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Battle of the Biddies in Croke Park

YEARS ago, after a Munster football final in Cork, I got on the road home before most of the traffic. The road in question was the old Cork-Mallow road, which probably had more twists and turns per mile than any comparable road in the country.

 

Unfortunately, before very long, I came up behind an old Morris Minor toddling along at 30mph. My impatience was growing until my travelling companion told me to relax “he’s taking his time to make sure the cows are milked before he gets home”.

Maybe Marty Morrissey was thinking something similar when he remarked that there “wouldn’t be a cow milked in Clare tonight”. His comment is up there with Mícheál Ó hEithir’s “there’ll be bonfires in Paradise tonight” after the Hurling League final win against Kilkenny.

Marty was commentating on Clare’s greatest footballing occasion of modern times – the 1992 Munster football final. It was the only occasion when I remember crying at the end of a match.

Clare, and Noel Walsh in particular, had fought for years to have an open draw for the Munster Football Championship and they finally succeeded.

The introduction of John Maughan as manager was the impetus needed and a new era dawned for Clare. Progress was steady. The team won the All-Ireland B Championship and then narrowly lost to Meath in the league quarter-final.

Then there was that memorable day in Limerick against raging hot favourites Kerry. Clare could afford the luxury of a missed penalty and still won. Many in the crowd thought that miss would end Clare’s challenge but they were full value for their four-point win.

The team were so unknown to many in the county that some days later, one of them called to a shop in his job as salesman. The owner knew his name and that his brother played for Clare but that was all. During their chat, the shopkeeper asked the young man if he played football himself. “A bit,” came the reply, “I scored a goal in Limerick last Sunday”.

Next up was the first championship visit by a Clare team to Croke Park since 1917. Armagh had brought some colour on their first visit but nothing will ever compare to the noise and sea of colour that greeted the Clare team as they ran out on to the pitch. For once the Dub supporters were outnumbered, out-coloured and generally out done in their own backyard. Unfortunately, they had the last laugh at the final whistle. They won on a scoreline of 3-14 to Clare’s 2-12.  However, that does not truly reflect the match. If there was ever a case of “We was done”, this was it.

The match revolved around two goalmouth incidents. One was a goal scored by Dublin, which many, even to this day, felt should have been disallowed. The other was a fisted Clare goal but for some inexplicable reason, this one was disallowed. Such are the fortunes of sport and Dublin went on to lose to Donegal in the final.

That ‘Battle of the Biddies’ between Clare and Dublin in the All-Ireland Senior Football Semi-Final took place in Croke Park on August 23, 1992 – 21 years ago this week.

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