John’s Scally’s new book 101 Great GAA Controversies details the controversies in a rivalry that developed between Roscommon and Armagh.
A dramatic one point Connacht final victory in 1977 was secured for Roscommon with a late goal in the Hyde despite a stellar performance from Galway’s Brian Talty and Dermot Earley having the middle finger of his right hand severed in an accidental clash with Johnny Hughes. He was left with an enduring legacy from the game with a line across his middle finger with five little strokes which marked the points of his five stiches.
Earley found himself embroiled in controversy in the All-Ireland semi-final against Armagh. With the score tied at Armagh 3-9 Roscommon 2-12 as he faced up to a long distance free, the last kick of the game, Gerry O’Neill (brother of former Irish manager, Martin ), the Armagh trainer, ran across the field in front of him and shouted something at him. The kick sailed high and wide. There was much press comment on the ‘O’Neill-Earley’ incident in the following days. In his column in The Evening Press Con Houlihan offered two All-Ireland tickets to the person who could tell him what O’Neill said to Earley.
Pride and Prejudice
In 1980 Roscommon and Armagh would again face each other in an All-Ireland semi-final. Dermot Earley took confidence from the blend of youth and experience.
“The spine of the team were very experienced but the new lads brought another dimension. Tom Heneghan did a great job as our manager. He was ahead of his time as a coach. With Tony McManus, Mick Finneran and John O’Connor in our forward line we had three guys who could get you scores. Their worth was really shown in the All-Ireland semi-final in 1980 against Armagh, when after failing in four previous semi-finals we finally qualified for the All-Ireland. Tony’s goal that day typified what our forward line was capable of. Tom once said to us, ‘our tactics are very simple; get the ball fast into the forwards.’ There was none of the passing to the side or even backwards that you see today,” Dermot stated.
One of Dermot’s children would unwittingly embroil him in controversy.
“In 1980 as we left our Dublin hotel before the All-Ireland semi-final against Armagh. David, who was four and a half at the time, was togged out in his Roscommon’s outfit and by my side. David was part of all our build-up and saw himself as an unofficial sub on the team. It had been patiently explained to him that he would accompany the team to the hotel but would then travel separately with his mother to the match. When the point of separation came David went into hysterics. After all efforts at placating him had failed I reluctantly allowed him to travel with the team.
“David was watching the teams getting ready for the parade from the dug-out when Danny Burke (team selector ) urged him to join me on the pitch. This caught me by surprise but I had no option other than to take him by the hand and parade with him.
“As Roscommon already had a mascot there was controversy after the match about the incident. A press report referred to the ‘immaturity’ of Roscommon for allowing the situation to arise. GAA headquarters issued a directive before the All-Ireland final saying that no mascots would be allowed for the big game.
“After the Armagh match the Roscommon fans were so ecstatic that David became frightened as he was engulfed by a sea of blue and yellow when Roscommon fans invaded the pitch. Having successfully retrieved and consoled him, I was then able to savour the joy of winning,” Dermot remarked.
Taken from John Scally’s new book 101 Great GAA Controversies which is available in all good bookshops now.