Echo Sport Replay: Foran reflects on golden age for Thomas Davis and joy and heartbreak with Dubs

By Stephen Leonard

THE 2021 GAA season will mark 30 years since Thomas Davis last raised the Dublin Senior Football Championship trophy, when the curtain began to fall on what was truly a golden age for the club.

From the time of their elimination in the 1988 semi final, the Kiltipper club did not again taste defeat in the championship until the penultimate rounds of the '92 competition, lifting three successive county titles between 1989 and '91 while also landing back-to-back Leinster honours and reaching the All-Ireland decider in 1992 when they lost out by a solitary point to Dr Crokes at GAA Headquarters. 

Dave Foran 1 1

Dave Foran remains the only man to have captained Thomas Davis to Dublin and Leinster Senior Football Championship glory during an unforgettable period for the club that ran from 1989 to ‘91 Photo by David Kennedy

Greenhills native Dave Foran captained the team throughout that phenomenal journey as Thomas Davis grew to become a household name across the entire country.

What's more, that unforgettable period in the club's 133-year history, was set against a backdrop of peaks and troughs for Dublin's senior footballers, in much of which Foran also played a part.

Indeed the much-lauded midfielder won Leinster Championships with his county over three different decades, as he made his senior debut in 1978 before calling time on that side of his career in '94.

Despite playing in three All-Ireland finals with the Blues, he never got his hands on the elusive Sam Maguire, missing out on the county's 1983 exploits because of injury.

Still he retired with no shortage of Leinster and National League medals to his name as well as the privilege of having been the only man to ever captain his club to senior county and provincial football glory.

David Foran of Dublin 1

Dave Foran remains the only man to have captained Thomas Davis to Dublin and Leinster Senior Football Championship glory during an unforgettable period for the club that ran from 1989 to ‘91 Photo by David Kennedy

The former Robert Emmets juvenile, who spent time playing with Crumlin and Na Fianna before being snapped up by Davis after he moved to Aylesbury in 1983, recalled that unforgettable era for the club that harboured so much joy along with its share of heartbreak for Foran and the players he captained.

“When I moved up to Tallaght I had a few injuries and I didn't play for about a year and a half, so it was '85 that I signed for Thomas Davis.

“Davis had never really made a breakthrough in the championship and it was the following year in '86 that we actually got to the county final for the first time ever.

Dave Foran 1

Dave Foran

“It was an unbelievable start for me. My first full season there and, all of a sudden, we're in a county final.

“It was the last final ever played in Croke Park and we were well beaten by Scoil Ui Chonaill. We just didn't perform. We froze. Maybe in the back of our minds we were just happy to be there, but we didn't play well on the night and unfortunately we were well beaten.

“But it still felt like there was definitely something there. We had a lot of good players and I felt we were definitely going to make a breakthrough.

“In '88 we got to the semi final and we were beaten by Parnells who were going for two-in-a-row. They had beaten St Anne's in the final in '87. They had a very strong team and they won it again, but we were still close and we felt there was a championship in the team.

“We got to the final in '89 against Ballymun Kickhams. To be honest, we weren't really given a chance because they had a star-studded team. One of the strongest teams on paper. They had 15 inter-county players.

“But we had an exceptional team ourselves. We had a few young lads that came into the team that year, namely Paul Curran, Gary Kilmartin and Fran Troy. They were only 19, 20 and they gave us a huge boost, fresh legs and that. We played brilliant on the day and we ended up winning by six points.

“Little did we know that it was the start of something big for us over the next three or four years.

“I had been appointed captain at the start of the season in '89, so to be the first man to captain Thomas Davis to a Senior Football Championship was unbelievable. I had turned 30 that year.

“We got to the Leinster Final that year and we played Baltinglass. We were a couple of points up come injury time, but they came back and drew level.

“So it went to a replay and they beat us by a point. They went on and won the All-Ireland so we were saying 'Jeeze we're pretty close.' They were All-Ireland champions and yet we should have beaten them.

“Our aim was to win Dublin again and we beat Parnells in the final in ’90. Parnells were still very strong and it was very close. I was captaining the team again.

“We were saying 'God we should really be giving Leinster a go this year and maybe go a bit further.'

“Low and behold we met Baltinglass again in the Leinster Final. They were All-Ireland champions and again it was a drawn game, but in the replay we beat them.

“So there we were, two years down the line, double Dublin champions, having got to two Leinster finals in a row and now Leinster champions. So the next step was to try and dream of winning the All-Ireland.

“When we beat Baltinglass we had to travel up to Lavey in Derry to play them in Celtic Park, but we were beaten by two points in that match.

“Unfortunately we missed a penalty in that game. We just didn't really play well. But what made it worse for me was that they went on and won the All-Ireland.

“So for two years in a row, the team that had beaten us went on and won the All-Ireland. That was hard.

“The following year we had big targets on our back because, all of a sudden, in '91 we were going in as Leinster champions, double Dublin champions, going for three in a row. The pressure was on us now.

“We, deep down, wanted to win the All-Ireland. That might sound cocky, but our aim was bigger and bigger things. There were a few of us getting on and we thought that this was our chance.

“I was captain again that year. I suppose it's good in one way and it's hard for the club now because I'm the only man in the history of the club to captain a Senior Football Championship winning team.

“We went on and won three in a row. We beat Parnells again in the final and then we met our old pals Baltinglass again in the Leinster semi final and we beat them. We then met Clara from Offaly in the final and won. Now, all of a sudden, we were back-to-back Leinster champions.

“We played the All-Ireland semi final and we beat Castleblayney Faughs from Monaghan and, low and behold, we're in an All-Ireland Final in Croke Park against Dr Crokes. Actually The Gooch [Colm Cooper] was their mascot that day, would you believe.

“Probably for the first time in a long time, we went in as favourites, but we got off to a terrible start. Enda O'Toole got a bad injury in the first minute and there was a long delay in the game.

“I think that set us back a bit and, all of a sudden, we were seven or eight points down and really struggling.

“But we came back out in the second half and worked our way back. We were beaten by a point in the end and had it gone on another two or three minutes I think we would have won it.

“So for three years in a row, every team that beat us won the All-Ireland.

“It was such a great team for that era, but we didn't really cement our place among the greatest sides by winning the All-Ireland. Really I think we should have probably won two All-Irelands at that time.

“That's the sad thing about it. We had a great three or four years, but we couldn't just get over the line and win that All-Ireland title.

“Still the buzz in the area was just unbelievable. Thomas Davis, from just being a GAA club, became an icon in the area. It became not only a name in Tallaght, not only in Dublin, but became a GAA club that was renowned throughout Ireland.

“It lifted the whole area. GAA was big in Dublin with the Dublin football team, but in Tallaght it became really big.

“I suppose the kids in the club had heroes to look up to. They weren't reading the paper about stars in other clubs and other counties. They had them now in their own club.

“In '93, when we were going for four in a row, we got to the semi final of the Dublin Championship again and we met Kilmacud Crokes who were the up and coming team and we drew with them so it went to a replay. They beat us by a point and went on to win the Dublin Championship.

“So we played in six [county] semi finals over six or seven years, four finals, winning three of them.

“The team were getting on a bit then and we sort of broke up after that, but lads tell me now, lads who were young in the club back then, that we were their heroes. We didn't realise it at the time, but we were their stars.

“We were one of the best club teams of all time, certainly in that era. Thomas Davis was a well-known club with well-known players throughout the country. For two or three years we were, I would say, the biggest profile club in Ireland.

“The three-in-a-row team was a great side and it was just a great honour to captain the lads to all that success” he recalled.

While Foran had been scaling tremendous heights at club level with Davis, he had also been part of a Dublin set-up that was enduring a rollercoaster ride from the late 1970s through to the mid-’90s.

Victory over Galway in the 1983 Final marked the only All-Ireland success for the Blues in a period stretching from their previous triumph in 1977 through to 1995 when they surmounted Tyrone in the decider.

Even at that, injury meant that Foran missed out on that solitary All-Ireland win in the 1980s as success at national degree continued to prove elusive for the Davis skipper who had hit the bar with Dublin on so many other occasions.

“I broke my kneecap in the early ’80’s, so I was out for a few years. I took me about two years to get back to playing at the higher level again.

“If you add the All-Ireland Club Final [to those at inter-county level] I played in four All-Ireland Finals and lost the four of them.

“I suppose it is one of my regrets that I didn't get over the line in the big one, but we had a lot of success in between that and I'm proud of the few medals I have.

“1979 was my first All-Ireland Final with Dublin. I was the youngest player in that game and in my last All-Ireland Final in '92 against Donegal I was the oldest player.

“1992 was a disastrous year for me, because we lost in the All-Ireland Club Final in March and then I lost the All-Ireland Final with Dublin in September.

“The Dublin team that was in the '79 All-Ireland, that was their sixth All-Ireland Final in a row. They won three and lost three.

“Like that, I was playing with my heroes, Brian Mullins, Jimmy Keaveney and all these guys. You might say they were coming to the end of their careers.

“It was an oldish Dublin team and I was the young lad coming through, so to play with them lads, who I thought were just Gods, it was an incredible experience.

“I missed out on the All-Ireland in '83. I was injured coming up to that and we didn't have much success after.

“I retired January '94. I was turning 34. I was playing a lot of full back in training and I'd say I could have hung around for a year or two if I wanted to and maybe I could have picked up an All-Ireland medal in '95, but that wasn't me.

“I wasn't going to be pushing for a starting place at this stage of my life, I had a young family and I was working shift work as well. So I felt enough is enough.

“I did think the All-Ireland was there because it was a great team. '89 we were beaten by Cork in the All-Ireland semi final, 1990 Meath in the Leinster Final, in '91 there was the four games with Meath and I played in them and then '92 Donegal beat us in the final, '93 Derry beat us in the All-Ireland semi final and '94 Down beat us in the final.

“So that team was very, very close to picking up an All-Ireland, but even so, I probably wouldn't have stayed on because there was no point in going training if you weren't going to be pushing for a starting place. I wasn't going to hang around just to carry someone's bag.

“But I won five Leinster Senior titles and two National League medals with Dublin as well as Minor and Under 21 Leinster titles.

“The '89 Leinster Final was a huge one because we played Meath in the final. They were going for four Leinster titles in a row and we hadn't won it in a few years.

“'89 I think it was Paul Curran's first year with Dublin and so having two Thomas Davis players on the team was great and that was just a few weeks after we had just won our first Dublin Senior Championship.

“So that one was really special, especially beating Meath in the final. They were All-Ireland champions. That was a big one for us and I really enjoyed that.

“I was still playing at club level. There were new lads coming through and I was 35 and the legs would have been gone for midfield and I was playing more or less as a full forward in the club for a while.

“I played a year intermediate and then I spent two or three years playing junior and I was just enjoying it because there wasn't as much pressure.

“For years and years in the club, every game was a big game, every game I went into was a tough hard game.

“And for years I had been captain of the team as well and if you weren't performing at your best you felt you were letting the team down.

“But even at that, you're coming to 40 and there's young lads there and you're taking their place even though you've still got the head on you and you can see things going on. But the legs just aren't taking you as far as you should be going.

“Now I give a hand when needs be. I go to a lot of the games, a lot of the juvenile games all hurling and senior games.

“I suppose now I'm one of the fellows who I used to give out about years ago. I'm now one of the fellows standing at the bar giving out about everyone else.

“When I look back on it now, it makes me feel so proud. You feel you really achieved something in the club.

“And I suppose the club, being about 130 years old, it's probably the most famous team that the club's had in its history and it's just great to have been part of that.

“I'm hoping the senior team today can push on now. We'd just love to see that and to see another captain in the club lift the cup.

“I'd love to see it for these lads and all the effort they've put in, for them to experience what we experienced all those years ago.”

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