NOEL COOGAN recalls the early years of the 1990s when Ulster teams dominated the All-Ireland Football Championship with debut wins for Donegal and Derry and a glorious double for Down.
Something happened in the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship in the first half of the 1990s which did not happen before and there is unlikely to be a repeat of it in the foreseeable future. In each of the years from 1991 to 1994, the Sam Maguire Cup was captured by Ulster teams with three different counties enjoying the sweet taste of success. In 1991, Down took the title for the fourth time and that was followed by first time triumphs by Donegal and Derry before Down reclaimed the big prize in ’94. For many decades Cavan were the dominant force in the northern province and the only county from the region capable of putting in a serious challenge for All-Ireland honours. Between 1933 and ’52, the Breffni county brought the game’s most coveted trophy home on five occasions but they ceased being a strong force after the ’60s. There was a sensational start to the sixties which was certainly a decade of significant change for Gaelic football with Down becoming the new glamour team of the game.
In 1960, the men in red and black created history when becoming the first side to take the Sam Maguire Cup across the border when inflicting an eight points final defeat on the championship’s most successful county, Kerry.
To prove that victory was not a fluke, Down had six points to spare over the Kingdom in an All-Ireland semi-final clash in 1961 before emerging force, Offaly, were narrowly defeated before a record attendance of more than 90,000 as the title went back to the Mourne county.c