“Sam’s for the Hills” were the immortal words uttered by Anthony Molloy and now etched into Irish sporting folklore after he lifted Sam Maguire on behalf of Donegal for the first time in 1992. It also went on to be the title of a book co-written by Damien Dowds thereafter.
The victory, sensationally fashioned by Brian McEniff, was one for the little guy. Somewhat ironic given that the majority of that ensemble would give Jack’s beanstalk a run for its money.
But, put simply, if Donegal thought they were going in on a wing on a prayer themselves, general opinion was that they just about had a wing. At that, some of the nuts and bolts thereon were rickety at best.
Perhaps surprisingly, Dublin obviously fell into the trap of believing that narrative as well. Indeed there were t-shirts on the go proclaiming Dublin All Ireland Champions 1992 in the week before the match. Surely up there with Liverpool’s cream FA Cup Final suits as motivational factors par excellence for their opponents.
It was the first All Ireland Final I was ever at. Meath had defeated Armagh in the Minor Final beforehand. Years later, a now unfortunately former Dunboyne resident gave me a VHS tape of the senior final. In terms of a full game of football, as distinct from, say, the closing few minutes of the fourth joust between Meath and Dublin the previous year, that day of deliverance for Donegal still ranks as one of the finest matches the one seeing eye here has ever taken in.
Ger Canning’s commentary as Declan Bonner curled over the insurance score before turning to the old Hogan Stand and shaking his fist towards his people defiantly: “Is this to be it for Donegal? It would be a victory that would give hope to so many counties around the country“
Boy did it. Granted, Down had already lit the torch the previous year, becoming the first Ulster team to win an All Ireland since their predecessors from the Mourne Mountains in 1968. On their coat tails came Donegal and Derry before Down notched up another batch of Celtic crosses in 1994. Indeed, it could and should have been four triumphs in a row going but a horrendous refereeing cock up by Paddy Russell denied Tyrone at least a draw against Dublin.
However, it is of course the case that not all the Ulster counties got swept up in the glorious tidal wave. In fact, there are some counties up at the top of the country who haven’t even lifted the Anglo Celt Cup. Fermanagh being among that unfortunate group. Some will most likely scoff at this, but, the link between sporting success and the general wellbeing of an area, economically and in many other ways. Thus, with Fermanagh not being as fortunate as some of their neighbours – despite always being possessed of some very fine footballers – trains and boats and planes took their young folk to foreign shores.
Until one of their own showed there was a different way. A good man. A decent man. A man of incomparable vision. A man with the nous and cajones to deliver thereon. But no matter what else Sean Quinn might be, he’s human.
I write this not to iconise the man – we’ve never met but I have had occasion to cross paths with his brother Peter several times – but to express the view, held by many, that the man from Teemore was left carrying the can for the misjudgements of other supposedly more important, more intelligent people as well as his own.
You see, at the root of all the dung which he and his family became submerged in, was a bet, basically. Sean bet – ridiculously heavily – that the share price of Anglo Irish Bank (now defunct) would continue to rise exponentially.
Au contraire, the arse completely fell out of the share price. Meaning that, as one of, if not the actual, biggest shareholder in the bust bank, Quinn basically took a double whammy, on the shares he already had, and on those which he, more or less, panic bought just before it all came crashing down. For the Fermanagh native and half the world.
For this viewer, the recent Quinn Country documentary was vindicating (of Sean) enraging and, mostly, deeply saddening. At this point, it must be stated that on numerous occasions throughout the three part documentary, the man himself admitted that it was his own mistake that landed him and his family in the slurry.
That is not in dispute. By the Quinns, by their supporters, nobody. The problem, for those of us who believe the family – and Sean in particular – was villified and scapegoated beyond what was justifiable, especially when it simply wasn’t feasible that the Quinn family were the only ones at fault.
As with anyone who has the misfortune to end up in financial difficulty, regardless of how the debt was amassed, it still has to be settled. Usually, that occurrs via the disposal of assets. Here again, it would be ventured that, in principal, the Quinns and supporters thereof would acknowledge this.
The problem I would have is (a) the manner in which restitution of that debt was attained, (b) the betrayal of the Quinn family by people with very short memories and (c) the scurilous allegations and generalisations publically uttered about the family and, by extension, an entire section of society, by people in no position to talk about impropriety.
Not to mention the the obvious glee politically motivated wrong ones and members of the Dublin gutter press gorged on at the Quinn family’s expense. However, that does not excuse, for one moment, some of the absolute thuggery and criminality perptrated by those supposedly supporting Sean and his family.
Some people may have made decisions and gone in directions which could be seen as both surprising and disappointing but they should not have to live with the fear and/or consequences of what they do for a living.
That said, there’s a fierce loyalty in the hills of Quinn Country. Rightly so too. In 99.9% of instances, that backing manifests itself both peacefully and proactively. As it should only be. To go back to the three points made earlier, on the first it appears those chasing the Quinn debt had no interest in being remotely fair to their targets.
Keep in mind that at one point, a deal, seemingly agreeable to both sides, was thrashed out, with the sole caveat that the Quinn family be given a week to mull over it. With that completed and one side of the view that the matter was to be resolved, the underhanded double-crossers on the other took the offer off the table.
What sticks in the craw most with this outside observer is that, while it was ultimately Sean himself who waded in heavily at seriously contracting odds, on the fine soil of the Royal County, those whose job it was to provide direction either malfunctioned with a serious deriliction of duty or were quite simply inept and unfit for their jobs at gargantuan levels.
Volumninous evidence regarding people and cases far removed from the one which has dominated this piece suggests that it is very much a case of the latter.
The villified in this case made grevious errors of judgement. Costly for themselves and a populus at large. The last man who never made a mistake was nailed to a cross, yet there are still a cohort who champion his cause. Yet there’s never a word about the defector who sold him out.
You never heard of a Judas levy, did ya? Consequences of mistakes will be what they are, and rightly so, but, even those who have inflicted upon society the most heinous of crimes are, in a large percentage of cases, offered opportunities at reformation. Were such to happen with the person around whom this column has been based, it would be gloriously beautiful to see those on the other side of fence returned to the irrelevant ignominy which becomes them. I wouldn’t rule it out.