THE stars certainly aligned for Shea Fahy in the 1990 All-Ireland final triumph over Meath.
Aged 28 and his prime, the towering Nemo Rangers midfielder produced a man-of-the-match display, decorating a brilliant performance with four superb points in the tense 0-11 to 0-9 success.
And Fahy’s motivation not only stemmed from setting the record straight against Cork’s bitter rivals, but his own personal duels, too.
By his own high standards, being replaced in the 1989 win over Mayo wasn’t acceptable and neither was his shooting in the following year’s All-Ireland semi-final win over Roscommon. Fahy set about ensuring there would be no repeat.
“It was one of those days that everything went right for me. It all clicked,” he recalled.
“I kicked four points and people will remember that, but Danny Culloty had a fantastic game, too.
“I wouldn’t have cared who scored because it was all about winning. Nothing else mattered. It was a great day to do it.
“I was never as concentrated for any game. Normally, your concentration breaks, but not this time.
“I think the experience of the previous finals stood us. We had to keep going to the last seconds.
“Those concentration levels were massive, without question the most intense ever.
“There were times you forget you were in Croke Park and that intensity of concentration is the one thing I still remember.
“The focus was incredible and that was the whole team from management to the players. We were a highly driven team.
“The whole day was focussed on playing football for 70 minutes.
“Who scored, who did what, didn’t really matter once we won the game,” Fahy added.
Cork’s triumph was the accumulation of experience gained in previous finals and culminating in collecting the big prize and Meath’s scalp.
“The lead-up to the final actually goes back to 1987 though some people don’t probably realise it.
“We just weren’t ready for it that year because the whole day just passed us by and Meath beat us well in the final.
“We were looking around at the crowd and thinking isn’t it great to be here? It didn’t happen in 90.
“The first time was a huge occasion for us and we bought into the whole thing.
“You couldn’t have had two more opposite approaches to All-Ireland finals.
“Then, in 1988 we drew the first day and ended up losing by a point in the replay.
“And while we had beaten Mayo in 89, we reckoned if didn’t beat Meath, we felt we weren’t true All-Ireland champions.
“The hurlers’ win was another significant element. They had won their All-Ireland now we were leading into something else.
“There was no talk of a double before and now here we were and it definitely impacted.
“A lot of the footballers, including myself, went to the hurling final and I was thinking ‘wouldn’t it be some achievement to pull off the double?’
“We felt we had something to prove with the history against Meath.”
Fahy credits manager Billy Morgan as being the key to it all, pulling together the young fellows who had dominated the U21 grade and players who had success with their clubs.
His influence was critical in how Cork approached defending the Sam Maguire Cup, particularly the Munster final against Kerry.
“We were still on a high after winning the year before, but people wondered whether we could sustain it for a fourth season.
“Billy, in fairness, told us we were good enough to go again and urged us on. He really drove us on.
“And he was right. He set the Munster final as the game we would get ready for and Billy was spot on once more.
“We knew if we got over Kerry, playing in the right way, we had a great chance of getting to another All-Ireland.
“Billy put a lot of focus into that final and it paid off because we had a big win.”
Equally, the roles played by Fahy and Culloty in bettering their Meath opponents couldn’t be stressed enough either.
“I had played against Liam Hayes and Gerry McEntee in all the All-Irelands and we had some tough battles, really hard battles.
“Danny and I knew we had to win ours. There was a lot of focus on us because of the effects it would have on the rest of the team.
“We knew we had a job to do and it was up to us from the first minute to the last to get it done.
“Of all the finals we played in, I thought we were incredibly focussed going into that one.
“I said to people afterwards that no matter what happened in that game we were always going to win it.
“We were so focussed that Colm’s sending off hardly mattered. That’s just the way it was.
“When you put all those combinations together you could see why we were so focused.”
It was a hectic time in Fahy’s life. He was getting married 12 days later to a Mayo woman, Jacqui, and there were individual awards to savour, too.
“Danny could easily have won the man-of-the-match. My four points probably swung it, although he says he gave me passes for two or three of them.”
The Texaco Awards judges came calling, too. “That was special because you’re being recognised with other elite sportspeople and professionals like Sean Kelly from cycling and Jim Bolger from racing. It was great recognition,” Fahy concluded.