IT’S the small things that stick in Anthony Daly’s mind. On Saturday, September 2, 1995, the night before Clare’s first All-Ireland final since 1932, Daly went for a walk through his home village. One last look at the old place before life changed the following afternoon.
“Half the village was gone. I went for a walk at about 10 o’clock with a hoodie on me but there was hardly anyone around. The pubs were half empty. Everyone was in Dublin,” Daly recalled, as the 20th anniversary of Clare’s second All-Ireland win closed in.
“I stayed at home at my mother’s. My brother (Paschal) was home from England, Lord have mercy on him. He used to come home for all the big games. I went to bed around half eleven and I definitely slept for five hours anyway, I’d say. I was afraid I mightn’t but I nodded off. We had to be up at about half six because the bus was collecting us in Clarecastle to go straight to Shannon.”
The following morning, six Clarecastle men shuffled onto the airport bus.
“I remember Alan Neville was first up the road in his blazer and his shirt and tie. Sparrow was last of course, as usual. Tuohy got dropped down and Kenny and Sheedo got dropped in. I’d be awful nervous for a few days coming up to the game but when I met up with the group, I was always fine.
“Getting onto the bus and to look back and see the head of Baker and see Seánie, Jamesie and Hego; it was great. Straight away I got confident. We always used to work like that anyway, the strength of the wolf being in the pack and the strength of the pack being in the wolf,” Clare’s double-winning All-Ireland captain recounted.
Daly was never going to make a living as a pilot but flying to Dublin made more sense than driving in pre-motorway days.
“I wouldn’t be the greatest but I could manage that one, up to Dublin on the Jumbo. I don’t think Conor Clancy was too keen on flying either. He was a bit nervous about it.”
He remembers meeting two Irish soccer internationals, with hurling blood in them, at breakfast in Dublin.
“Niall Quinn and Denis Irwin were staying in the hotel. They came into breakfast and Quinn said to Loughnane would he mind if they wished us the best of luck, that they had tickets and were going to the match. Loughane said ‘no problem at all’. When we were talking to them, Brian Quinn came down with a Full Irish and a few extra toppings. Denis Irwin said to Mike Mac, ‘Jesus, he’s not going eating that is he?’ Jamesie was probably having a bit of scrambled egg all right but the rest of us were getting stuck in,” Daly laughed.
The capital city was beginning to come to life at this stage but Daly and his men were sent back to bed.
“I was normally with Baker but Loughnane put me with Doyler for this one. I remember Doyler asking me, ‘did you sleep last night?’ I said I did. ‘I didn’t sleep for a minute,’ he said to me.
“I said that the only consolation was that in Cyril Farrell’s book he said that ‘if you were relying on a night’s sleep before the All-Ireland final, you’re not fit to play in it’. He said ‘that’s a big consolation to me’. Thanks very much.’ I said ‘shut your mouth and turn off the light. We might get another hour’. You had to stay in bed then for about two and a half hours,” Daly recalled.
The Croke Park dressing rooms were basic but cool. “We were in those old corner dressing rooms in the Hogan Stand. I’ll always remember how cold they were. They were stone-walled and the room was cold, which was nice. Cyril then, I remember, took over, which was a great stroke out of Ger or Cyril himself. He had a ball in his hand he was saying ‘it’s about this thing. It’s not about an occasion or history. It’s about winning this as often as we can for 35 minutes’,” is what Daly recollects from the pre-match dressing room, as the knock on the door neared.
Although Offaly were already lined out across Croke Park as the national anthem was belted out, Clare remained in a tight group. One Clare man, who won match of the match, seemed to be somewhat confused.
“Tuts was at the front of the huddle and said ‘what way are we playing Dalo?’ I said ‘there’s Whelehan there and that’s Hubert Rigney. You’re marking Kevin Martin over there and that’s the goalie below’. Tuts looked back at me in disgust. We always had a bit of craic. There was always room for something like that with our group.”
Conceding a goal before half-time could have destabilised Clare. Instead, it seemed to energise and refocus them.
“I remember the goal before half-time. Fitzy probably should have caught it, never mind trying to control it or block it. His head was down but I remember all the lads picking him up. Everyone was saying ‘come on, we’re going to do this. No dropping heads now’. He was back, bouncing again before we went out because of all the lads. For the second goal, we should have it cleared about three times between us. I remember turning to run back out to wing-back. I looked up towards the Canal End and while they were deflated for a second or two before Fitzy had it pucked out, I glanced up and they were all roaring and waving the flags again. That really stuck in my mind, that the supporters still believed we were going to do it.”
Anthony Daly and his colleagues were suddenly catapulted onto the national stage. Small town heroes the day before, now they were county-wide icons and national figures. They even got a mention on Fair City.
“One of the Doyle’s was fighting with the mother and she said ‘will you get down to the Burlington. There’s 25 country lads and they’re all bachelors from Clare after winning the All-Ireland. Bring home one of them.’
“Straight away everything was changed in our worlds but, to this day, some lads are the exact same. More of us have gone into coaching or punditry and other things. Maybe those opportunities wouldn’t have presented themselves if we didn’t win that,” Daly speculated.
Living with sporting success can be as problematic as dealing with failure. “All of a sudden your boyhood dreams are fulfilled. What do you do then?” he reflected.
That summer, Anthony Daly, Ger O’Loughlin and Padraig Russell guided the Clarecastle minors to minor A glory. It was a year that kept on giving. Another bonus was that a
Clarecastle club hurler could never complain about the scarcity of sliotars. “The seniors in Clarecastle used to be coming out training after the minors, when we’d he heading to Cusack Park. I remember Oliver Plunkett was always asking ‘where are ye getting the sliotars?’ There was six of us on the Clare panel and we were taking one a night,” Daly revealed, as he queried where the last 20 years have gone.
“Hopefully the next 20 will go a bit slower,” he laughed again.
By Peter O’Connell