MAC'S VIEW: Remembering 1990 - a year of Ulster glory and a league quarter-final

A famous trip to Cork, and another All-Ireland semi-final defeat

McEniff column

Robbie O'Malley of Meath and Donegal’s Manus Boyle contest for possession during the 1990 All-Ireland semi-final at Croke Park. Boyle hit 1-2 as Meath won out PICTURE: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

I came back on board as manager of Donegal in September 1989.
I took over from Tom Conaghan who had guided the team to an Ulster final that summer, but we were well beaten by Tyrone in a replay.
There were a few players brought back into the panel ahead of the league campaign. The two Cunninghams came back, John and Barry, and I remember Gerry Curran came into the squad too.
We did well in Division One of the league that season. I think there were a few new rule changes introduced that year - including taking a sideline ball from the hands. We’d done our work and we were well ready when the league started.
We opened with a win against Armagh. Martin McHugh gave an outstanding display that day. We beat Cavan and Kerry too. We lost out to Down but then we beat Derry.
After Christmas, we went down to play Cork at Pairc Uí Chaoimh. They’d won the All-Ireland, beating Mayo in the final in ‘89.
There was a great buzz about Donegal back then. We brought a huge support down to Cork for the game. There were buses organised - I remember Philip McGlynn organised a fair bit of that.
There was a lot of rain in Cork that weekend and I knew the pitch at Pairc Uí Chaoimh wouldn’t have been great when the weather was bad like that.

I knew the Cork secretary well that time - a man called Frank Murphy. I was trying to ring him to find out about the pitch and to see if the game would be switched to another venue.
On the Sunday, we went along to the ground and the gates were locked. I could see into the pitch and I spotted Frank sitting up in the stand with a big, back leather coat on him.
Tommy Sugrue inspected the pitch and the match was called off. The same man would referee our All-Ireland final in ‘92.
We’d to come back the following weekend and this time the match was switched away from Pairc Uí Chaoimh and played in Ballincollig. We were up against a good Cork side that day and they go the better of us.
But we beat Dublin after that and that got us into a league quarter-final where we’d lose to Meath in Clones. Little did we know that we’d be meeting them again in the championship.
Our Ulster campaign began with a win over Cavan. We’d a good win over Derry in the semi-final and that meant we were back in another Ulster Final, this time against Armagh.

Brian Murray of Donegal is tackled by PJ Gillic of Meath during the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship semi-final at Croke Park in 1990 PICTURE: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

They’d needed a replay to beat Down in their semi-final. They were a good side and that was a very close Ulster Final.
Manus Boyle hit five points, McHugh got four and we beat them by a point, 0-15 to 0-14.
Meath had beaten Dublin to win Leinster. Brian Stafford scored eight points in that final and Colm O’Rourke got their goal.
O’Rourke was in the corner for Meath in our All-Ireland semi-final and we had John Cunningham on him. John gave O’Rourke the full of it. And I was chatting to a man from Meath some years later and he told me they were about to take O’Rourke off that day. But then he won a turnover and it led to a Meath goal.
We were well beaten in the end - 3-9 to 1-7 - but we’d be back again two years later.
Meath were really good back then. I gave a certain Tony Boyle his first championship start that day. I put him in on Mick Lyons who I remember was really impressed with Boyle.
Meath would go on to lose to Cork in the final.

I’m going to end this week by offering my sympathy to the family and friends of a number of people who have died in the last week.
Firstly, Dr Tom McGinley, who was so strongly associated with the hospice in Derry.
He played for Donegal at full-forward in September 1961 in Ballyshannon. I came on as a substitute for Tom that day for my senior debut. It was against Armagh in a Lagan Cup tie.
Many years later, I was honoured with the Donegal Person of the Year award. The year before, it was Tom who won the award.
I was also saddened to hear of the death of Máire Rua Gallagher. We had two big things in common - our love of Celtic and of Daniel O’Donnell. She was a great woman, and she’ll be sadly missed.
The death of Liam Mullin in Donegal Town will be a big loss to the Four Masters club. Liam was a great GAA man, and particularly hurling.
Joe Pat Prunty also passed away this week. He won a Junior All-Ireland with Cavan and was the man to first develop the Prunty Pitches.
And my sympathy is extended to all in the Kilcar club following the death of Conal Byrne who was a great supporter of club and county teams.

Finally, I'd like to say well done to my good friend Patsy McGowan on his selection for the Hall of Fame award at the Donegal Sports Star awards. No better man. 

Brian McEniff was in conversation with Diarmaid Doherty

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