My Greatest Game: 1993 All-Ireland winning Derry hero Enda Gormley

Enda Gormley
Gormley received consecutive All-Stars in 1992 and 1993

As Cork stretched their lead to five early in the 1993 All-Ireland final, Enda Gormley admits the thought crossed his mind.

"Oh God, here we go again,".

Croke Park was not a place filled with entirely happy memories for the Watty Graham's corner forward.

Gormley was there when Derry defeated Cork to lift the Minor title exactly a decade earlier, but he was in the stands.

Of the 18 St Pats Maghera players on that Derry Minor panel, Gormley was not one of them.

There was a lump in his throat as he watched his peers claim the victory, a feeling of missing out that would become synonymous with his trips to GAA HQ.

As a player Gormley's first 11 appearances at Croke Park ended in defeat. There was no curse or jinx, only a lingering sense that the game's centre stage would forever be a place of pain.

"I grew up in the 1970s, Derry were decent in Ulster but I never saw us win at Croke Park with the exception of the Minors," says Gormley.

"With the exception of my very first game there in the Hogan Cup final where we were beaten by a point, I don't even think we looked like winning any of the games I had played there.

"Between that and watching Derry teams, and Ulster teams, getting beat in Croke Park regularly, deep down you think it is just a place where you don't win."

It was a personal battle for Gormley to overcome, one that he would later come to realise as the itch that needed scratched before he could set his mind on the game's ultimate prize.

His first win at the stadium finally came at the 12th time of asking, in Derry's 1992 National League semi-final win over a fancied Meath.

Joe Brolly
Gormley's fellow corner-forward Joe Brolly in action during Derry's 1992 league semi-final win over Meath

That result was followed by a victory over Tyrone as Derry claimed the league title, a moment that many would point to as the lighting of the touchpaper for the Oak Leafers' All-Ireland triumph a year later.

But for Gormley, and his own journey, the glass ceiling was shattered in that semi-final victory over Meath.

"That was a massive momentum changer for me personally," he says.

"I wouldn't say everything came from there, but it definitely was a mood change.

"There was no longer any hoodoo in Croke Park, there wasn't a magic wand that we needed."

'There was no desperation'

The next year, five points down in the biggest game of his life against a formidable Cork outfit who had racked up 5-15 in the semi-final, Gormley briefly considered the possibility of another Croke Park disappointment.

The thought came into his mind, but the clouds that once hung over the venue had been chased away a year earlier.

"We knew there was fight in us and we weren't going to stop," Gormley says.

"There was no desperation because we had been five down at half-time against Dublin in the semi-final.

"When we got the first point through Johnny McGurk we got a bit of momentum and ended up going in three up at half-time."

Gormley v Dublin 1993
Derry fought back against Dublin to win the 1993 semi-final by a point

Although he top-scored for Derry with six points, Gormley's participation in the final was in some doubt right up to the day of the match.

His 1993 season had been dogged by a second cruciate injury to his right knee, but he had played right through the summer with the help of anti-inflammatory tablets and an altered training routine.

With the knee under control, Gormley looked set to play his part in the showpiece before coming down with the flu three days before the match.

"It was touch and go that morning (of the final), it was probably nerves but I definitely wasn't myself," he reflects.

"But once I hit the crowd, the whole adrenalin kicks in and you're different.

"For about 45 minutes of the game I felt grand and then about halfway through the second half I thought 'I'm going to have to come off here'.

"When Cork got their second goal I thought there was no way I was coming off.

"It worked well in hindsight but I've often though about it since because I'm involved in coaching, was I being selfish by not wanting to come off?"

A tale of two shots

For Gormley, the final is a game that will be remembered for two kicks of the ball.

Throughout the encounter he received close attention from Cork defender Niall Cahalane.

Cahalane sought to stick to his man like glue, with Gormley trying to create a yard of space any way he could. During the first half, Gormley broke the defender's grasp of his jersey, as he had already had to do several times.

Niall Cahalane
Cork's Cahalane had already won two All-Irelands and received two All-Stars by the time he matched up with Gormley in 1993

"Ten or 15 seconds later I was looking up the other end of the pitch and I got a thump to the jaw," he recalls.

"I wouldn't say it was the hardest thump I'd ever had, but I didn't see it coming even at the last second to brace myself.

"The referee booked him which to me was a crazy thing because he didn't see it and to be fair to him he can't act on something he didn't see, so if he did see it, it was a red.

"I was in a fury and I did what I shouldn't have done, I grabbed the referee and pointed to my jaw.

"I'll always remember him taking a second look at my jaw, there must have been marks because I saw his reaction and his jaw dropped and I think at that stage he knew he had made a mistake."

Just moments after the incident the ball made its way to Gormley who, with his blood levels up, stroked over his first sensational point from play despite the distinctly acute angle for a left-footer.

"I looked up a couple of times to see if there was anything on and I couldn't see a better alternative, I knew I had a 60/40 chance of scoring at that stage," says Gormley, who sought to exchange a brief word with Cahalane after landing the score.

"I don't remember that part," he laughs, "but video evidence goes against me I suppose."

'I'm going to be remembered as the man who messed this up'

The second shot came much later in the game, with Derry holding a slender lead going down the home straight.

Gormley was penalised for taking too long over a free-kick allowing Cork to regain possession and launch an attack.

As the Rebels poured forward, Gormley's mind flashed to stories of Bill McCorry, whose missed penalty that would have seen Armagh take the lead with six minutes of the 1953 All-Ireland final remaining had become his legacy.

"As they were attacking I was trying to get back and that was running through my head," Gormley says.

"As the shot went up I remember thinking: "Oh holy God".

"All that was going through my head was 'I'm going to be remembered as the man who messed this up'."

Enda Gormley
Gormley's six points led Derry's charge in the final

Mercifully for Gormley the effort went wide, and Derry went on to lift Sam Maguire for the very first time.

"To me there was just a moment when the final whistle went, when it was utopia," Gormley says.

It was in that moment Gormley knew that the place that had haunted his career for the best part of a decade would be forever associated with his, and his county's, greatest triumph.

The abiding memory of the celebrations is, perhaps, not as romanticised as the victory itself.

After the adrenaline wore off, the flu that had threatened to derail Gormley's big day returned to the fore.

"It was just my luck," he laughs.

"I hadn't socialised in about five or six months and the first weekend I'm free to go mad I was in my bed with the flu!"

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