Dublin - Class of 95
A dozen years of heartache, bad luck, missed opportunities and a wealth of other negative emotions were finally laid to rest in September of 1995 as the Dubs held off a spirited but limited Tyrone by 1-10 to 0-12 in a contest that lacked the quality of previous deciders.
Of course, that mattered little by the final blow of referee Paddy Russell’s whistle as Dublin finally gained tangible reward for all their efforts over the past three campaigns in particular, ending a 12-year wait for the coveted prize on offer.
The Irish Independent’s Liam Horan described the emotions perfectly as he assessed a contest that lacked shape, pattern and quality throughout.
"A long and gruesome voyage came to an end for Dublin. You could almost touch the relief. For another day is all the talk about the boost this win will be for the GAA in Dublin and how much the capital needed it.
"It wasn’t pretty, not by a long shot. This was shabby, this was oft-times angry and were in not for a nerve-jangling finish, this would have been labelled a complete and utter anti-climax.
"Dublin have long since stopped worrying about strutting the catwalk with style, however. They returned to their old stalking ground yesterday with uncluttered minds. The objective was to beat Tyrone. That they did it the hard way doesn’t worry them one bit. They only scored two points in the second half. Never mind the quality, feel the width."
The impeccable free-taking of Charlie Redmond had played a key role in Dublin advancing to the final and the Erin’s Isle player took centre stage once again, albeit in slightly less conventional ways.
Redmond pounced for the game’s solitary goal in the 25th minute, forcing the ball home from close range after Jason Sherlock has poked the ball past Finbar McConnell.
However, his afternoon took a turn for the worse within ten minutes of the restart as he eventually received his marching orders after a bout of retaliation under the Cusack Stand sideline, failing to recognise his dismissal for two minutes before Russell eventually left little room for discussion or misinterpretation.
The Dubs managed just one point following Redmond’s sending-off but it proved just enough to see them over the line against an equally shot-shy Tyrone side that relied far too heavily on Peter Canavan for inspiration and scores.
The Errigal Ciarán player accounted for all bar one point of his team’s tally but that could well have been sufficient to force a replay had Russell not penalized him for a pick-up in the build-up to Seán McLaughlin’s late disallowed levelling score.
"All I could think about at the time was that I had lost these lads an All-Ireland last year by missing a penalty and here I was losing them another one by being sent-off," recalled Redmond in his Evening Herald column.
"I didn’t read the papers yesterday morning, but I caught a glimpse of a headline which said that one more defeat would break this Dublin team. I think that was right. We wouldn’t have been able to come back again if we’d lost this one."
Thankfully, from a Dublin perspective, that predicament never materialised and that was largely down to a dominant first-half display that saw the Dublin build up a healthy five-point buffer by the interval.
That margin was all the more noteworthy given that Tyrone had started with a flourish, scoring three points inside the opening five minutes through a brace of Canavan frees and a Jody Gormley score.
The Dubs replied with three points of their own, frees shared by Keith Barr (a brilliant 60-metre strike), Redmond and Clarke, with the latter taking over the duties due to concerns over Redmond’s thigh complaint.
Dublin’s next three scores came through the influential Dessie Farrell, delivering on the biggest of stages at Dublin’s most pressing hour, with Jim Gavin popping over a late score to leave his side sitting pretty at 1-8 to 0-6 by half-time.
A trio of Canavan frees in the opening seven minutes of the second-half mirrored Tyrone’s initial authority before Farrell calmed matters slightly with another crucial score in the 44th minute.
Remarkably, a scoreless period of 22 minutes ensued as both teams struggled to adapt to Redmond’s absence and while Canavan edged Tyrone closer in the closing stages, an excellent point from Clarke in the 67th minute was enough to see Dublin finally fall over the line into the elusive promised land.
Amid all the joyous celebrations, there were personal disappointments and bitter-sweet moments to dwell on too with regular full-back Dermot Deasy missing the decider through injury.
"The truth is I won’t be able to play this side of Christmas.
"I made a big effort on Thursday but I suppose I knew the story.
"I feel a bit left out of things right now but that’s the way it goes. Will I be back? I just don’t think so."
Contrast his emotions to those of Man of the Match Dessie Farrell, whose switch to centre-forward was a major factor in Dublin finally achieving their dreams after some hellish experiences in that era.
"This win has been a while coming but the experience is fantastic because we learned what it’s like on the other side of the coin," said Na Fianna’s clubman.
"This is a very sweet moment but I don’t think that we will appreciate the real significance of this win until the excitement dies down and we are all together again in some quiet spot.
"We have worked extremely hard to win this final and the felling is fantastic."
"It was a team effort all day. I don’t think the players are unduly concerned about how well they played as long as we have the Sam Maguire Cup," concluded a jubilant Farrell.