Dublin’s two-time All-Star Kieran Duff says he felt treated like “a criminal in the GAA world” following the ill-tempered 1983 All-Ireland final. Duff was sent off for kicking Galway’s Pat O’Neill and despite both players insisting the Dublin forward never made contact with his head the Dubliner was handed a 12-month suspension.
“It looked like I actually kicked him in the head. But he said himself afterwards that I made no contact whatever, and if I did make contact, it was with his arm or shoulder. It was the crowd’s reaction, I think, what done me.”
It resulted in Duff gaining a reputation as a ‘nasty footballer’ and he feels it gave opponents a licence to do as they wished to him: “So basically players could do whatever they liked to me, pull, drag, and I wouldn’t get a free. That happened for probably a year or two after the final.”
The Fingallians man still feels disappointed with how he was made a scapegoat for the vitriolic 1983 final.
“It does hurt when you are getting nothing but negative press and being called a thug,” he says of the game against Galway on his Laochra Gael programme which will be aired on TG4 next Wednesday (9.30pm).
“The GAA were trying to nail somebody on it. They tried to nail Brian (Mullins) between the sending off and the tunnel, though nothing really happened in the tunnel. The next one was me. I was landed with a 12-month suspension. Talk about being gobsmacked.
“You are treated like you are a criminal in the GAA world,as if you are after bloody committing murder.
“And at this stage I was looking at what was done to me in the Leinster final two months earlier (when he was on the receiving end of a two-footed lunge from Offaly’s Mick Fitzgerald). We did try to highlight that tackle, we did try to use that as a yardstick.”
In a riveting documentary on his career and life, Duff claims he would have at least stopped Kevin Foley from scoring the goal that broke Dublin in 1991 had he been on the field.
Duff came off the bench in the first game and started because of injuries in the first replay but didn’t feature in the next two parts of the saga with Meath and is convinced he would have prevented the wing-back from beating John O’Leary.
I know for a fact that if I had come on for any stage of that game, Kevin Foley would not have left my sight to go down the field and to be on the end of something. The two of us would probably be wrestling on the ground somewhere so that would have been him taken care of.
Duff had sparred with Foley in previous games such as the 1988 Division 1 League final matches.
“They brought in a few lads that just didn’t worry about their own game, they just worried about stopping A, B, or C who were playing for Dublin. “Kevin Foley went out to do a job, and his specific job was to take me out.”
The All-Stars trip to San Francisco that year took place after the NFL final but before the replay. Duff was the only Dublin footballer and he remembers being targeted in an exhibition game.
“I’d say four Meath lads had a go at me. I got four clips, stitches under my chin first half, so I thought, ‘right, if that’s all it’s going to be, then happy days’. But anyway the game was only on five minutes, start of the second half (and) boom I was decked. So I am on the ground, blood spewing out of me. So anyway, eventually with 10 minutes to go they take me off in case I get sent off. At this stage, I am frothing.”
Both football and hurling teams were on the tour where it was claimed there was a physical row between the Meath players and Duff backed by the Galway hurlers. “Now, I would have been good friends with a good lot of the Galway hurlers,” he recalls. “There was a bit of an argument, there was a bit of a hullabaloo, but that was it. There it was just verbals, but fair play to the Galway hurlers they stuck to my back.”
Needless to say, the carry-on boiled over into the replay. “So the game was only on 10 minutes, 15 minutes, and then you see, boom (Duff on the ground). I am on the ground again — Kevin Foley is sent off.”