The summer of 1995 was special for Dublin
By Cian O’Connell
Keith Barr acknowledges that the landscape was completely different back in 1995.
That is when Dublin ended a 12 year wait to hoist the Sam Maguire Cup. Similar to when Dublin triumphed in 2011 silverware was gathered following plenty of near misses.
Getting over the Tyrone challenge, though, in ’95 meant a cherished and respected group of Dublin players finally sampled the ultimate success that September.
“It was a long road that had basically started as far back as 1989 really with the semi-final loss to Cork,” Barr reflects. “Then in the 90s you had the famous four matches with Meath, Donegal in 92, Derry in 93, Down in 94. Over those four or five years in that period Dublin were the common denominator of all the teams there.
“Ending up back in the final in 95 was the end of a long road really. It was a long road of dedication, hard work, and a lot of disappointment along the way.”
The harrowing defeats and tales of what might have been meant significant pressure was attached to Dublin’s shoulders when they faced Tyrone. Now Dublin might be the standard bearers and serial winners, but back then Dublin simply wanted to reclaim the All Ireland title.
“Yeah, of course when you lose you are obviously disappointed,” Barr says about the weight of expectation that Dublin carried following the narrow losses.
“You draw out of that disappointment as much as strength as you can. I would always say that the teams that always beat us, beat us fair and square. They were genuine All Ireland champions whether that was Donegal, Derry or Down.
“They ended up as genuine All Ireland champions, no more different than when we won it in 95. When we won it we were genuine champions. Some people will say we fell over the line. If that happens to be so be it, but we ended up winning.
“Nobody would really dispute that over the 70 minutes we were probably the better side even though throughout the match in 95 we had difficult periods. I'm thinking of the opening 10 minutes when we were three points down.”
Dublin, though, found a way to survive and thrive with the emergence of Keith Galvin and Jason Sherlock adding youthful enthusiasm and a sprinkling of class. Were they the last missing pieces in the jigsaw?
“It all depends which side of the fence you jump from, but the question you are asking is quite a fair question,” Barr states.
“The answer is on both sides of that fence for the simple reason it is really down to management. There was no doubting Jason Sherlock's quality as a footballer, but it was management who took the brave decision to introduce him.
“The likes of Pat O'Neill deserve great credit because Jason was bringing a lot of excitement. He is a quality footballer, there is no doubt about it. There was also another young player, Keith Galvin, who was corner back.
“He was a very young and inexperienced footballer, who ended up winning an All Ireland making a serious contribution to our team along with Jason.
“It is managers who should be given credit for this, they are the ones making the decisions. It is a difficult decision for managers, do you go with the tried and trusted player that is experienced, and that has done it all.
“Or do you go with rolling the dice to see where it goes. Funny enough that is still happening today. We have Con O'Callaghan last year with Dublin, no more different than Jason Sherlock in 95.”
Even in the current campaign Brian Howard and Eoin Murchan, All Ireland Under 21 winners last year, have flared to prominence on the senior stage. “There may not be the big drum roll or the big circus around the whole lot, but the principle of your question is the same,” Barr adds.
“You are correct to point out that it is exactly the same, these are young players, whether they go into games with fear or lack of fear, one thing they all have in common and it is very simple, they are talented footballers.”
Accomplished footballers continue to be manufactured in the capital as Dublin look to earn a fourth All Ireland on the spin, but back in ’95 a dozen years of waiting and wondering ended in a welter of excitement. Barr occupied a central role in that triumph.