This newspaper celebrated its 125th birthday this year and this columnist has been writing here, on and off, for – well, I haven’t the foggiest what the percentage in years is and I’m not going to try work it out.
If Art Anglin, my long suffering former maths teacher, is reading, please don’t be embarrassed. It wasn’t you, Art, it was me.
Anyway. Here are five memorable occasions I’ve covered in my various incarnations – college placement, young freelance, weekly columnist – with the ’People over the years. To follow them are five events I wouldn’t have minded being present for either. Had I been alive at the time, that is.
The 1984 Leinster semi-final
One of the first matches I ever wrote about. No, not a Kilkenny victory, and it stands out all the more as a result. Having won the All-Ireland in 1982 and ’83, what could have been more fitting from a Noreside point of view than to do the three in a row in the centenary year of the GAA, and in Semple Stadium to boot?
It didn’t come to that. The holders’ full-back line was decimated by injury and, sure enough, Tony Doran scored a late goal to win it for Wexford. There would be no three in a row. Not yet.
Chelsea at Buckley Park in 1986
Yes, younger readers, this really happened! Chelsea, back when they were an unsuccessful and unglamorous club from west London and long before anyone had heard of Roman Abramovich, came to town to play Emfa, predecessors of Kilkenny City, on the August bank holiday. They duly won 8-1, with Kerry Dixon and Gordon Durie scoring hat tricks. The sun shone and a crowd of 3,500 attended.
Kilkenny City winning promotion in 1997
A bunch of us went every second Saturday to the home games and it was tremendous fun.
The 2011 All-Ireland final
A match Kilkenny simply had to win because the 2009 All-Ireland was retrospectively on the line, and with it their entire reputation. Had they lost, people would have said, “Well, Tipp beat ye in 2010 and ’11 and were robbed in 2009.” Victory made sure that 2010 was the injury-blighted exception. Fascinating the way 70 minutes can colour and change perceptions forever.
Now here are five events I’d love to have covered:
The 1931 All-Ireland final.
The 1931 All-Ireland finals, to be precise. Three of them. Kilkenny versus Cork. Draw, draw, Cork victory.
It remains the only three-part decider and was a seminal moment in the history of the sport, elevating it hugely in the national consciousness. Kilkenny may ultimately have finished on the losing side, but in one sense everyone was a winner.
The 1935 All-Ireland final
Deemed by the old-timers to have been the county’s greatest MacCarthy triumph. It rained and rained and rained. Such conditions naturally suiting players with a superior first touch, what ensued may well have been Lory Meagher’s finest hour ever in the black and amber. Kilkenny 2-5 Limerick 2-4.
The 1939 All-Ireland final
Thunderbolts and lightning, very very fright-en-ing. Oh, and World War II broke out too.
The 1947 All-Ireland final
Same protagonists as eight years earlier but this one took place in bright sunshine. Terry Leahy decided it in injury time with a point at the Railway End. The winning margin? “The usual point,” as Jack Lynch, a member of the losing side, would say many years later.
True story, incidentally: the scoreboard reading 0-14 to 2-7 at the end, one teenager from John Street was so confused by the late drama that his arithmetic temporarily let him down and he assumed it was a draw (ie 2 x 7 = 14) until Liam Ryan of Clara informed him otherwise on their way out of the Cusack Stand. I’m sure Art Anglin would have let him off.
Arkle winning at Gowran Park
The great horse trotted up in the 1964 Thyestes Chase – then, as now, the showpiece event of the calendar at the track – en route to beating Mill House to claim the first of his three Cheltenham Gold Cups. My grandmother, known to the world as Margaret Cantwell of Patrick Street and Fiacre’s Place and known to us as Nana, once mentioned something about having been there. I really should have asked her more about it when I had the chance.
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