The Tipperary All-Ireland winning side of 1991 will be feted in Croke Park on Sunday as part of the Silver Jubilee celebrations, writes Noel Dundon.
It was the 105th staging of the All-Ireland senior hurling championship and the final saw Tipperary contest their third in four years, having lost to Galway in 1988 and then defeat Antrim in the 1989 final, thereby bridging an eighteen year gap.
Cork were the defending champions but were defeated by Tipp in a pulsating Munster final replay in Semple Stadium, after the sides had been locked in a draw in Pairc Ui Chaoimh a week previously. Tipp won out by 4-19 to 4-15 in what was regarded as one of the greatest ever Munster Finals. They went on to defeat Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final by 3-13 to 1-9, with ace attacker Michael Cleary grabbing the same score as the entire Galway team.
The All-Ireland Final played before 64,500 in Croke Park with Willie Horgan of Cork as referee, was a far tighter affair and this time Cleary's second half opportunistic goal from a free was to prove decisive in a 1-16 to 0-15 victory - Pat Fox getting the Man of the Match Award having bagged 0-5 from play, and also getting the Hurler of the Year for that season. It was Tipperary's 24th All-Ireland title and Cleary was the championship's top scorer with 3-35 to his credit. It had also been the first All-Ireland Final showdown between the two counties since the 1971 final, two decades previously, which Tipperary won, with Tadhg O'Connor of Roscrea as captain.
It was Holycross Ballycahill's Declan Carr who led Tipp to that famous 1991 victory, following in the footsteps of his club colleague, the late great Pat Stakelum in 1949. The final was regarded as a 'real All-Ireland' title as Tipperary had defeated Limerick, Cork, Galway and Kilkenny en-route to the Hogan Stand to collected the Liam McCarthy Cup - accusations of a 'soft' All-Ireland following the '89 victory over Antrim, were well and truly put to bed.
Sunday will be a great chance for the Tipp players to meet up again and reminisce about those great days when they were kings of the hurling world. And, they will get a great reception from the Tipperary attendance in Croke Park eventhough they will likely be without three of their members - Michael Ryan, John Madden and Conor Stakelum, all of whom are involved with the current senior team and who will be busy rallying the troops in advance of the senior final.
"We are realy looking forward to it," said '91 captain Declan Carr. "It will be a massive day for Tipperary with the minors, the seniors and the jubilee team all togging out in Croke Park.
"The '91 team had a reunion in Portugal earlier in the year organised by Conal Bonner and myself because we had not been together as a team since then. Many of us were involved in the jubilee event in Croke Park for the 1989 All-Ireland, but you don't really get a decent chance to meet the lads and chat to them about the games, and our lives since. A group of forty two, including twenty six of the panel from 1991 travelled over, played a bit of golf, dined together, and had a great time. It was an outstanding success and we managed to rekindle the great bond we had in that team at the time. You spend so much time together during that period and then when it's over you just walk away and you might not meet the lads too often afterwards. So, it was absolutely tremendous to meet up and catch-up with friends," Declan told The Tipperary Star.
Tipperary supporters will be anxious to give the men of '91 - a team held in great affection by Premier people - one hell of a reception when they walk out onto the hallowed turf of Croke Park once again.
Enjoy the day lads. Let's hope it will be memorable.