From the archives: The day Clare broke old firm stranglehold

For much of the time, he served as a Clare delegate to the Munster Council before being elected chairman, Noel Walsh was a strong advocate of the inter-provincial competitions and in the vanguard of the movement to open up Croke Park to rugby and soccer.

From the archives: The day Clare broke old firm stranglehold

And, for years he had campaigned vigorously for an open draw in the Munster SFC.

Eventually, this was adopted late in 1990, which marked 25 years of continuous ‘old firm’ finals between Kerry and Cork, following the Rebels’ defeat by Limerick in the semi-final of 1965.

The draw for the 1991 championship saw the big two on the same side, with Kerry putting out Clare and shocking reigning All-Ireland champions Cork in Killarney. Limerick, managed by John O’Keeffe, defeated Waterford in the other semi-final and faced the Kingdom in Fitzgerald Stadium, where they came close to causing a shock.

Inspired by a Jim O’Donovan penalty in the first minute, they led 2-8 to 0-10 at half-time, but, with Maurice Fitzgerald making a major contribution, Kerry finished stronger to win 0-23 to 3-12.

Provincial secretary Donie Nealon said in his annual report the championship had been given “a totally new impetus”, and the weaker four counties “at long last saw light at the end of a dark tunnel”.

In 23 campaigns since 1991, only 10 finals were contested by Cork and Kerry and in 11 of the other 13 they met in semi-finals in all but one year — Cork losing to Clare in 1997 in Ennis and Limerick in Páirc Uí Chaoimh in 2003. However, the most telling statistic is that Clare were the only one of the ‘weaker four’ to beat Kerry. Limerick had a great chance in the 2004 decider, going under in a replay in Killarney.

Clare achieved their victory in the 1992 final, at the Gaelic Grounds, with Seamus Moynihan making his debut when sitting his Leaving Certificate. Interestingly, Noel Walsh was a Clare selector and former Mayo star John Maughan, whose career was cut short by a knee injury at 25, was the manager.

Denied a goal from a Gerry Killeen penalty in the sixth minute, they led 0-7 to 0-6 at half-time and goals from Conor Clancy and Martin Daly earned a sensational 2-10 to 0-12 win. It marked only their second ever provincial title (since 1917) and a second championship win over Kerry in 34 meetings.

The winning team included Martin Flynn at corner-forward, who played in the 1979 game in Miltown Malbay which Kerry won 9-21 to 1-9 (‘the Miltown massacre’). Flynn was brought in as sub keeper in the 28th minute and was beaten for seven of the goals. Against Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final, they were strongly in contention for 45 minutes, being unlucky to have a goal disallowed early in the game and losing ultimately by five points.

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