The chapter in Dessie Farrell’s book is titled ‘Tunnel of Love’ and it contains detail gory enough to make even the most ebullient cheerleader of 1990s football wince.
It’s 1993. Dublin have returned to a Leinster final. They are scarred and edgy after the crushing disappointments of losing an All-Ireland final to Donegal in ’92 and an epic Leinster quarter-final in four parts to Meath the previous summer.
The nineties: when many of the dominant analytical voices strutted their considerable stuff.
The football was better?
A time when the game was won and lost on individual battles, when it flowed freely from catch to kick and back again, without the handcuffs and shackles of defence-orientated tactics.
Half-time score: Dublin 0-3 Kildare 0-2.
“Kildare obviously felt the need to stand up to Dublin physically, so from the outset there was a lot of thumping and niggling,” recalled Farrell in his tome.
And then, well, things really kicked off.
How bad was the row in the tunnel at half-time in the 1993 Leinster final?
By the time it was over, Farrell recalled that the Dublin dressing-room resembled “a scene from Apocalypse Now.”
It had started innocuously enough.
“Jogging towards the tunnel at the Canal End for the half-time interval, Liam Miley ran into Jack Sheedy, the latter turning just at the last minute to deliver a robust shoulder into the Kildare man which landed him on his a**e.”
That, according to Farrell’s published recollection, was the beginning of it. “What actually happened,” recalls Sheedy now, “was a couple of minutes before that, I went down after tackling Johnny McDonald and Liam stood on my leg when I was on the ground.
“I’m sure it was accidental ... but then, after the whistle blew for half-time, I felt Liam coming from behind me and he sort of had his arm raised.
“I thought he was going to hit me a slap. So I raised my own arm just to put him on notice but I caught him.
“Liam, being a corner-forward, was quite theatrical about the whole thing and went down. But I never broke stride, I went straight into the dressing-room.”
Meanwhile, all hell was breaking loose on his footsteps.
“I was there (in the dressing-room) for a few seconds before I copped there was no one else with me. So I went out into the corridor and there was all sorts going on.”
There’s an almost comic element to Farrell’s description of the tunnel exchanges.
Eager to contribute, Johnny Barr endured “a barrage of punches to the head before he was released to beat a retreat back through the Dublin players,” though not before “one of the lads saw him off on the final leg of his journey with a hefty boot to the backside.”
Farrell himself remembers only that he got a heavy punch in the side of the head but such was the chaos, the din of roared taunts and insults echoing around the tunnel, he admitted he couldn’t be sure it didn’t come from one of this own team-mates.
Then, when everyone had had their fill, Keith Barr and Eamonn Heery, who had been locked into the dressing-room by fearful officials, charged out like freed prisoners only to find dust settling in an empty corridor.
The twist in all of this was the Garda manning the tunnel, Dublin seventies legend John McCarthy, father of current captain, James.
“Contrary to the folklore that was spawned by the row,” Farrell noted, “McCarthy did try and bring some order to the events but was left to do it alone because all the green blazers and stewards appeared to have exited the area.”
McCarthy did, however, lose his Garda cap which he later told Farrell he recalled “one of the Dublin players kicking it at a Kildare player’s face.”
By the final body count, neither team could be said to have ‘won’ the row. But Dublin, it seemed, reacted better.
Farrell noted how Pat O’Neill, the Dublin manager, “didn’t try and defuse the emotion” in the hospital ward that passed for a dressing-room.
“He put us on a war footing, explaining perhaps critically, that only victory would properly vent our anger.”
Almost 30 years later, Sheedy agrees.
O’Neill’s harnessing of Dublin’s wild energy in those confusing moments was the effective winning of the game and, at a time when it represented an achievement, a second Leinster title in a row.
“Pat would be very good in those situations,” Sheedy says. “He played the game on the front foot himself. He wouldn’t have been shy if there was any extra-curricular activity on the pitch.”
“But he was a very intelligent man. He still is. He saw the benefit in us keeping our heads in the second half.
“The thing is,” Sheedy adds, “back in the ’80s and ’90s, there was much more hitting and belting going on out on the pitch. So if things got heated on the pitch, they got really heated.
“But put it this way: as bad as it got, as much was made if it all afterwards, there was no one who didn’t come out for the second half.”