Domhnall O’Donovan’s equalising point was one of the greatest acts in All-Ireland hurling history. It was an epic moment, writes Joe Ó Muircheartaigh who selects seven of the best from the Banner County archives.
1 Eamonn Taaffe (1995)
SIXTY six minutes and Offaly were four minutes away from back-to-back All-Ireland titles. They led by 2-7 to 0-11, but enter Eamonn Taaffe to change the course of hurling history. Clare had a 65-metre free. It was Seanie McMahon country, but Anthony Daly beat him to the ball.
“Whatever it was about today,” recalled Daly afterwards, “I felt good about it. I said I’d have a go at it.” It was the perfect call as Taaffe, a 50th minute sub for Stephen McNamara met the sliotar as it came back off David Hughes’ crossbar and flashed it to the net. A flash of the ash to be forever frozen in time.
“It was the best 16 minutes of my life,” he said afterwards. “Ger told me to be prepared. He told me I wouldn’t be in the 24 but to be ready because there was a chance I’d go on. That’s all I wanted to hear. It fell for me and I just let fly,” he added.
It was a remarkable cameo. Taaffe was immediately substituted, and though Offaly levelled the match with a Johnny Dooley free, two pointed frees by Anthony Daly and Jamesie O’Connor got them home to a first All-Ireland success in 81 years.
“At that moment when the final whistle sounded time seemed to stand still,” wrote Paddy Downey in The Irish Independent. “There was magic in the air and the grey light of a September evening was transfigured. It shimmered,” he added.
2 Jamesie O’Connor (1997)
“ALL hail King James”, thundered the headline in The Irish Independent on September 14, 1997. It said it all, as Jamesie O’Connor had stepped up and landed the winning point in the All-Ireland final, which moved Con Houlihan to proclaim Clare “the most deserving champions of all time” because they “beat the three giants of tradition, Cork and Tipperary and Kilkenny and for great measure they beat Tipp again”.
It was the St Joseph’s Doora-Barefield man’s 69th minute score that won the day. Sixty yards out and underneath the Hogan Stand, with Clare manager Ger Loughnane having long since forsaken his seat on the sideline and moved behind the goal waiting for O’Connor’s strike – there to suck it over the bar.
“Ollie Baker had just scored the most crucial point of the whole match to level it,” recalled O’Connor. “Then Colin Lynch got a ball along the side and I called for it, but with the level of noise it’s impossible to hear out there. He saw me and he went to pass it but someone cut him off. Then he flicked it to me, there was a bit of space which allowed me to settle and thankfully it went over.”
Waiting for it was Loughnane, to catch the sliotar. All that was left was for Davy Fitzgerald to make the most important save of his career and John Leahy went for goal at the death.
3 Tull Considine (1932)
THE opening line of The Irish Independent report on the All-Ireland semi-final meeting between Clare and Galway in Limerick said it all: “The Clare-Galway semi-final tie will live long in hurling history,” said ‘Gael’.
It was no wonder, because of the dramatic events that saw Clare come from 4-7 to 2-0 down at half-time to storm to a 9-4 to 4-14 victory. It was all thanks to Tull Considine who continued on his one-man crusade to bring the All-Ireland hurling title to Clare. He scored three goals in the Munster final win over Cork, now with defeat staring Clare in the face of Galway’s brilliance he needed to produce more. “Considine, Clare’s full-forward proved himself a rare opportunist and pounced upon them any chances provided him to ram home true and well,” noted Gael.
“Tull got six goals that day,” recalled Clare captain John Joe ‘Goggles’ Doyle, while ‘Gael’ said it “beggars description” as he called the result “one of the most sensational on the general run of play that has ever happened”.
4 David Fitzgerald (1995)
TWENTY six minutes into the Munster Final and a defining moment has arrived. Limerick lead by 0-5 to 0-3.
They could have been further ahead – would have been had Damian Quigley dispatched one of the goal chances that came his way on the day. But now the tide was about to turn after a piercing run through the Shannonsiders defence by Stephen McNamara helped put Conor Clancy in sight of goal – he was fouled and up came goalkeeper David Fitzgerald. He’d been told the previous week by Ger Loughnane that he was the penalty taker. Now after foiling Damian Quigley on the double he was about to strike the big blow in Clare’s quest for a first Munster title since 1932. “I was trying to clear my head running up the field, saying to myself there ‘there is only one thing you have to do and that’s hit the ball as hard as you can. Don’t have it saved, drive them all into the net with it if you must’.”
He crashed home and Clare were on their way – they never looked back. You could say hurling in the county never looked back.
“Fitzgerald, who was seen to limp after an earlier goalmouth joust, sprinted back the pitch as if making an assault on the world 100m record,” said Liam Horan in The Irish Independent. “David’s the most confident player on the team and we all knew he would score it,” said Jamesie O’Connor.
5 Jim Guerin (1914)
CLARE’S first All-Ireland title. There was no Liam McCarthy Cup then, with the Great Southern and Western Railways Cup being the All-Ireland trophy of the day crossing the Shannon for the first time ever thanks to a facile 5-1 to 1-0 over Leix.
They were a team of heroes from goalkeeper Pa ‘Fowler’ McInerney out. Amby Power was captain, but the hero of the day was Newmarket-on-Fergus man John Guerin who was the three-goal hero. “The Clare representatives played with the same dash that characterised their performances against Limerick and Cork,” said the Freeman’s Journal. “The winners were loudly cheered, several members of their team being carried to the dressing room.”
Jim Guerin was surely chaired highest of all. All the way to Wynns Hotel where Clare celebrated?
6 Jimmy Smyth (1953)
WRITING in The Irish Independent, the legendary GAA correspondent John D Hickey cut to the chase after this Munster Championship opener between Clare and Limerick on June 14, 1953. “Were hurling a professional, rather than amateur game, I could well see this morning’s Irish Independent carrying an advertisement in letters bold and big – ‘Wanted A Limerick Hurling Team’.”
It was all to do with Jimmy Smyth – the sensational performance by the Ruan maestro that secured his name in the annals of Munster championship hurling. He scored 6-4, still the highest ever individual score in the provincial championship.
What harm if The Irish Press’ man in Cusack Park that afternoon, Tom Cryan, affectionately known as ‘The Squire’ called him Joe Smith. “Joe Smith, a left-handed player doing duty on the right wing, was the man of the match for Clare. Powerful in physique and ability, he scored no less that six goals and four points, so that gives a true indication of his calibre,” wrote Cryan.
7 Jimmy Carney (1955)
FIRST it was Cork in Thurles – the four-in-a-row chasing Rebels had been accounted for by 3-8 to 2-10 in the opening round of the Munster Championship. Now for Tipperary – winners of the previous three All-Irelands before that – in the semi-final in Limerick.
It was a dour, low scoring game with Clare getting home to their first Munster final in 17 years by 1-6 to 0-8 – all thanks to a 50th minute intervention by the youngest man on the field, 21-year-old Jimmy Carney.
“Just ten minutes from time the fireworks began. Tipperary were hanging on doggedly to a two-point lead against a steady Clare offensive when the Bannermen were awarded a free at midfield. Captain Matt Nugent took the puck and dropped the ball down towards the Tipperary goalmouth.
“There was a moment of confusion as backs and forwards dashed under the falling ball, but young Jimmy Carney from Bealaha slipped through the ruck to flash it past Tony Reddan and Clare led for the first time since the opening minutes,” said Padraig Puirséal in The Irish Press.