Anthony Molloy will forever remember the unbelievable feeling of joy and satisfaction at the final whistle at the end of the 1992 All-Ireland final.
Even 20 years on, the man who climbed the steps of the Hogan Stand to lift the much coveted Sam Maguire and coined the forever to be remembered phrase ‘Sam is for the Hills’.
The memory is with the big man from Leamagowra, in the Hills above Ardara, as if it was only yesterday.
“It was an unbelievable feeling, climbing those steps. I find it hard to find the words to describe it other than to say I felt like I was walking on water and no man will experience anything like it in his lifetime,” said Anthony.
“It was simply unbelievable heading up those steps to lift the biggest prize in Irish sport. It was boyhood dream stuff and it is what every young boy that ever plays the game dreams of. It is the Holy Grail.”
It was the finale to an amazing journey, when referee Tommy Sugrue blew the final whistle. It was the signal to begin one of the biggest parties that ever took place in Donegal.
“It was crazy, I did not even get to shake hands with the players and congratulate them. Seconds after the final whistle John Leonard (Croke Park steward), had me by the arm and before I knew I was half-way up the steps of the Hogan Stand and on my way to picking up Sam.
“At that very moment it was like if I was walking on water and when I turned around all I could see was a sea of green and gold. It was magic and I thought to myself this is what it is all about and this is the place to be on All-Ireland final day. This is what all the hard work is for.”
And where did the now famous catch phrase ‘Sam is for the Hill’s come from?
“It was off the cuff; it just came out in the emotion of the occasion. Anyone that knows where I come from and grew up; it is pretty hilly and mountainy countryside and I suppose after all those days of walking and hitching a lift into Ardara to train and play-football and home again afterwards it just came back to me, and it just seemed the most natural thing in the world to say.”
The return to Donegal with Sam Maguire in his arms on the Monday night was something special too and the party that followed over the next few months were an amazing experience if a little demanding for Anthony and his team mates.
“Crossing the border into Donegal and then doing the tour of the county and seeing the joy and emotion on the people’s faces was something special and will always remain with me until the day I kick the bucket. It was an amazing and never to be forgotten time even if it was a little draining and tiring, especially in the first couple of weeks; it was hectic and we got very little sleep.
“I was lucky enough I was working with the ESB at the time and they were very good to me and gave me time off, but for other lads it was difficult to combine work and family time and meet the demands of functions and presentations because everybody wanted us and we were wanted all over the country and abroad wherever there were Donegal people living.
“But it was all worth it. It was a special time for all Donegal people and unfortunately it was a one-off and we never got to experience the same again or since for the that matter. I suppose that is the big regret about the whole thing that any time since we have not brought Sam back to the county.
“We were not far away again in ‘93 even with a lot of injuries and I cannot help but feel if the backdoor was around back then I like to think we might have won another one or two at least, but it wasn’t to be and we have to do with the one we have. We were a very good team and certainly if we had everybody in ‘93 I don’t think we would have been far away.
“I suppose the one thing that every year that passes without winning it again illustrates is how difficult it is to win an All-Ireland. And I think this is something which all of us involved in ‘92 realise even more with each passing year.
“At least the signs are looking good again and hopefully we are going in the right direction again under Jim (McGuinness) and it won’t be long until we have something to celebrate once more. It is long overdue.”
Anthony played on for two more years after ‘92 before calling it a day following the 1994 Ulster semi-final championship defeat to Tyrone, ironically, in Breffni Park, where the great All-Ireland odyssey began two years earlier.
By the time he hung up the boots he had three Ulster senior, one Ulster U-21 Ulster and two All-Ireland medals (one senior and one U-21) safely tucked away in a trophy cabinet. But the Celtic Cross from 1992 takes pride of place in the cabinet.
Not bad for a man who defied medical science and his doctors to come back for one more year in ‘92 after being told by medics that his gammy knees would never stick the pace.
Anthony Molloy is forever etched in Donegal sporting history as the first Donegal man to climb the steps of the Hogan Stand and that declaration: ‘Sam is for the Hills.’