The gesture was partly to make up for the disappointment of losing the All-Ireland semi-final after a second replay and we all jumped at the offer. A gang of us took off, the women with us, before lunchtime. We had landed in the Burlington in no time.
The wives and girlfriends had hair appointments, nail and tanning appointments, booked around Dublin so myself and Ollie Baker decided to repair to the Leeson Lounge for a couple of quiet pints. About half an hour later, this head appears in behind the door — the late Páidí Ó Sé. I swear, I never put down an afternoon of craic like it. PO was telling stories about matches, the guards, some of the stuff he got up to. Myself and Baker were falling around the place laughing.
We had so much craic we lost track of the time. I think I had a mobile phone at the time but they were nearly the type of item you didn’t bother bringing on a weekend like that and there was nearly a search party out for us for a finish. We just made it back to the hotel in time for a shave and to throw on the suits before both of us stepped onto the stage to collect our awards.
No matter what anyone says about the All Stars — that they’re no good unless you’ve an All-Ireland — they are the greatest individual award you can win. I was lucky enough to be called onto that stage three times and was nominated six times and they were some of the best nights I ever put down, it was almost the one night of the year when you got to engage and have a proper conversation with opposing players.
Even when I didn’t win one in 1997, when I captained Clare to that second All-Ireland, I wasn’t that disappointed or put out. I finished the season well but I had been poor against Cork and dire for 20 minutes against Tipp in the Munster final.
I had lads in my ear telling me I was wronged but deep down, I knew I wasn’t hard done by.
There are always one or two guys who are entitled to feel that way and I think this year’s team reflects those percentages. Twelve or 13 of the team were shoo-ins but there are always going to be marginal calls, and points of debate. The main one is that Tipp — Munster champions — only got one while Waterford — league champions — got three.
I don’t really see any issue there because I know how this works. A new, young team often captures the public imagination more and that is reflected in the selection. Furthermore, Waterford played more games than Tipp, which put them in the shop window that bit more.
You could make a case for Cathal Barrett but he missed the Limerick game and he only played two games over the summer. Noel Connors was well entitled to his slot at number 4.
Numbers never add up anyway. Kilkenny won everything last year — Walsh Cup, league, Leinster and All-Ireland. Tipp won nothing and they still got one more All-Star than Kilkenny. It didn’t go down well in Kilkenny but every one of those Tipp players was entitled to his award last year, just as every winner is this year.
I heard plenty of people saying this year that it was easy for Tadgh de Burca to play centre-back because he was a sweeper marking nobody. But that’s not de Burca’s fault and he is only carrying out the job he’s been told to do by Derek McGrath.
The system was key to Waterford but de Burca was key to the system operating properly.
The only defender omitted you could make a case for was Pádraig Walsh but even that is a stretch. Mick Fennelly and David Burke is a solid selection at midfield. Burke’s form was brilliant in the semi-final and final, which is when the awards are really dished out.
I’m glad Cathal Mannion got his award because he was excellent against Dublin (replay), Cork and Tipp, but I think Johnny Glynn is unfortunate to lose out. His workrate all year — apart from the All-Ireland final — was immense and it probably deserved to be rewarded. Then again, Jason Flynn has a case too. You just can’t pick everybody. Overall though, it is a good team. Now, all that is left to do for everyone else is to enjoy each other’s company on a great night and hope that you have no match Saturday or Sunday.
I remember Tommy Walsh picking up a gong one year and Brian Cody and Ned Quinn saying to him a few minutes later, ‘See ya Tommy’. ‘Where the hell is he going?’ I asked Cody. ‘Tullaroan have a relegation final on Sunday’.
Maybe that’s why he won so many!