After watching the video of this game over the past week (thanks to Edmond Rowsome for sending it our way) I thought I would look up some of the photos from that famous day in Dundalk. The fact that it was in Dundalk was a big talking point at the time, but he GAA authorities didn’t want to reschedule the minor game in Croke Park which was the curtain raiser for the other semi-final between Galway and Tipperary. You have only to look at the cover of the programme of the Antrim v Kilkenny game to see just how much thought they had for Antrim hurling at the time. It must the one and only match programme in history, ( since the introduction of photos on the cover) that doesn’t carry a photo of the team taking part. Instead they used one from the Kilkenny v Offaly Leinster final instead.
However it has to be said that fixing it for St Brigid’s Park Dundalk probably done us all a favour, for the beautiful little ground created unique atmosphere, and though Antrim were beaten it is a game we all still look back on favourably. When you study the game Antrim really lost it in the first half when playing with the fresh breeze at their backs. They dominated play for long peroids in that opening half, but shot a lot of wides, 12 in all the first period, and many of them were just inches wide of the target. I remember a goal attempt by Dessie Donnelly just before the break skimming the outside of the post, with Kevin Fennely in the Kilkenny goals, well beaten.
What stands out from the game are Danny McNaughton’s two superb goals, when he doubled overhead and sent the ball flying to the net. Our hearts were bursting with pride when the second one went in and we started to believe that maybe the impossible was possible after all. To borrow a line from my old friend Kevin Cashman, the doyen of hurling reporters, “It ended in defeat of course, as the poets and Gods prefer” but that August day in Dundalk let the Antrim team see that they were not far away from the big boys, and for the next seven or eight years they were constantly proving that point. They won promotion to Division 1 the following season and what followed was a golden period in Antrim hurling. Of course the rising tide lifted all boats and the re-introduction of the Ulster Championship in 89 heralded that championsphips greatest ever period with Down’s great team taking the honours in ’92, ’94 and ’97 and Derry breaking through in 2000 and 2001. Great days for Ulster hurling which sadly have gone.
On August 16th in St Brigid Park Dundalk Antrim lost in the end by seven points, all seven of those coming in the last eight minutes after Danny McNaughton’s point had brought us level in the 62nd minute. Harry Ryan was the man who did the damge with 2-5 overall and Richie Power with 0-10. However ask any Antrm fan who was there about their memories of that game and 99% of them will be positive.
If there is one game I had the chance to go back to it would be that hot August day, only this time those twelve first half wides would all go over. The platform set by James in the half-back line, plus Humpy and Skinner in midfield, would get its just reward and we would all go home looking forward to a final meeting with Galway.
This a report by Gerry McCarthy which appeared the following day in the Irish Press. (Many thanks to our good friend Jim Whelan for sending it and the programme on)