Dublin - The Class of '95
One of the stars of 1995, Paul Curran, paints pen-pictures of his fellow heroes who brought the Sam Maguire back to the capital after an absence of 12 years
ALL-IRELAND titles are hard to win.
The present group of Dublin footballers have been on an extraordinary run, winning all seven finals contested in the last nine years. An extraordinary achievement from an extraordinary group of players.
It wasn’t always like that for Dublin teams. Between 1984 and 2010 inclusive, a stretch of 27 seasons, we only managed to pick up one All-Ireland title. The year was 1995 and it was a championship success that was long overdue.
A lot of great players came and went in the barren years but ’95 was very special because of we had been knocking on the door for a few years, getting to finals only to be beaten narrowly.
The final itself certainly won’t go down in the history books for being a great spectacle but the winning team never cares too much about that sort of thing. The important thing for the players and supporters was that the county stood at the summit once again and that felt very good.
It is unfortunate that that team began to break up almost immediately after that final and I guess it doesn’t matter 25 years later. One title is a lot better than no title at all and the memories one gains from achieving that feat will stay with you for a lifetime.
As it’s a quarter of a century ago we are due to meet up on All-Ireland football final day for a function in Croke Park followed by the customary walk out on the green carpet at headquarters but everything was put on hold because of the current pandemic.
It now looks like we will be given that privilege, possibly close to Christmas which wouldn’t in any way take away from what will be a terrific occasion. It will be great to see all the squad and management again in an official capacity and reminisce about the great time we had.
There were no shortage of characters in the group. Here is what I remember.
The second-best goalkeeper to wear the blue jersey (sorry John) but the best I played with. A terrific shot-stopper who took it personally if you managed to slot one past him in the kick around before training. John also had a very long kickout because he wore big ugly rugby boots which were reinforced with concrete toe caps. A pure messer at the best of times but always a great captain.
There are tough players I played with and against but none as tough as Paddy. As hard a player as you could think of but always played without stepping over the line. I don’t remember Paddy ever been spoken to by a referee in all the years I played with him which tells you all you need to know. We both played on the right side of the defence so we go to know each other’s game very well. He must have cursed me on many occasions because I often left an ocean of space in front of him. A true gentleman and as fit now as he was then.
‘Wally’ was a cool customer both on and off the field. Never seemed to panic at any point in his playing career. Had the unenviable job of marking Peter Canavan in the ’95 final and despite Canavan’s haul (mainly frees) Ciarán did a decent job from general play. Unfortunately, it’s been a while since we caught up despite us coming from neighbouring clubs in Tallaght.
Bumped into him a couple of months ago in a watering hole in the city centre in the wee hours of the morning. One of the newcomers in ’95, he managed to nail down a starting position at left corner-back during that championship. I always thought Keith was too good to play there but it was a problem position and when he got his chance he took it with both hands. Young and fearless, Keith had a major health scare in 1997 but battled back to full fitness and was able to pull on the jersey again. Dyed the hair an odd shade of gold for the team trip to San Diego which was probably the start of the team’s downfall!
An outstanding footballer who had the perfect physique to play any central position. We were close friends during our playing careers but unfortunately life has taken us different directions. Toured together to Toronto with the All Stars and Australia with the Compromise Rules team and always seemed to get into trouble together. I have always maintained that his 60-metre free kick in the final to get us off the mark was a hugely important score. One of the life’s great characters.
An all-rounder, well not hurling, but an excellent soccer player as well as being a very accomplished Gaelic footballer. ‘Deego’ played with both socks pulled up to the knees which looked a little odd at the time but was a very consistent performer throughout his career. If you have ever been in his company for any length of time you will have seen him perform his party piece. Enough said on that!
Could have played soccer for any of the big cross-channel clubs and if you don’t believe me just ask him! A good footballer and a very important cog in the ’95 wheel. Went on to manage both at club and intercounty level.
A very good player who formed a very good partnership with Bealin at midfield. Strong in the air and well able to kick a score, Brian had a great engine and was able to cover most of the Croke Park pitch on any given day. Has spent most of the last 25 years in Australia so we haven’t had the opportunity to meet up. It will be great to catch up for a "schooner" in a few months’ time.
Captained an All-Ireland minor-winning team in 1984 and made the transition quickly to the senior ranks. Many a good night I had with Clarkey and the lads in Tamangos in Portmarnock during our playing days. Would have been at home in a professional sport because he was always extremely fit and is still in great condition, for a 54-year-old. Has been around a lot of successful Dublin teams in recent years, continuing to drive excellence. Clarkey is the go-to guy to get things done.
One of Dublin’s greatest forwards over the last 40 years. A player who would slip seamlessly into the present squad because of his skill levels and commitment to the cause. Dessie had a terrific season in 1995 and was one of the main reasons we got over the line. Had some really bad knee injuries throughout his career but always tried to battle back to get another opportunity to wear the famous blue jersey. Currently the senior manager, so football is in safe hands.
As a manager he has no equals. As a player he was the ultimate team player and that selfless quality would serve him and the county well as a player and later as manager. Jim was all-action on the field and always did his utmost for the group. Given specific marking jobs in the provincial final on attacking wing-back Graham Geraghty and in the All-Ireland semi-final against Ciarán O’Sullivan, he carried out his duty to perfection with no fuss whatsoever. A true Dublin legend.
Charlie was and still is the fans’ favourite. One of the best dead-ball kickers in his or any generation. He kicked some vital frees over the years (the last gasp equaliser against Kildare in 1994 comes to mind). The problem was not the ones that were meant to go over the crossbar however, but the ones that should have gone under! Charlie missed some vital penalties in that time, which we remind him of from time to time but one has to be brave to step up and take them in the first place. A tidy golfer and one the great players during that era.
The baby of the team in 1995. Jason was a huge addition to the group for that campaign. Introduced as a sub against Louth in the opening round he made an immediate impact. After scoring the important goal against Laois without his football boot in the next game Jayomania kicked off and would grow as the championship progressed. The team needed a spark and Jason provided it. Went on to coach the Dublin minors and seniors and will no doubt be looking for his next challenge.
One of the unsung heroes in the nineties. Mick was a terrific ball-player, extremely accurate with both feet and a great football brain. He was a great help when I came onto the panel first in 1989 and I’m sure Jayo will say the same about him when he arrived in late 1994. I remember my first time seeing him in a kickaround before training in O’Toole Park and was struck by how accurate he was. He never missed. Another great character who might have made it at golf had football not got in the way.
Misunderstood at times but no mistaking his natural talent to play the game. A bull of a minor, played in a Leinster senior final when 18 years-old and could have been one of the really great players to have played the game. He had an incredible skill level that very few possess.
A used substitute in the ’95 All-Ireland final, Pat was a great team player but was probably played out of position in the big games in the early nineties and as a result wasn’t able to properly nail down a midfield berth. Accurate and intelligent it wasn’t a surprise when he managed the team to bridge a 16-year gap between 1995 and 2011. Brought a professional and hardworking mindset into the set up and can be rightly credited with starting this run of unprecedented success for the county.
I haven’t heard anything about Boyler since he finished playing with the team shortly after that season. He headed off foreign, Meath I think it was! He was a beast of a man who bashed his way through defences. I broke my nose after running into him during a training session. Laid back character but a very strong target man.
A very consistent performer who would have probably started at full-back but carried an injury into the decider. Dermot was a coolness personified, never got carried away with the occasion. His temperament is a mirror of what we see with the current Dublin footballers. Never up, never down, just level.
Our sub goalkeeper, Davy had to wait his opportunity to take over from John O’Leary. Went on to bridge the gap between O’Leary and Cluxton which could well be a quiz question in years to come. Has had success at club level in Meath. A genuinely good guy.
The Sylvester’s player was very dependable and an all-round good footballer.
Spent some great post-championship game nights in Malahide with ‘Shabba’ and a few others. Shay would go on to establish himself in the team the following year. One of the most popular players in the squad.
Had a terrific engine and well deserved his place in the match day squad on All-Ireland final day.
We trained next door to Santry Stadium in 1995 and I often felt that Seán was in the wrong field. A pure athlete who made a show of most of us during the gruelling running sessions. Started the first game against Louth.
Same club as Jim Gavin (Round Tower, Clondalkin) and married Jim’s sister Ann-Marie. ‘Cliffy’ was a flyer and a great attacking wing-back. In another era he would have got a lot more game-time.
The big St Jude’s man would go on to play a lot of games in the blue jersey before trying out with the Mayo team in the late nineties.
Quiet man who went about his business in the setup.
My good friend and drinking buddy during the 1990s and beyond. A teak tough player who strangely kicked mostly with his left foot despite being right-footed. Unlucky not to make the match-day squad but celebrated after the win like it was 1999!
A very good footballer who could play in most defensive positions. Immigrated to Dubai a couple of seasons after that and is still making the big bucks!
A very good footballer. An accurate forward with a dummy solo he could have sold for big money.
A reliable defender who stuck to forwards like glue.
A very versatile player that could easily play in any position from No 2 to No 9. A really good man to have in the squad.
A young Ian Robertson and Paddy Christie were involved in the training panel in 1995 with Christie getting injured during the summer when it looked like he was about to nail down a corner-back position. Both would go on to have very successful careers with the county.
Led by the great Dr Pat O’Neill with support from Jim Brogan, Fran Ryder, and Bobby Doyle, the 1995 winning squad was shaped by the boys from the 1970s. A very professional management group who got us to climb Everest.
Note: There were other people in the support group such as physios, masseurs, statistians, sports psychologists and others and the success would not have happened without their contributions.