Danny Culligan in his playing days. (Pic: Arthur Kinahan)
“It won’t throw our plans off line all that much, but it makes me wonder if the competition is being given the prominence it deserves. After all, it is the county’s premier competition and I think it should take precedence over all others.”
Danny Culligan certainly didn’t hold back after watching the Gaels’ title dreams slip away in the drawn Louth Senior Football Championship final of 1992. It was revealed that there was to be a month’s interval between the drawn affair and the replay, which Clan na Gael won comfortably.
He’s no longer picking the Gaels team, though he still holds an element of control over his former players. When I met him at the Ramparts last Tuesday night, he was advising Paul Morgan – up a ladder at the time – on how best to attach bunting from one lamp pole to another.
However, he managed to extract quite a bit from that team, nearly winning a senior championship against all the odds.
“I can't remember too much about it unfortunately,” Culligan told the Dundalk Democrat.
“We probably left it behind us the first day. Time was up and we had a point lead which we unfortunately let slip,” he said regretfully.
“Through a lack of experience, one of our players lost possession in front of their goal and had we scored a point from it or even got it wide, the kick-out would have been the final whistle but we lost possession, down the field it went and Seamus (O’Hanlon) scored an equalising point.
“After the draw, we thought the replay was going to be within a fortnight and it ended up not being played until a month later.
"That wasn’t good because obviously there was a bit of a downer from being in the position we were in on the day of the game and to let it slip, and then be left waiting for four-weeks, it was hard to get things up again.
“It was a long break and it probably suited the Clans better than it did us,” Culligan admitted.
As time progressed, several of that Gaels team moved on. On the back of winning two U21 championships and the Intermediate in ’91, the Gaels had a young team that broke up. Injuries as well as academic and work commitments stalled their progress.
Though, they still managed to reach the semi-final a year later.
“We lost the semi-final to Ardee the following year. We probably lost that one ourselves. We really should have won it, but we ended up getting beaten by a point or two in that game as well so we could have been in another final. It just wasn’t to be I suppose.
“We had a very young team at the time. I think up to 10 of them were U21 and a lot of them moved onto different places so we weren’t able to hold it together and the whole thing sort of slipped a bit after that.
“Would winning in ’92 have made a big difference, I think naturally enough winning any final makes a big difference and we were unfortunate to lose it, but that’s life and you have to get on with it.
“Going back to ’92, we lost quite a few of our good players and even on the day of that senior final, we were unfortunate because after we beat Ardee in the semi-final, we were fixed against them the following Wednesday or Thursday night in the league.
“Ardee’s pitch was being done up at the time so we played them in Hunterstown and Robbie McCrave ended up with a cruciate ligament injury and we had lost Brian McDonnell earlier in the year with the same injury.
“They were two very key players and we were down a bit with losing those two experienced lads plus the fact that we were playing a very good Clans team who had about eight top-quality county men. So, it was a big ask for us to win it, but I felt we could have won it,” he added.
The topic of the Gaels’ last final is evidently a sore one for Culligan. Having lost a final as a player, it was a case of double pain as a manager as it wasn’t only him who went home disappointed that night. His son Paul was left-half back for the Ramparts men.
“It would be mentioned on an odd occasion to me, but, personally, I would never want to think about it. I mean I lost a final as a player and lost that one as a manager so I’d like to forget it,” said with such assurance that we left our conversation at that.