By John McIlwaine
A week before they played Dublin in the 1994 All Ireland Football final Down manager Pete McGrath decided his team needed a weekend away to get their heads right for the challenge that lay before them. You would think the men from the Mournes would be planning to head to one of football’s strongholds like Kerry or Mayo but instead they came to Glenariffe a place where many of the natives probably hardly ever seen a football.
They stayed at Kilmore House in the one of the most beautiful parts of Ireland and trained down at the Oisin’s ground each morning. I remember at the time hearing about it happening so I went down to see if I could capture this little bit of history. I was a bit apprehensive about gatecrashing their training session but I spoke to Ross Carr and he made me feel at ease right away. I worked away all morning and nobody gave me a second glance. Ross was a real gentleman and could not have been more accomadating and any time I met him afterwards he always had time for a chat. (Little did I know that day that over a quarter of a century later I would be photographing his daughter’s wedding to a man who only lived less that a couple of miles from the pitch)
Whatever Peter McGrath and his team found that weekend in Glenariffe it stood them in good stead, for one week later they beat the Dubs in the All Ireland final in Croke Park by 1-13 to 0-12 before a crowd of 58,684. Wee James scored the vital goal with Mickey Linden hitting four points and Ross Carr three, the target practice into the ‘Waterfoot goals’ a week earlier standing them in good stead.
Ross Carr and DJ Kane came back a few weeks later with the Sam Maguire Cup and called into a few of the local hostalries, as a thank you for the welcome they received during their last visit there. Friendships were forged that have lasted to this day and while the Glenariffe men may not have been influenced by a visit from such legends as Ross Carr, Mickey Linden, Greg Blaney and Wee James McCartan, it maybe rubbed off on the ladies in the area for many years later they started playing the game and just two seasons ago won an Antrim Junior B title.