FORTY years after their unique success in winning the Railway Cup, the Combined Universities team of 1973 were honoured at Croke Park last Sunday.
The team that included some of the stars of the seventies like John O’Keefe, Paudie Lynch, Pat O’Neill, Martin Carney and Armagh’s Paddy Moriarty, surprised many to win the title in only their second year in the competition, thus becoming the only non-provincial side to claim Railway Cup honours.
Panel members were treated to a reunion lunch hosted by Comhairle Árdoideachais (Higher Education Council) at Croke Park on Sunday and were introduced to the crowd at half time during the Allianz National Football League Division 1 final.
The three year experiment in the early seventies sought to add extra spice to the competition, and while it was figured that the selection would be competitive, there were no real expectations of ultimate success. Indeed, in their first venture in 1972, they lost out to Connacht.
However, by the following year, Antrim and Queen’s legend Paddy O’Hara had come on board to manage the side and they overcame Ulster and Leinster to book a St. Patrick’s Day clash with Connacht in the decider. The tie went to a replay, with the Universities winning by 4-9 to 0-12 in Athlone on Easter Monday (23 April).
Having exceeded expectations, the CU participation in the Interprovincial Series only lasted another year, before the competition reverted to the four team format. While their participation had not met with universal approval at the time, there was a general welcome for such a unique selection.