The Classics Revisited

Roscommon football fans did not know it then, but when the senior team were beaten by Kerry in the 1980 All-Ireland final it was to be the last time that they were to witness the Primrose and Blue in action in the senior championship in Croke Park for a decade. Roscommon reached the league final in 1981 but were well beaten by Galway (1-11 to 1-2) in a very disappointing final. Then in June 1981 Roscommon were dumped out of the championship in sensational fashion by (then) lowly Sligo (2-9 to 1-8). That was to signal the end of both Roscommon’s domination of the Connacht SF championship and the best senior football team since the 1940’s. In 1982, the senior team’s slide continued when, although they beat Sligo in the first round of the Connacht Championship in Hyde Park, they were beaten by Galway by three points in the Connacht semi-final, also at ‘The Hyde’. However in 1982 a brand new U-21 team emerged from the shadows to reach the All-Ireland final. In the semi-final against Cork at the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick, Roscommon won in dramatic fashion. Strokestown’s Tom Corcoran scored a spectacular goal in injury-time to win the game by a point for Roscommon – and he remembers the day well for a number of reasons. 1982 All-Ireland U-21 Football semi-final Roscommon …………………………………………………………….. 1-9 Cork …………………………………………………………………………… 2-5 The 1982 Connacht U-21 football championship started in May. Roscommon and Mayo played out a thrilling 0-13 to 1-10 draw at Hyde Park in the semi-final and then three weeks later in the replay, Roscommon beat Mayo by 1-10 to 1-9 at Charlestown in what was another thrilling game.   In the Connacht final, Roscommon played superb football to easily defeat Galway by 1-10 to 0-5 at Hyde Park. The All-Ireland semi-finals were not fixed until late September and Roscommon were due to play the Munster champions Cork in Limerick.   The game was played on Sunday, 26th September, 1982 in weather conditions that were as bad as I can ever remember any game taking place in. There were galeforce winds that drove the sheets of torrential rain across the wide expanses of the Gaelic Grounds, and the 3,500 people in attendance were doubtful right up to the throw-in as to whether or not the game would actually go ahead.    Cork were a team sprinkled with household names and Roscommon fans knew that this would be a tough game. However despite the terrible weather and the glue-pot pitch, the two teams combined to give those of us who were there to see it, a thrilling game of football.   Roscommon, led by Roscommon Gaels’ Padraig McNeill, lost the toss and had to face the terrible weather in the first half. Roscommon in fact were first to score when Tom Corcoran kicked a point from play but Cork were always going to be on top with the aid of the elements and soon they were into their stride.   The Rebels scored two goals in five minutes through John Cleary and Eoin O’Mahoney and by half-time Cork led by 2-4 to 0-3. But behind that scoreline lay a tale of heroic Roscommon defending as Cork could have scored many more times but McNeill, Doorey, Tiernan and company kept them out and a seven-point margin at half-time was manageable under the circumstances.   Roscommon set about reducing the Cork lead immediately on the re-start. Points from Tom Corcoran (2), Paul Hickey and Paul Earley reduced the margin to just three by the three-quarter mark. However with the winning post coming into view, Roscommon started to miss some chances.   Tom Corcoran was wide with two frees and Paul Earley had a great goal chance saved and cleared by the Cork defence. Then captain Padraig McNeill burst through only to see his piledriver saved by John Kerins in the Cork goal.   The sides exchanged points before a Jimmy Connellan point left three in it with five minutes to go. The tension rose to fever-pich as the game edged towards the final whistle and at 2-5 to 0-9 it seemed like Roscommon were destined to lose the match despite their heroic display.   The game moved into injury-time. Tom Corcoran took a high ball from Eamonn Glancy to the left of the Cork goal and made about 15 yards of a solo run before he unleashed a shot from all of twenty yards out. It looked like it was impossible to score a goal given the amount of players that were between Corcoran and the goal-line, but the ball flew into the top corner of the net and Roscommon had won in the most dramatic fashion.   Roscommon had heroes all over the field. Marcus Tiernan was fantastic in defence and he kept the Cork dangerman Dave Barry scoreless. Padraig McNeill and Gay Collins were also heroic in defence. Pat Rogers and Eamonn Glancy were excellent at midfield while up front Eamonn McManus Junior, Tom Corcoran and Paul Earley were in top form as Roscommon reached their first All-Ireland U-21 football final since 1978.   When I spoke to him this week Tom Corcoran vividly recalled the game – and for more reasons than the fact that Roscommon won and because he scored the crucial goal!    ‘We were travelling down to the match in Limerick in Liam Martin’s car. Ronan McPhillips, Martin McDermott and myself were along with Liam and we were involved in a fairly bad car crash on the way down. Thank God no-one was hurt. Although the car was damaged we continued on to the game but we were very late and the team were togging out when we got to the ground. We were shook up – so it wasn’t the ideal preparation!!’   ‘I remember the weather too. It was just about the worst day of weather that I ever played in, but I know that it was a good game and we played well. I scored a few points but I missed a few as well’ he says.   ‘We should have had them beaten long before the final whistle but I suppose we just kept going. What I remember about the goal is that it was a lucky goal really. I won the ball and decided to have a lash.    ‘I remember that Paul Earley put his hands up to catch the ball but at the last split-second he took his hands out of the way and it went into the net. It was great to win it after all that had happened on the day’ he said.   ‘It’s a huge pity that we didn’t win the All-Ireland though. That was a very good team, no doubt, but it (victory in the final) wasn’t to be. The U-21 championship was far too drawn out that time anyway. We started in May and didn’t play the final until the middle of October, which was crazy. However that day in Limerick was surely an eventful one’ he concluded. Roscommon: Ger Cunniffe; Gary Wynne, Pat Doorey, Gay Collins; Marty Shanagher, Padraig McNeill, Manus Tiernan; Eamonn Glancy, Pat Rogers; Tom Corcoran (1-4), Eamonn McManus Junior, Paul Hickey (0-1); Jimmy Connellan (0-1), Paul Earley (0-2), Ronan McPhillips (0-1). Sub: John Kelly. Cork: J Kerins; M Lynch, C Corrigan, N Cahalane; M Hannon, M Byrnes, P Buckley; T Ross, A Leahy; D Barry, E O’Mahoney (1-1), P O’Driscoll (0-1); A O’Sullivan, E Fitzgerald (0-2), J Cleary (1-1). Subs: M Connolly, M Cahill.  Note: Roscommon played Donegal in the 1982 All-Ireland U-21 final in Pairc Sean MacDiarmada in Carrick-on-Shannon in October 1982. It was a dour struggle and a poor game which Donegal won by 0-8 to 0-5 in front of an approx. 10,000 crowd.