By now, Nicky English’s facial expression after scoring a late point in Tipp’s 18-point hammering of Clare in the 1993 Munster final has been interpreted as much as that of the Mona Lisa.
Was the then 30-year-old smiling at how easy it all was or at his team-mate Declan Ryan who had felt sorry for him as an “invalid”.
“Declan would have had no problem scoring himself,” English mentioned in his autobiography. “If anything he was treating me as an old cripple by holding onto the ball to set me up in a scoring position.”
If ever there was an example of perception trumping everything, English’s grin was it. Ger Loughnane ensured the gesture fuelled Clare in seasons ahead.
The Speech, Part 1
The irony in the Liz Howard-Loughnane row that followed Anthony Daly’s Munster-winning acceptance speech in 1997 was that Howard had grown up in Loughnane’s village of Feakle.
But that fact was hardly relevant when Loughnane took exception to Howard, then Tipperary County Board PRO, describing Daly’s oratory as “conduct unbecoming to hurling” in a newspaper article.
The Clare manager issued an open letter in The Clare Champion in which he criticised Howard as well as Tipperary boss Len Gaynor, who Loughnane had worked with as a selector.
After beating Tipp again in the 1997 All-Ireland, Clare supporters had taken the advice of Kieran McDermott’s lyrics to “stop off in Nenagh, to really rub it in”.
As it turned out, some had made a habit of honking their car horns outside Michael Cleary’s toy shop in the town returning from a victory in Croke Park.
Tipperary fans were no innocents, though, and were buying maps of Ireland minus Clare with the title: “A Perfect Island”.
With their Munster SHC first round replay win earlier in the summer of 1999, Clare retained the bragging rights over Tipp.
The Munster U21 final in August saw the counties face off in Ennis.
A Declan Browne goal helped the visitors claim a win in a game pockmarked with fights and concluded with a brawl that continued during the cup presentation.
Many of those in attendance remember the atmosphere as toxic.
The Speech, Part 2
Nine years later and the counties once more clashed in the U21 provincial decider, which had passed off largely without incident until close to the end when referee Jason O’Mahony reversed a Clare free and awarded Tipperary a 65 after Clare goalkeeper Donal Tuohy was adjudged to have taken his previous puck-out outside the small parallelogram.
Pa Bourke converted the 65, which turned out to be the match-winning score.
In his speech and as Clare fans protested with heckles after the referee required a Garda escort, Tipperary captain Seamus Hennessy praised the referee and the officials.