Down's 1994 All-Ireland winners come together to raise funds for future generations
THE last golden generation of Down footballers will gather in Newry on Saturday night, with all the proceeds going towards the future generations hoping to follow in their illustrious footsteps.
It is 25 years since the Mourne County were last crowned kings of Ulster and Ireland, and those with long enough memories can still picture captain DJ Kane hoisting Sam aloft before a sea of red and black.
And all the stars of that remarkable run will come together at the Canal Court Hotel to share their reminiscences from that unforgettable summer, a journey that began when Pete McGrath’s side defeated reigning All-Ireland champions Derry and ended by downing the Dubs at Croke Park.
Two of the main men from that Dublin side, Keith Barr and Charlie Redmond, will also be in attendance at an event that celebrates Down’s past, but also has both eyes fixed firmly on the county’s future.
Run in conjunction with Club Down, and hosted by RTE’s Marty Morrisey, all proceeds raised will go towards the Mourne Academy.
Since launching in 2015 under the chairmanship of 1991 All-Ireland winning captain Paddy O’Rourke, the Mourne Academy has gone from strength to strength, helping identify talent and building strong development squads.
The strides made by the county’s U17 and U20 sides in that relatively short space of time speaks volumes of the work being done, and two-time All-Ireland winner Ross Carr hopes Saturday night’s evening of celebration can help support the cause.
“DJ and Greg [Blaney] are also on the Mourne Academy committee, and great strides have been made so, which is brilliant to see,” said Carr.
“All of a sudden in the last couple of years, under James [McCartan] with the U17s and Conor [Deegan] with the U20s, we have become competitive again – and before you become successful you have to become competitive.
“It was important to all of us to try and do our bit whatever way we can. A lot of the times when we meet up, we’re talking about how we don’t want to be the last ones to have won something.
“We want another generation to come along and win Ulster titles, All-Ireland titles – we may be ex-Down players, but we’re all current Down supporters.”
And Carr is excited about taking a stroll down memory lane, following the huge success of the 25th anniversary celebrating the county’s 1991 triumph three years ago.
He said: “The players, their friends and families are all really looking forward to Saturday night for the chance to chat, reminisce and have a bit of craic.
“After football, people’s lives can take on a new direction, but this is an opportunity for people to get together and relive a special time in their lives.
“There are so many great memories and back then, when you were in the middle of things, it wasn’t just the players you knew - you knew their wives or girlfriends, you knew their kids, their brothers, sisters, mums, dads, and you knew the supporters too.
“It was much more intimate really, a totally different world to today, and an unforgettable time for us as players and so many other people.”
Tables cost £600 for 10 people, which includes a drinks reception and three-course meal. For further details and bookings contact email@example.com