IT IS one of the great sights in Irish sport, a packed Hill 16 on All-Ireland final day.
Cork supporters took it over 30 years ago for the 1990 showdown with archrivals Meath and their presence helped calm the nerves of one player in particular.
Midfielder Danny Culloty, 27 at the time, recalled their influence in shaping his contribution to Cork’s victory and completing the second leg of the unique double.
“Before the game, I was as nervous as hell, as I was before every game.
“That day, however, the Cork crowd were on the Hill and I remember going around in the parade before the game.
“And what still stands out is the roar from the crowd and all of a sudden the nerves left me. I said to myself ‘I’m ready’,” the US-born Newmarket player said.
Culloty partnered Nemo Rangers’ Shea Fahy in the critical midfield battle with Gerry McEntee and Liam Hayes, a pair of formidable players, who had heaped misery on Cork in the 1987 and ’88 deciders.
Culloty said: “I was marking McEntee and Shea was on Hayes. I didn’t make the starting 15 until ’89 because, as everyone knows, I was a bit behind the others in terms of my football development.
“I didn’t play in either of the two finals against Meath so this was my first experience of playing against them. I was on the bench for those previous games.
“I’d say it was the most mentally draining game I’d ever played in, without doubt.
“My body was actually aching on the Monday morning because of the physicality and stress of it all.”
Now, 30 years on, Culloty, remains as adamant as ever that Cork were always going to win that afternoon, prevailing by 0-11 to 0-9 in the end.
He said: “The funny thing about that game was that we were never going to lose.
“Billy [Morgan] had us so fit and mentally tuned in to what was required that we all felt it was going to be our day.
“And even when Colm [O’Neill] was sent off I was thinking ‘ok that’s grand we’re still going to win.’”
Cork were defending the Sam Maguire Cup, having beaten Mayo in ’89, and that was another significant contributory factor, according to Culloty.
He said: “I think that took the pressure off everybody. If we had lost the year before it would have been unbearable, I’d say.
“The big difference in my opinion was that we were ready for Meath on this occasion.
“I don’t think that was the case in ’87 and ’88, but in 1990 we were very well prepared for them and as it showed, we were.
“I don’t think there was any added pressure because of the hurlers’ victory. We had enough on our plate as it was trying to deal with Meath.
“On days like All-Ireland final you just concentrate on your own game. I know it’s a team sport, but every individual has to win his own position.
“I certainly wasn’t thinking about the double. For me, it was all about beating Meath in that final.”
Cork’s quest for glory began with a routine win over Limerick in the first round in Munster.
Culloty scored one of the four goals, a rare enough experience for the latecomer to the sport, with the Cork Examiner report describing it as a “left-footed drop-kick”,
“That would be rare enough because under Billy’s coaching I had a job to do and that was to win the ball in the middle of the pitch and then lay it off,” he said.
“I was one of the ball winners and trying to provide good ball into our forwards. That was my job and I tried to do it to the best of my ability all the time.
“And that’s a winning formula. If everyone has a job to do and does it to their maximum every time, then it works. It certainly worked for us. And as any of the lads will tell you my kicking wasn’t the greatest.”
In the All-Ireland semi-final against Roscommon, Culloty brushed up against a familiar figure in Tony McManus.
“I actually played with him in San Francisco in 1982, I reckon,” he said. “I remember the semi-final well because it was tough and much closer than people were anticipating.
“I was moved into full-forward at one stage even though I felt I was playing well enough around the middle.
“I remember thinking ‘I need to get back out there’ and when I was switched to midfield again I decided to leave my mark.
“Things went very well for me in the last quarter. I was desperate to get back there because I wanted my place for the final. I felt I had a point to prove.”
It was a golden era in Cork football, the players’ achievements not being recognised by the athletes themselves at the time.
“First of all it certainly doesn’t feel like 30 years ago. They were fabulous times back then and I don’t think we appreciated them because there were so many big matches between Munster finals and All-Ireland finals.
“The 1990 homecoming seemed to be a lot different to the previous years. There seemed to be a bigger crowd for starters and while ’89 was fantastic, ‘90 was special, unique really because of the double.
“From the footballers’ perspective, we felt at the time that we owed Meath,” Culloty said.
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