25th Anniversary of Conlon Cup Final - 1991 (Matt Cahill)

 SHOOT-OUT IN A STORM : CHRISTMAS 1991
 

The 22nd of December will mark the 25th anniversary of the 1991 Conlon Cup Final. Kilmacud Crokes played Stars Of Erin of Glencullen in an eagerly awaited final. This is not a tale of ultimate garlanded victory but more a recollection of a grand little team and players and friends who soldiered together for a few years enjoying a measure success, some disappointment and most of all fun along the way. While it was a "social" team it was also populated by seriously good and committed players with ambition. The Wednesday training sessions were taken very seriously and were thorough, challenging  and varied. The post training libation was always well earned.

In the weeks preceeding the game controversy had raged about Clanna Gael-Fontenoys enlightened idea to stage soccer and Gaelic football matches back-to back at the RDS. The Ringsend club's bold initiative was scuppered in the end but eventually sporting glasnost arrived and rugby internationals were played at Croke Park.

Kilmacud's first of seven senior Dublin Senior football championship wins was still a year off but momentum was building at all levels. Manager Tony Kelly had masterminded his junior team's inspiring league win in early December. Another football success was anticipated from us as a further boost to football in the ascent out of a relatively fallow era.

The journey of the team had been long, winding and very enjoyable with the highs greatly outweighing the lows. 1990 had been a brilliant year for us. As usual  we visited Tom Cleary's home town of Miltown Malbay at Easter for football and music and singing agus go leor eile. Manager Hugh Finlay's exquisite rendition of  "The Lonesome Boatman" on tin whistle remains an abiding memory amongst a host of musical highlights.

Later in the year we savoured the sweet taste of success in winning the Division 3 Junior league title. The final win was relatively easy but the semi-final scalp of St Vincents was a visit to Nirvana itself. Trailing by seven points at the interval we turned the tables and won
handsomely by seven. Robert " Snaz" Nally memorably employed  his priceless left peg to devastating effect scoring a goal from such an acute angle even Euclid would have been dumbfounded. The lengthy celebrations concluded in the now defunct Peekers night club in Dunlaoghaire. We certainly knew how to celebrate and sing. Sometimes the singing was better when we lost.

In the build up to the final a cartoon was commissioned of the team which went on display on the club notice board. Some of the players still have framed copies of it. The artist Michael Moriarty, who sadly passed away some years ago all too young, drew it from a couple of photographs and pen pictures of the players' footballing idiosyncrasies and general team relationships and dynamics. This eclectic cast of characters had singers, musicians, hurlers, rugby players, soccer players, a handballer, a dog-lover, all-rounders, golfers, comedians aplenty and much more besides who coalesced into a decent gaelic football team.  Sporting ecumenism was alive and well in Crokes. Michael did a remarkable job considering that he never met the players. Ar dheis dé go raibh a anam dilís. 

Crokes and Stars had shown impressive form in their respective paths to the final. Playing in the division 2 Junior league we reached the final of the Conlon Cup having played higher-ranked teams.  Because of the perennial fixtures delay the game was fixed in late December- three days prior to christmas day at that. On the day before "high-noon" some of us played and shivered in the annual Pitch and Putt ritual in Glencullen and then retreated to Johnny Foxes to thaw. Sometime during the evening a phone call confirmed that O' Toole Park would indeed be playable which surprised us given the violently inclement weather conditions. We were not over the moon "le h-áthas" at the news.

"You cant always get what you want" so goes the Rolling Stones song. A win would have capped off the history of this team in fine style. But fate decreed otherwise.." The best laid plans of mice and men aft gang aglay" and all that.. In spite of all the thorough thought, preparation and fine football played during the year the final was a massive disappointment with a storm-force wind playing havoc with pre-match game plans. The storm's ferocity nearly blew players off their feet at times and made scoring nigh impossible for both teams. Nothing went right  for us on the day but we went down fighting by four points on a low scoreline of 2-3 to 0-5.

Still, all in all we had tremendous fun over the lifetime of the team, as the cartoon captures a glimpse of, and that is all that matters. Hard to believe a quarter of a century has passed. 

Well done lads, go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir arís ..... great memories indeed.

Matt Cahill