Celebrating the Double: 30 years on from the greatest achievement in Cork sport

Celebrating the Double: 30 years on from the greatest achievement in Cork sport

Cork manager Billy Morgan urges on his side against Meath in the 1990 All-Ireland football final. Picture: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE

THIS sounds a strange question, but there’s method to it.

Where were you at 4.52pm this afternoon 30 years ago?

I’ll give you a steer, Cork were playing Meath in the All-Ireland final at Croke Park, attempting to complete a historic hurling and football double.

A couple of weeks earlier the hurlers produced a storming second half to get the better of Galway and bring the Liam MacCarthy Cup home to Leeside.

Now Billy Morgan’s footballers were just 70 minutes away for ensuring the Sam Maguire Cup joined Liam for a year in the Rebel County.

Were you crammed into Hill 16, where social distancing wasn’t even in our vocabulary or were you in the comfort of a seat in the Hogan or Cusack stands?

Maybe you couldn’t get a ticket for the sell-out game of 65,723, which was 1,000 more than the hurling decider, and had to watch in on the telly.

If you did, you’ll probably remember watching some of it from the behind the couch because it was a tension-filled affair.

But, at eight minutes to five that historic afternoon Tipperary referee Paddy Russell sounded the final whistle and the outpouring of joy in Cork knew no bounds.

A 0-11 to 0-9 victory was celebrated by delirious fans as the 104th edition of the championship ended with Cork victorious.

It was fitting that Meath should be conquered that day because their rivalry with Cork had grown intensely after their victories in the 1987 and 1988 finals.

“We were really geared up for the final,” said Morgan.

“We had played Meath in the league semi-final earlier in the year and it was a rough game again.

“Niall Cahalane was the only player sent off and I remember Dave Barry being struck from behind with the ball about 60 yards away.

“We vowed in the dressingroom that day that if we met them again we would not be beaten physically,” he added.

Shea Fahy was the man of the match, combining with Danny Culloty to rule the skies in midfield.

Fahy scored four points from play, including the start of either half, the same tally as captain Larry Tompkins with Mick McCarthy contributing 0-2 and Paul McGrath a point.

Meath manager Seán Boylan praised Fahy and Culloty afterwards.

“Their centre-field was always dominant and Shea kicked four great points from play.

“That was the winning and losing of the game,” he said.

Cork’s victory was all the more laudable because full-forward Colm O’Neill was sent off just before half-time.

The papers had a field day. The Cork Examiner headlined the feat ‘Cork double the effort’ with a subdeck of ‘No surrender is the cry’.

It was ‘Double Tops’ screaming across the front page while The Evening Echo went with ‘Immortals’ splashed across the back page with a photo of the panel lining up for the national anthem and beneath that a picture of Larry Tompkins at the cup presentation.

The Irish Independent had ‘Double Take’ on page one, supplemented by ‘Cork joy at result’, while on the sports pages ‘A Red Badge of courage’ headlined the match report.

The now defunct Irish Press angled in on Teddy McCarthy’s unique feat of two All-Irelands in the same season.

‘Super Ted’ ran the headline, accompanied by ‘McCarthy’s medal milestone’, on the back page.

Dinny Allen, who retired after captaining the ’89 team, described it as ‘the greatest Cork performance ever.’

“The great effort put in by the lads was the outstanding feature,” he was quoted in The Cork Examiner.

All that remained was the homecoming on Monday night, when an estimated crowd of over 60,000 thronged the city centre.

The Cork team stand to attention.
The Cork team stand to attention.

The Cork team was: John Kerins (St Finbarr’s); Tony Nation (Nemo Rangers), Stephen O’Brien (do), Niall Cahalane (Castlehaven); Mick Slocum (St Finbarr’s), Conor Counihan (Aghada), Barry Coffey (Bishopstown); Shea Fahy (Nemo Rangers), Danny Culloty (Newmarket); Dave Barry (St Finbarr’s), Larry Tompkins (Castlehaven), captain, Teddy McCarthy (Glanmire); Paul McGrath (Bishopstown), Colm O’Neill (Midleton), Mick McCarthy (O’Donovan Rossa). 

Subs: John O’Driscoll (Ballingeary) for McCarthy injured, Paddy Hayes (St Finbarr’s) for Barry and John Cleary (Castlehaven) for McGrath.

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