer for his side's goal. All-Ireland Football semi-final, Cork v Dublin, Croke Park. Picture Credit: David Maher SPORTSFILE.

Having already hit the post in the first half, Sherlock gained possession from a sublime Jim Gavin pass and despite losing his right boot, he calmly and confidently cracked home the only goal as Dublin advanced by 1-13 to 0-9.

Next up for Dublin was the by-now annual joust with Meath and a final that will live long in the memory.

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Traditionally, only a bounce of a ball would separate these gnarly rivals but Dublin's excellence over the concluding 20 minutes could not be denied as they romped to a 1-18 to 1-8 victory.

Bizarrely, the Dubs trailed by 1-7 to 0-9 early in the second half but with Dessie Farrell running riot at centre-forward in what was one of his most influential displays. They cruised to victory, with Paul Clarke netting at the Canal End to augment seven points by Charlie Redmond.

Cork laid in wait for Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final and it was Sherlock that took centre stage again with a goal that highlighted the fearless nature of his play.

The Rebels started brightly, with Mark O'Sullivan clipping over a couple of classy points but the whole momentum of the game changed as Sherlock gathered the ball from Keith Barr's quickly-taken free and as Mark O'Connor hesitated, Sherlock fired an impeccable finish into the bottom corner.

Dublin improved after the break with Mick Galvin's contribution of four points from play proving pivotal in their 1-12 to 0-12 success.

As a result of their win, Dublin were raging hot favourites as they came up against a Tyrone team that edged Galway by 1-13 to 0-13 in their semi-final.

However, the significance of the occasion and a doubt surrounding the fitness of Redmond prompted a hesitant display by the Dubs, although they were boosted by a first-half goal from the Erin's Isle player after Sherlock's pace and bravery had unlocked the Tyrone defence.

"What Jason gave us was something we didn't have previously," reflected Charlie Redmond some years later.

"What we didn't have was the goal touch. Jason brought that with great aplomb and great skill.

"From the very first time he came training with us, you could see that. He wasn't the most technically gifted footballer, but he had an eye for goal and that's what he gave us that year.

"And also what he gave us was relief from the press because he took the whole concentration of the press away from the rest of us and let us get on with what we needed to get on with."

Controversy dominated the second half as Redmond was ordered off in the 46th minute by referee Paddy Russell, but only left the field two minutes later when the linesman spotted his presence on the pitch.

With Redmond absent, Dublin spurned a number of frees that would have spared them the anxiety and tension of a Tyrone comeback that was almost complete but for Seán McLaughlin's point being disallowed late on after Peter Canavan was adjudged to have handled the ball on the ground in the lead-up.

17 September 1995; Jim Gavin of Dublin celebrates victory over Tyrone after the final whistle in the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

It was a mixture of relief and joy that greeted Russell's final whistle, with former captain Tommy Drumm striking the right note with his post-match comment.

"The players earned this All-Ireland the hard way. I am delighted for them all, and hopefully we won't have to wait 12 years for another one," said the Dubs' heroic captain of 1983.

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