An Phoblacht 2 - 2022 small

20 March 1997 Edition

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Go on ye boy yah!

By Sean O'Donaile

``The last time I was in Crossmaglen was forty years ago, on the border campaign and we weren't firing balls over the bar''. So said the republican veteran I met at Croker last Sunday as Cross' swept to their first ever All Ireland Club football title with a polished performance which Mayo's Knockmore had no answer for.

The 50's border campaign had a reputation for missing their targets, and for a while in the second half Cross' threatened to do likewise, missing a host of easy scores. Knockmore could only claw the deficit back to four points, only for Oisin Og McConville to turn the screw with four points in the last ten minutes to leave an eight point margin (2-13 to 0-11) at the finish. Knockmore never got to grips with two early Cross' goals, and one's heart went out to their goalie Pat Reape who butterfingered a high ball to the net in the early minutes.

Mayo has always been a great place for unfulfilled promise, and none more so than the gangly Padraig Brogan, who ten years ago threatened to become the next Jack O'Shea, until he discovered the beer and the good life. He remains supremely talented however and was the nearest Knockmore had to a threat but his colleagues around him never bubbled and their backs were ever able for the black and amber onslaught.

It's hard to fathom a team in Kilkenny jersies playing good football. One almost expects the bus driver to be playing or the team to retire due to lack of interest, but this side gave a new meaning to black and amber football. Their passing and brilliant teamwork was reminiscent of Donegal's 1992 side. The McConvilles helped themselves to a goal apiece, with Oisin being supreme, and judging by the youth of this side, they may indeed have come from Tir na nOg!

Finally a bualadh bos for the burly manager Joe Kernan, who twenty years ago was at the receiving end of a Dublin side at the height of their powers. As for the boys from forty years ago, they're still playing.

If Cross' have Oisin and Na Fianna, Wolfe Tones have Cuchulainn in the towering Brian Lohan, Ireland's most intimidating defender, who finally met his match in Athenry's young Eugene Cloonan, who led this excellent Galway side to thier first All Ireland Club Hurling title, in front of over 34,000 spectators.

This competition must now rank as the most popular outside of the championship, but it's hard to have an atmosphere in a half full Croke Park.

This never was never going to be able to live up to the excitement of the semi-final and Shannon were very fortunate to be only three points (0-14 to 1-8) in arrears at the finish. This was mainly courtesy of 18 second half Athenry wides. Cloonan helped himself to nine points and outshone his old idol Pat Rabbitte, who was guilty of some of the worst misses. Shannon goaled from the off and this was the major factor in keeping them at the races until the break. It was only a matter of time before this supremely talented Galway side pulled away and so they did, to the chorus of the world's most sung-to-death song, The Fields of Athenry. A great day for the Fir Bolg of the West and Cuchulainn has finally been slain.

What about Celtic? What about them...?

According to Larry O'Toole, Sinn Féin's man in Europe, we're all better off following Bohemians, but they suffered a similar fate to Celtic, handing the championship on a platter to rivals Derry on Sunday.

Still, there's always Cliftonville!

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