On June 13, 1987, the day of his 24th birthday, Larry Tompkins joined the Cork football squad for the first time, boarding a train out of Cork's Kent Station for a challenge match against Dublin in Parnell Park later that day.
With one eye still on a return to the US, where he had been based for the previous two years, Tompkins was still non-committal about pitching in with Cork, but Frank Murphy, the county's long-time secretary, managed to convince him that an inter-county transfer was the best way to advance a desired move to play club football with Castlehaven.
In a remarkable coincidence, Shea Fahy, Tompkins' one-time Kildare colleague, who himself had only recently committed to Cork after transferring to Nemo Rangers, was also on the train bound for Dublin that morning for his first game with his new county.
Tompkins and Fahy had not seen each other or even been in touch since Kildare's defeat to Meath in a Leinster Championship match in Navan two years earlier, the aftermath of which prompted Tompkins to cut ties with his native county in a dispute over the booking and price of an airline ticket back to the US where he had been based.
Now, here they were in the same train carriage in entirely different circumstances at the beginning of a new journey that would consume them for the next four years and more as Cork became one of the game's powerbrokers.
Thirty years ago this week Cork became the first county to land an All-Ireland double when the footballers ground out an 0-11 to 0-9 win over arch rivals Meath, following on from the Rebel hurlers' triumph over Galway two weeks earlier. It capped Cork football's most celebrated era.
Even now it's hard to put into context the novelty of their move and the impact it had.
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COLM KEYS: Two established players arriving from the same county in a different province at the same time. It had all the appearances of a planned transfer coup!
SHEA FAHY: People still say to this day, 'How did ye plan it, how did ye do it?' But there was no plan, it was purely coincidental. Larry got involved with Castlehaven, I got involved with Nemo Rangers through an army colleague of mine, Seamie Coughlan. He has since passed away. The last time we had met was in Navan (in 1985), so obviously Larry went back to the States and we didn't see each other again until then.
LARRY TOMPKINS: When I came back, it wasn't to play with Cork. It was a summer to play with Castlehaven. Frank (Murphy) was the key person, he was a Cork selector. Out of the blue he said to the Collins' (Tompkins' friends from Castlehaven in New York), 'This guy would be better off if he got an inter-county transfer'. Nobody really knew me. Kildare hadn't the success of other counties at the time. We won a Leinster U-21, and I played Railway Cup for five years but still I wasn't known. But Frank knew and thought, 'If we get this guy an inter-county transfer there might be a possibility he might transfer to play with Cork.' He knew all the hassle in Kildare. And I had never met him in my life.
CK: The 'hassle' in Kildare focused on an airline ticket to take you back to New York after the Meath game which Kildare lost. That was the tipping point for you. But there was more to it than that?
LT: I started playing minor for Kildare when I was 16 and then progressed to the senior team later on that year. In two years I had played minor, U-21 and senior. I was probably, as my mother would have said, a lunatic in relation to training and preparing even then. I never missed a training session with Kildare. I was and still am great friends with Johnny Crofton and Paddy O'Donoghue and even guys before that, you would really admire going to see them in Croke Park, Tommy Carew was a magical footballer.
But at the time I felt the county was sinking. It was probably lacking leadership. I don't think the board did anything to enhance it, certainly not for anybody wanting to play with Kildare.
SF: Kildare were trying to be very frugal, how they managed the whole system at the time. They were successful in doing that but the player suffered as a consequence. And teams suffered. Management teams trying to get some very basic things, they struggled. You went in after training and got a bottle of milk and two biscuits, then head off. In my case back to Cork for three hours.
LT: My own brother Joe was probably one of the best players in Kildare at the time, (but he) had no interest though in playing either with the set-up. Gerry Power too, so I suppose there was a sour taste there in my mouth leaving initially. But I would never let Kildare down.
CK: Larry, you went on the 1985 All-Star tour to New York and decided to stay?
LT: I was Kildare captain that year. We had played Wicklow in the championship, then I left to go on an All-Star trip. I made my decision then, New York was the place for me that summer. I was out of work (as a carpenter). Being straight with Eamonn O'Donoghue (Kildare manager at the time), I told him my situation and said, 'If you want me back for the next game (against Meath), contact me'. He contacted me and told me I was wanted back and everything would be in order to return to the States after.
So I went down to a travel agency and changed my original travel date back from New York because I hadn't returned with the All-Stars. Eamonn had informed me that the board had everything in order. When he said that, I replied, 'Are you sure?' There was always a worry in my head that it wasn't going to happen. I had said it to Donal Gallagher (Donegal New York manager at the time and a great friend of Tompkins) before I left, I felt there would be some issue.
CK: After the game then you discovered a problem?
LT: Eamonn came to me after we had been beaten and he was upset. He had been told straight there was no ticket to go back. They said they'd see me down in the Beechmount Hotel in Navan to explain. My brother Tommy drove me down and I went in; Pat Dunney (chairman) was there, Seamus Aldridge (secretary) did the talking.
The only ticket available was a business class ticket for £740 and I was told it would be covered if I'd pay back half when I could. I left with a cheque but, luckily, Donal Gallagher had a ticket waiting for me at the desk when I arrived and my brother took the cheque back to the board that evening.
(In an interview with Tommy Callaghan in the 'Leinster Leader' during the summer, Aldridge was adamant that the player had got what he was looking for, stating: "Larry looked for X number of pounds and Larry got a cheque for that X number of pounds.")
CK: Shea, your circumstances were much different?
SF: I was in Cork in 1983, having joined the Army in '81. At the end of 18 months' training you are commissioned and they tell you where you'll be stationed. I was sent to Cork, much to my disappointment. I was hoping to stay up around Dublin or Kildare to continue playing football with Kildare. I travelled up and down for three years to play for Sarsfields and Kildare, it was a killer. Getting into a car here (Cork) at four and driving the three hours up to Newbridge, train for two hours and back down here by 12.30.
My football was starting to suffer. I was spending more time in cars than I was training or playing. I was just finding it very hard. Around '85 I made a decision that I couldn't keep doing this. It was either transfer out of the job or transfer out of Kildare.
My job here I was enjoying it and I liked Cork so I said it was maybe time to transfer. I spoke with Dermot Earley, Ray Lopeman and Jackie Browne, the three Sarsfields selectors, told them I couldn't keep doing this. I said I was going to play one more year (1986).
They were three very smart guys, Sarsfields were very successful at the time and they said, 'Look, if you win a championship in Kildare you can go with our blessing'. That was me motivated for the whole year of '86. Simple. We won the championship!
CK: You went with a blessing from Sarsfields Shea, but Larry your move was much more protracted?
LT: I was packing my bags every day for three weeks before, intent on going back to New York because my transfer wasn't going through. Kildare were slow to sign the dotted line. They did everything in their power not to let it through. They wanted letters from the priest in Castlehaven, letters from my employer, everybody and anybody.
Out of the blue, June 12, the day before my birthday - fate is an incredible thing - Frank rings me. I was staying below in Union Hall. 'Your transfer will be through tomorrow but you need to do one thing for me, Cork are playing Dublin tomorrow, bring your gear, it will look good.' I met Shea on the train on the way up to Dublin. I was like a lost child. Shea was a massive comfort to me because we were in the same situation. I didn't know where I stood.
SF: I was as surprised as anyone else to see him on the train. It all happened quickly. Obviously there was talk about it, talk around playing with Castlehaven and then a question around Cork.
CK: Even then Larry, so close to the start of the championship, you needed convincing to commit to Cork?
LT: On the train home Billy (Morgan) sat down beside me and said, 'Will you come on to the panel.' I knew Billy well from going to America but I was after telling him three weeks before in Skibbereen Golf Club that I didn't want to mess him up.
He said maybe you'll join the panel, we're training Tuesday night. And it all just happened. It wasn't in my head at all. Niall (Cahalane) was doing courier service (from west Cork) at the time. First night training, I came up with him but I wasn't on the official panel until the week before we played Limerick.
Niall had about 20 deliveries on the way up, the van was on the floor! I was dreading it, Cork like? You come to Cork, the identity of not alone GAA greats but sporting greats, it was massive for me to go to Páirc Uí Chaoimh and train. Niall said the training was going to be brutal.
I was in good enough shape, with time spent in New York. What was considered to be a hard training session that first night was a breeze to me. I lapped Niall more times. Niall thought he was way ahead of everyone else. He got into the van afterwards, never talked to me all the way down! Billy said to me, 'Jesus you are in great shape'.
I said, 'Billy, I'm being straight with you, those lads will beat nothing'. I wasn't part of the Cork panel, I'd tell him straight. 'You haven't a hope of beating Kerry and Meath are coming down the line and they'll have you for breakfast'.
I had arguments with Billy at training more times. Next morning Niall was out in the field on his own farm at 5.30 running up and down the hills!
SF: Larry's levels of fitness were far beyond anyone else's. Billy had this exercise called 'the hare' which was basically run as fast as you can run laps of the field. Larry would take off and he would be lapping some of the lads.
He brought another level. Billy knew that too, it was his first year and he was just in himself. The biggest lesson we got was in that All-Ireland final. Meath beat us very well. We were beaten physically, mentally and the occasion was too much for us, we weren't ready for it. It taught us a lot about ourselves as a team what we needed to do to win an All-Ireland.
It was great to beat Kerry (Munster final replay) for the first time in a few years but we went into the All-Ireland series with our eyes completely closed. That formed the basis for the following three years.
LT: I loved playing against Kerry. It didn't take as much out of myself and Shea but Cork fellas? When we beat Kerry in '87, it was like they had won the All-Ireland. I had more attention on Meath because I had grown up with all these lads and I knew them as well as I knew Shea. We were always battling with them and I had massive respect for them. In '87, Cork had massive talent.
Even to this day, talent won't beat Cork. But that physicality that was needed to deal with certain situations that would erupt. I don't think they realised the physicality compared to maybe Kerry.
CK: The 1988 final and replay was particularly brutal and the fallout that followed brought bitter enmity?
LT: We played serious football that year. In the second half, myself and Shea were midfield - we had so much possession. We should have had the game well wrapped up. There was a picture of the two of us coming off the field afterwards and the rumour went around Cork that one of us had said to the other, 'The problem with us is that there were too many Cork fellas!' Not true obviously but we had dominated together.
I ended up in Manchester (Old Trafford) for three weeks in between (draw and replay). I had gone into the drawn game with a hamstring problem and after 20 minutes it was bad. I was going to the line to tell Billy to take me off, Billy was coming to me at the same time, 'Get Teddy out of there and go midfield.'
I said, 'F**k the hamstring, I'm going to play there'. I played on but shredded it. Frank rings me that night, 'Can you go to Old Trafford tomorrow, I have treatment organised for you there for the next three weeks'. Paddy Crerand picked me up at the airport. The replay was a boxing match every five minutes, a dogfight, we were the better team but we didn't collect the cup."
CK: And it spilled over into the respective team holidays early the following year?
LT: I had been toing and froing to America between All-Irelands after losing them. I'd go back to America until I settled in '89 and bought the (bar) business. I came back from America (Christmas 1988 ahead of the team holiday to the Canary Islands where Meath were going at the same time) and, seemingly, at a meeting, it was stated in no uncertain terms we weren't to talk to them.
Niall was after telling me the craic. I said to Billy straight out, 'I know these fellas since I was 16, I'm going to talk to them. I'm not going to go behind your back'. I faced it in a different way, I felt these guys were my friends and if we couldn't cope with what was happening between the white lines, I wasn't going to bring it out on them on a trip and a few pints. It didn't make sense to me."
CK: The double in 1990 was pressure, but finally beating Meath in an All-Ireland final was even more important to you?"
SF: We beat Mayo in an All-Ireland final in '89 and it was our first one as a group, really important to us. But in our own heads, we said, 'Look, we really haven't done this until we beat Meath'. Mentally, we came to the conclusion that we had to beat them to be true All-Ireland champions. We were so focused on winning that game. I always use Colm O'Neill as an example. He was sent off, the last person you would think, but it didn't even register with me. Winning it allowed us to say, 'We were as good a team as we thought you were.' But Billy pulled it all together so well.
CK: Things thawed out in the years that followed?
SF: It was probably Kerinsie's (goalkeeper John Kerins) death. Gerry McEntee was very involved in that at that time. That stopped all the animosity. I remember coming down on a flight from Dublin to Cork and all the Meath lads were on it going down to the funeral. Everyone realised then, the football took a back seat.
CK: And now Larry, Liam Hayes is publishing your autobiography Believe which is out now?
LT: As I said, I consider them all friends. I have massive time for Crumlin Hospital. My daughter Kate had five operations there, her left femur was growing slower than her right. She went through an awful lot but is perfect today thankfully. I went to Seán Boylan at the time, Seán would have sent me herbs for my injuries, Kate started take them, they were good for the bones. Those five operations that she had, she could have had 10 only for Seán. It just did her wonders."
CK: Given your success with Cork, there had to have been an approach to return 'home' to Kildare, especially when Mick O'Dwyer took charge?
SF: Cork became home and we were successful. I never got an approach to come back to Kildare and I wasn't expecting one either.
LT: Micko had made contact, called into the pub, 'C'mon up to Kildare, sure you have all your work done with Cork'. It was a bit of a joke. But then Michael Osborne called out of the blue. Michael was the main man behind getting O'Dwyer there and was head of Sheik Mohammed's operations in Ireland.
He was an Eadestown man, my own club, and did a lot for Kildare. I made it quite clear to him that I wasn't going anywhere. But I would love to go up and see Kildangan Stud! I was into the horses. So I went up and spoke to him but it was just a casual chat.
SF: My family is all still in Kildare, my parents are still there in Newbridge. I was always hoping they would win an All-Ireland. The first result I would look at every week, after the Cork result would be the Kildare result. That never goes away. Would I ever have gone back playing with them if approached? No, because I am still here 30 years later so that just proves the point.
CK: Was there any animosity shown towards you in Kildare in the years that followed your respective moves?
SF: The following year we played Kildare in the league in Newbridge. People say what was the hardest game you played for Cork. That was it for me. I dreaded it, full-forward, going in to mark Paddy O'Donoghue. Paddy and myself had played football for years. Johnny Crofton was corner-back. We all knew each other so well.
LT: I was in America by then. I'd leave all the league games to these fellas!
SF: Everyone would have known why we ended up in Cork.
LT: I did meet Seamus Aldridge afterwards at the All-Stars in '87, my first award. Myself and Gerry McEntee were coming out of the toilet, couldn't miss him, bumped straight into me. He enquired how I was and I turned around and said, 'Look, thanks for the transfer!'