CLARE v Kerry in the 1992 Munster football final popped up on TV recently.
Your correspondent was struck by the freely contested kick-outs, the big plastic water containers. And, of course, commentator Marty Morrissey freeing the cows of his native Clare from milking duties for a week.
Almost 30 years on, Morrissey recalls the day and the build-up. Commandant Noel Walsh had brought in John Maughan as Clare manager, to the occasional chagrin of club managers in Clare.
Managers like Marty Morrissey.
“I was over Kilmurry-Ibrickane at the time and John had imposed strict training — running on the beach in Lahinch, sandhills in Doonbeg long before Trump — and it was serious, as I knew from my neighbour, Aidan ‘Horse’ Moloney.
“He, Dermot Coghlan and Michael Roughan were on the panel and I had some disagreements with Maughan about them being allowed back.
I was taking my managerial responsibilities seriously, and Maughan’s response tended to be assertive and forthright: ‘we have them, and we’ll keep them’.
Morrissey was working out of RTÉ Cork and covered a couple of Clare games earlier that season.
He saw the progress: “People knock the second-tier championship now, but Clare made the All-Ireland B final against Longford in Ballinasloe.
“It was a wet, miserable day, but I persuaded the lads in RTÉ to cover it, and Clare won. We also had a good league campaign, so I felt we weren’t that bad. Kerry were in transition. Jack O’Shea was coming to the end and Seamus Moynihan was making his debut . . . and Clare were going okay.”
The ties were strong. Morrissey had played underage for Clare with Noel Roche, Gerry Killeen and Martin Flynn. Tom Morrissey was a distant relation.
Still, the background wasn’t promising. Morrissey was writing a Sunday newspaper column and the day of the Munster final, he showed where Clare football had been.
“One year I was the sub goalkeeper for Clare against Limerick in the Munster championship. The late Dave Weldrick was in charge and Sean Moloney from Kilrush was the captain.
“In the dressing-room, Seanie had us hopping, dancing, ready to go out — we burst out the door and down the corridor, but we ran into each other when Seanie stopped and asked if anyone had a football.
“Chaos. We went out on the pitch and swiped one of Limerick’s for the warm-up.
“But that was where we were at. Pat Spillane certainly enjoyed that column, as he reminded me later at the game.”
Spillane was Morrissey’s co-commentator. Another twist in the narrative.
“Pat was on the Kerry team that beat Clare 9-21 to 1-9 in 1979, the Miltown Massacre. I was on the fringes of the panel then but I watched that game sitting on the wall in Miltown. Thirteen years later, I was sitting next to him for a Munster final between Clare and Kerry.”
Early on, Clare were nervous. They left at least 1-3 after them in the first quarter, with Gerry Kileen missing a penalty.
“I could feel it in Spillane, that the game was following expected lines after that, and that Kerry would take over.
Gerry’s penalty miss was huge at the time, and Pat couldn’t resist saying there was a danger I’d fall out of the commentary box if Clare did get a goal.
Backed by the wind, Clare were ahead at the break by a point and were more than a match for Kerry as the game wore on.
Then Colm Clancy struck for goal heading into the final quarter.
“Until then there was a bit of an undertone to some of Pat’s contributions — ‘ye’ve done well but Kerry will take over now’ — so when Colm Clancy got the goal, I nearly fell out of the commentary box, just as he’d predicted.”
At the end, Morrissey famously said there wouldn’t be a cow milked in Clare for the next week. It was a one-liner with longevity, as befitted a county which had waited 75 years for a Munster football title.
“Ah, it meant the world. As Dalo (Anthony Daly) said a few years later, we love our music and our hurling in Clare, but we also love our football. That’s where I’m from, west Clare.
“And we love Kerry, if we want a challenge, we go across the Shannon to play club teams there, but they’re also in our way.
“Colm Collins has done a great job with Clare and it
always seems to be Kerry we come up against in the championship.
“So beating them . . . it was emotional. Seismic. And I have to say Pat made it so joyful, with the slagging and that. He was great that day and it made it all the more enjoyable, the way he took it in the right spirit. We’re great friends.”
The game had a vivid afterlife, as the highlight package was shown twice on that evening’s Sunday Game (“Only time ever, I think, because of a power cut”).
It drove on others within the county as well. “Dalo and Ger Loughnane would tell the story better, but after that Munster football final, there was a sense of ‘fair play to the footballers, but now we’ll have to get cracking’. The hurlers who won All-Irelands in 1995 and 1997 would tell you that the footballers drove them on.”
Clare exited to Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final: “Ger Canning swapped with me for that game. He was supposed to do it, so that was very generous. Seeing Clare come out that day, a full Croke Park, was emotional.”
Since 1992, his killer line has often been repurposed.
“It’s resonated alright. If I’m doing a game in the North and Monaghan win, I’ll hear about the cows in Castleblayney not being milked.
“It was something we’d say at home. If Kilmurry-Ibrickane won we’d say, ‘well, there’ll be no cows milked in Quilty tonight’.
“Those things just happen. You couldn’t make them up or plan for them beforehand. But I’m proud of it because it’s a Clare thing, and it was a momentous day.”