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The 4 Unlikeliest Winners Of Provincial Football Titles In Modern Times

The 4 Unlikeliest Winners Of Provincial Football Titles In Modern Times
By Conor Neville
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Dublin have the chance to win their 10th Leinster championship in 11 years this Sunday with Westmeath fulfilling the role of canon fodder on this occasion.

We concede that it is technically possible that Westmeath could win the Leinster championship this Sunday. There's nothing in the rule-book to say that they can't anyway. We've checked.

With a nod to that tenuous possibility, we have decided to look back on the unlikeliest silverware-nabbers of the modern era. One per province.

Munster - 1992

The many potted histories of Kerry football usually cite 19 July 1992 as the low point.

It occurred slap bang in the middle of their long drought, the period a Kerry colleague in the office has dubbed 'the Bermuda Triangle of Kerry football'.

The last survivors of the golden era were drifting off one by one. Pat Spillane finally bid adieu to the inter-county scene following Kerry's defeat to Down in the 1991 All-Ireland semi-final, a match in which he was forced to don a knee bandage almost oppressive looking as the one wrapped around Colm O'Rourke that same year.

Jack O'Shea, no longer deployed at midfield, hung around for the disaster in the Gaelic Grounds in 1992. He told reporters he was calling it a day in the dressing room afterwards.


Eoin Liston wasn't around in '91 or '92 but was surprisingly recalled by new manager Ogie Moran for the 1993 championship match against Cork. That was the year the magnificently full bearded and similarly ancient Alan Cork almost took Sheffield United to the FA Cup Final. Eoin Liston couldn't work the oracle in quite the same way for Kerry.

The lads who hung around until the early 1990s endured some bracingly unfitting finales, their final bows striking a violently discordant note to what had been the general tenor of their careers.

'All's well in the Kingdom again', Jim Carney announced after Kerry squeezed by Limerick in the 1991 Munster Final. He could barely have been more wrong.


The following year, they suffered the ignominy of losing a Munster Final to a team other than Cork for the first time since 1957. And Mickey Ned, who appeared to be making modest progress with two championship victories in a row over Cork, had to resign.

The game holds the dubious honour of being responsible for the phrase 'there wont be a cow milked...' thanks to Marty Morrissey's exclamation at the end of the game.

Connacht - 1994

Not unlikely in the sense that Leitrim were not, at that time, regarded as rank outsiders for the provincial title. But it was historic nonetheless.


Leitrim had been threatening big things in Connacht for a while, having beaten Galway in Tuam in both the 1993 First Round and the 1994 semi-final.

Frustrating late stumbles against Roscommon teams that they surely had the measure of had scuppered their chances in '92 and '93.


Not in 94, as they dispatched the Rossies in the first round, before clambering past Galway after a replay. The Final provided their most dominant performance as they bounced back from conceding a goal in the earliest seconds to win 0-12 to 2-4.



Leinster -  2004

A legacy of that egalitarian era when teams other than Dublin won the Leinster championship, an era whose passing is greatly regretted by all neutrals.

The most unlikely champions in the colour television era were Westmeath in 2004. Given their underage success in the late 90s and their reasonable standing in the previous decade, it was a bit of a jolt to learn that this was their first provincial championship.


Smaller counties like Longford and Carlow had picked up Leinster titles and Westmeath were still huffing and puffing away, their trophy cabinet still lamentably devoid of Delaney Cup replicas.

Following positive and progressive work by the somewhat underrated Luke Dempsey, Westmeath decided they needed some A-List star power to propel them on to greater things.

Paidí O'Sé was flown into town and it is due to his role and the accompanying fly on the wall video that the Westmeath is best remembered by outsiders.




Ulster - 1997

There are no unlikely winners in Ulster.

Fermanagh have yet to win a provincial title in over one hundred years of trying and Derry are second from bottom with a comparatively healthy seven titles, the latest coming in 1998.

It is ironic that the closest we can get in modern times is Cavan's win in 1997, given that they sit on top of the roll of honour in the province. Indeed, it will take a very long time before anyone passes them out.

Such was their predominance in the first half of the twentieth century, they have given themselves a lead which is unassailable even in the long term.

They hold 37 titles compared to their nearest rivals Monaghan, who hold 15 provincial titles. Armagh and Tyrone, two creatures of the modern era, lie third and fourth respectively.

Cavan win by virtue of the long wait between each title. Like Monaghan, they bridged a 28 year gap between titles. Unlike Monaghan, they were responsible for dumping the losers out of the championship.

Such was the level of giddiness after Cavan's '97 Ulster title win that even those who are inclined to fret about the corrosive influence of Premiership soccer failed to rebuke Jason Reilly for his blatant appropriation of Fabrizio Ravenelli's patented celebration, then in vogue across the water.

Read more: The 5 Worst Provincial Finals Of The Modern Era

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