1990 football final was a classic reminder that things are not always that bad

1990 football final was a classic reminder that things are not always that bad
Cork's Conor Counihan and Bernard Flynn of Meath tussle for the ball in the All-Ireland Football final in 1990. Counihan and the Cork defence were in inspired form that day Picture: INPHO/James Meehan

WHAT to do? What to do?

As the first full week of remote working comes to an end, there is a growing realisation in my life that not having to shave is great and a world without sport sucks in the extreme.

Removed from society, and continuing my working day at a desk just feet away from my bed is strangely peculiar, yet familiar, all at once. Your days are filled by completing the mundane duties of the working day while all the time being distracted by the requirements and jobs that need your attention at home.

For one, where did all this dust come from? Working in an office determines that by the time you get home it is either too dark or you're too beat to notice or care about frivolous things like dusting. However, a full day of using your home as a place of work allows you the opportunity to see, in the very cold light of day, the multitude of chores that need addressing.

The paint job in the bathroom, the wiring in the front room, the spare room carpet in need of a shampoo. And the never-ending piles of dust that need to be redistributed around the house.

My usual way of dealing with such duties are to swamp them in the distractions that come with watching sport. Champions League viewing fills the hours after work during the week, while a diet of Premier League, rugby, and Gaelic games makes any attempt at chores on the weekend, thankfully, totally unfeasible.

The shock arrival of the coronavirus has not only confined us to barracks but cruelly, denies us the sporting distraction that would make such confinement bearable, dare say enjoyable.

The advance of the virus across the planet has seen the dramatic retreat of sport in the face of this microscopic onslaught, requires one to find some other way to pass a day or else face the stark reality of doing housework.

Invariably, we go back to the big screen in the corner of the room in the hope of sporting distraction.

The result has led me to the abject perusal of the now redundant yet still heartbreakingly expensive sports channels in the hopes of stumbling upon some live event.

A cycle race in the rain on the Belgium-French border distracts for awhile. A snooker match in Gibraltar played in front of an empty auditorium and strangely with no referee either, entertains for a while but is devoid of atmosphere.

Cork keeper John Kerins clears his line against Meath in the 1990 All-Ireland Football final in  Croke Park.	 Picture:  Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE 
Cork keeper John Kerins clears his line against Meath in the 1990 All-Ireland Football final in  Croke Park. Picture:  Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE 

If you are lucky, you get a gem like 'The Boys in Green' documentary on RTÉ and experience the halcyon days of Irish soccer. Usually, you end up watching the 'The Premier League Years', the 'Reeling in the Years' of English Football, reminding you of where you were and embarrassingly - what you wore and danced to in the early 90s.

Now and again you get a gem of a memory, like 'GAA Classic' on eir Sport, which last weekend showed the 1990 All-Ireland Football final between Meath and double-chasing Cork.

Despite the name of the show, this was not classic football as such but the contest itself was and still is enthralling to watch. It was great to recall the rivalry between these two great sides as this battle of wills played out in a jammed pre-redeveloped Croke Park.

What a delight to again see the dead-ball skills of Larry Tompkins, the floated points of Shea Fahy, Teddy McCarthy fielding his way to two Celtic crosses in the same year, and the skilful Danny 'The Yank' Culloty passing from either foot. Then there was the poignancy of witnessing John Kerins and Mick McCarthy playing in their prime.

Cork's Colm O'Neill is comforted by coach Billy Morgan after being sent off in 1990 final at Croke Park Dublin.	 Picture: Des Barry
Cork's Colm O'Neill is comforted by coach Billy Morgan after being sent off in 1990 final at Croke Park Dublin. Picture: Des Barry

A moment I had forgotten about was a sublime slalom-run out of defence, past the flying tackles of about a half dozen Meathmen by Conor Counihan deep in the second-half, when 14-man Cork were under heavy pressure from opponents determined to scupper Rebel hopes once again.

And it was that Cork defence that saved the day. The battling nature, of Tony Nation, Niall Cahalane, Steven O'Brien, Michael Slocum, and Counihan was outstanding to watch again. The fielding under pressure, the confidence-building runs while being pounded by "tackles" was inspiring to watch even 30-years on.

The Meath side, legends in their own right, were some tough cookies too. Under continuous and niggling fouls Midleton's Colm O'Neill snapped and threw a puck into the face of Mick Lyons. It was a reflex whipped punch, not a haymaker by O'Neill, but if it was thrown today it would see the recipient rolling around the ground in a gah match not to mind a soccer game. But credit to Lyons, he never reacted, he didn't dramatize the moment, he just turned and went back to his position. There was no attempt to get O'Neill sent off. Unfortunately, for O'Neill, the referee did see it and he was rightly sent to the stands.

It was an uncharacteristic moment of seeing-red for O'Neill but how great was it to see Lyons walk away from the blow without recourse to retaliation or seeking referee retribution.

And that's what made this so great, these men, these teams. They were no angels, far from it. They were not beyond the dark arts of gamesmanship and dirty tricks. But they took it standing up, they gave and asked no quarter and they did it with a degree of skill and style that makes self-exile feel not so hard a chore.

Now, where's the feather duster?

Cork's Shea Fahy goes high with Meath's Liam Hayes in the 1990 All-Ireland Football final. Picture: ref no 450/016 
Cork's Shea Fahy goes high with Meath's Liam Hayes in the 1990 All-Ireland Football final. Picture: ref no 450/016 

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