AS the only man to have won Railway Cup winning medals spanning three decades, former Down star Colm McAlarney is as well-qualified as any to chart the rise and decline of the historic competition.
He does so in our extended interview this week, but it’s not exactly his sole claim to fame – he was man of the match in the 1968 All-Ireland final even though his direct opponent was Kerry legend Mick O’Connell. McAlarney says the legend doesn’t always live up to reality.
“He was basically a free-spirit, he wasn’t going to be too concerned with the opponent. The mistake people made, is that they in turn became too fixated on Mick. I turned 20 by the time that game came round, and the management never put any pressure on me, they just said to play your own game and that’s exactly what I did.
“Lo and behold you got the freedom of the park. Mick wasn’t going to be bothered marking you, in stark contrast to Jack O’Shea for example.
“The difference with Jack is that you were going to have to be very well aware of him. And he in turn, whenever his team lost the ball, he was going to be making life very difficult for you. He was more of a warrior spirit, put it like that.
“A legend builds up round players, there was this mystic quality of being an islander. There’s this famous photograph of him [Mick O’Connell] rowing across from Valentia Island on a misty dark day. Then there’s photographs of him being met at the quayside, getting off the boat, and the management team relieved that now he has arrived!
“It was far too much, I don’t want to denigrate him, but he just played the game on his own and if Kerry were successful then he was the icing on the cake. But he didn’t have the warrior spirit that the likes of Jack O’Shea had.”
The full interview is available in store today or online here.