1995 was a life-changing time for 15 Clare bachelors who had the distinction of lining out in September of that year and driving their county to a second ever All-Ireland SHC title.
Anthony Daly was captain of the side and the man that led the return of the missing person from Clare for eighty one years, a certain Liam McCarthy. Their breakthrough would change life as he knew it with the degree of anonymity removed which became apparent on social outings and he believes he would not have managed the Dublin senior hurlers were it not for his success playing with Clare.
He reflected, “It was funny in a way, it was a dream since I could remember being able to dream from six or seven, then you were wondering what am I going to do now, so much was devoted to it with sacrifices, dropping out of college to go into the bank for the handier hours. Every bit of negativity was outweighed a hundred times over by the dream coming true”.
Several column inches had been devoted to the story of 1995 during the height of COVID-19 and the suspension of all sporting activities. Scribes outside the county coined the breakthrough as ‘the greatest story in modern hurling’. Dalo pointed to the Galway side of the 1980s and the Offaly side of 1994 as role models for the underdogs to aspire, they also looked closer to home and to a different sport.
Clare overcoming Kerry to win the 1992 Munster SFC “was probably the greatest kick in the arse Clare hurling ever got,” the Clarecastle native admitted. “It was a great story because Clare had always been the absolute heartache, we weren’t losing All-Ireland finals so that’s why a lot of us would have referred to the Munster Final as being the sweetest day. It would be akin to Mayo coming through and winning the football, I think we would all head to Castlebar for a day or two then if the lockdown was over”.
One of the big differences from previous years was the training regime implemented by Ger Loughnane, Mike McNamara and Tony Considine. With the Magpies preparing for the Munster club, their contingent missed the beginning of this, an encounter with Seanie McMahon in Ennis town centre where the centre back labelled the training as “animal” had Dalo forewarned of what was to come. “Training was through the roof, I never felt anything like it in my life, you weren’t able to eat a dinner after the sessions in Shannon, it was ground-breaking. Len’s training was revolutionary when he came in but this was through the roof, it was a fair shock to the system”.
His earliest memory of dreams was aged six or seven, having flopped in the finals of 1993 and 1994, Anthony sensed there was something different when it came to Clare’s mentality prior to the 95 provincial decider. “We were showing fierce consistency in the league and beating teams that were regarded as favourites for the All-Ireland, we topped the group in Division 1 and won a good semi-final but an awful lot of that was drained from us when we lost the final by nine points, Kilkenny seemed to be able to open us up at will and I didn’t perform myself the same day, I was all over the shop at wing-back, I was corner-back the year before and got an All Star. We all questioned it and then Ger made a statement that we would win Munster, I have to say there was a fair bit of cynicism in the Clarecastle car heading home.
“The feeling going into the Munster Final was that we weren’t going to flop even if it meant being more physical. I remember in the weeks leading up to it, you could sense things were different. We had no guarantees about winning but his final two words heading out the door were ‘no surrender’, that was the feeling, I think Limerick were a bit cocky, they thought we were going to choke and the famous quote from Davy Clarke in the programme on Clare being his favourite team to play ‘because we always beat them’ and we beat them in 93 so we didn’t have too many fears of them. There was a different feeling going down that morning, there was more steel around the place you could sense and it was when I first believed something was going to happen. When the crowd started invading the field, I was screaming for them to get off, Jamesie described it as another misfortune about to happen us, I don’t think I believed until I was going up to the late Noel Walsh to get the Cup, it was hard to get your head around it, it was dream stuff”.
Inter-county management later followed for Daly with stints in charge of Clare and Dublin but he is full of admiration for how the man from Feakle rallied the troops for the All-Ireland series. “Loughnane’s greatest achievement was to get us to knuckle down and go all the way unlike what happened Limerick the two years after they won Munster, to get us to get back and face into a formidable Galway team who had been in the final two years earlier and run Kilkenny very close”.
Little did they know but their Munster glory would result in the first lodgement to the account for their team holiday. It arose after Eamon Fitzgerald of the Rocks Bar presented Dalo with a cheque for €250 that would sort drinks on a player’s night in Killarney, instead the panel agreed to back themselves at 8/1 to win the Munster championship.
His girlfriend at the time and now wife, Eilish was handed the task of placing the bet in Lifford. “I’d say it was her first time in the bookies, when she went in they would only give her 6/1, if it was myself I’d have fought for 7/1, she took it and ran out the door. We decided there was a bit of luck in Considine so we gave him the docket to mind, I’ll tell you he made hay with the docket coming back from Thurles and he waving it, I thought we would never see it again. Tony proudly went into the bookies to collect it as if he collected it himself, your man said to Tony he was delighted it was somebody involved in the team, Tony didn’t tell him the story he just said he had confidence in us earlier in the year and the lads said they didn’t know who the blonde girl was that put on the bet”.
Few speeches in the GAA are as iconic as when Dalo received Liam McCarthy from President of the GAA, Jack Boothman. His reference to Clare’s love of traditional music, the jibes received on the field and the players that wore the county colours with pride and distinction were all savoured. A day before the final, he consulted long-time friend Ger ‘Sparrow’ O’Loughlin while they were together at The Clare Inn and what to do with the speech, “worry about Johnny Dooley,” came the response from Sparrow.
Daly “never took pen to paper” in scripting a speech for the All-Ireland of 95. “I was very conscious going into the final that if we did it, how many Clare teams were so unlucky, my memories were of the 77 and 78 team who lost to Cork in 81, we had heard the stories about the 55 team, I was awful conscious that we needed a bit of luck to get across the line and if we did to say we were the winners but we were doing it on behalf of everybody to bridge the gap from 1914 to 1995. Some Waterford said it to me at the end of a replay in 1992 ‘stick to your traditional music’ and it stuck it my craw, I knew it would go down well with the Clare crowd, we like Willie Clancy”.
Emotion that followed from people in the county of all ages and sizes was “unbelievable,” according to the three time All Star. “People had stopped believing, we were torturing them with the flopping, the footballers gave it a bit of life and that was thrown in our face a bit. I love all things about Clare, born and reared in Clarecastle but living back West now, I love it back here but it won’t stop me trying to get in over a wall to see yourselves (Newmarket-on-Fergus) and ourselves on Sunday. I’ve everything here, it’s just torture at the moment looking at a pub in lockdown. Watching the documentary on Monday night about the lad in Mullaghmore was unreal, we’re very lucky to have what we do”.
COVID-19 has disrupted his pub Murty Browne’s in a big way but it also impacted on plans for the panel of 1995 who were due to travel to Portugal for a few days. They are scheduled to hit the capital on December 13th should the All-Ireland final proceed. Regardless of what events do take place, the bond remains as strong with his fellow panellists. “Since I moved out of Ennis where I would have made loads of the lads, I wouldn’t meet them as much now but the great sign of any friendship is that when you do meet you just take up where you left off, I might meet Fingers once every two years but we’re like two children whenever we might, I might meet Christy Chaplin at a match and it’s like meeting a school friend you take up straight away, the group is very tight and the annual golf outings are great craic, even the non golfers enjoy them”.
Matthew McMahon’s commentary for Clare FM was presented to all members of the 95 set up and the sentiments of what he said still ring true for Anthony. “He said how he ‘dreamt and dreamt’. For hurling people in Clare it looked like the dream would not come to fulfilment in their lifetime, some people had passed away and missed it but it was a dream come true”. The dream became a reality for Clare in 1995, the men whose lives changed as a result will savour the feat until their own dying days.