In the 1970's there were a series of epic tussles between two of the greatest heavyweight boxers of all time, Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. In the late 1980s and early 90s, Leinster cricket had a similar tussle between two legends, Alan Lewis and Deryck Vincent.

While the pair may not have possessed the physicality of the boxing duo, their battles were no less absorbing as they traded blow for blow with some of the greatest displays in Leinster history as they fought for supremacy on the battlefields of Dublin.

This was epitomized in the Senior Cup final of 1990 at a sunny Rathmines. Clontarf were the form team of the year, reaching the Irish and Leinster Cup finals, finishing second in the league, and winning the Wiggins Teape league cup. However, the Senior Cup was 'God' in Clontarf. No other trophies mattered at Castle Avenue, and the coveted prize hadn't been won since 1969, 21 long years.

The teams had met in the 1987 decider in a very one-sided affair, but this was a Clontarf team on the rise, and although the scars of that loss were still raw, they would provide a formidable challenge to cup kings YMCA and their talisman, Alan Lewis, a fact acknowledged by Deryck Vincent.

"YMCA were the top side in Leinster at that stage, no question. In 1987 they had humiliated us in the cup final and even worse they did so in our home ground. So in 1990 they were strong favourites in a side packed with experience and talent, with big game players - none more so than Alan Lewis.

"Lewie had a phenomenal record in finals and against Clontarf in general. Though they had other top players like Gus Dunlop , he was the key man and he usually delivered!"

On Saturday July 21st, the scene was set for battle to commence.

It was an unbelievable day weather wise and Rathmines was a picture," began Alan Lewis.

"Both clubs were well supported and a decent crowd assembled for the showcase Leinster Cricket event - the day all domestic cricketers wished to play in. The ground itself was a picture courtesy of Jack McDonnell and his team who hosted the event brilliantly. Thankfully he got the pet day he deserved.

"Tradition meant we always went for a meal on the Friday, the night before the Cup Final just nice to get the lads together and chill out. Clontarf were a good side and with the additions of Michael Rea and Peter Scolari, an Australian, they were much more competitive than when we beat them in 1987."

Led by an unbeaten 129 from Alan Lewis, YMCA had racked up an imposing 305 for 5 - a daunting total at the time. It hadn't all been plain sailing as Alan Lewis remembered.

"We had a number of match winners (all internationals) with the batting being the strong suit. Having won the toss we had no hesitation in choosing to bat. We struggled a little early on to get momentum with some big players back in the hutch.

"But for a tricky caught and bowled chance I might have been back there myself. However it was to be a good day personally and really the telling partnership came between myself and the veteran Clive Davis.

"We added an unbroken 125 for the sixth wicket. Clive had a point to prove as his place was a talking point at the time but his experience proved crucial. Back then you always felt 250 was a winning score and when over 300 was posted perhaps we felt all we had to do was get through it. Bad way to be really!

"Sure enough, our complacency came back to bite us as Derek Vincent played a masterful innings getting them off to a flyer. At this point the atmosphere was electric.

"In modern cricket I sense some might have been ejected from the ground. I distinctly remember them being 200 for 1 with 20 overs remaining. We weren't so complacent then.."

Deryck Vincent takes up the story.

"As we took to the field to start the chase, I remember turning to Michael Rea and asking him how we were supposed to go about chasing this score? We both started laughing and probably that was for the best.

"This was a time before game plans, you just went out and chased. But we got off to a flyer, I clearly remember Colin Haine bowling me a half volley first ball, happy days and that relaxed atmosphere continued as we set off.

"After Michael was out, Mighty  Alan McClean came in and he was a great fellow to bat with, plenty of laughs mid wicket but a serious competitor. I was feeling good and decided that being aggressive was my best bet, putting the pressure back on YM.

"I was particularly aggressive towards Lewie, who was a dangerous bowler but if you attacked him his response was to bowl quicker which gave more opportunity. I think he bowled about three overs before being taken off.  Between us we brought the score up to 201 for 1 and really at this stage I felt we were in the box seat."

However, from such a position of strength the plot had a twist, and it's one that was to haunt Clontarf.

"Even 30 years on this one feels like the one that got away," said Vincent. "On paper it looks as though YMCA won relatively easily, a comfortable margin of 60 runs, but for Clontarf it is hard not to grimace at the memory.

"The one bowler against whom I was struggling to score quickly was Angus Dunlop, who was very tight. Rather than play out his overs, he only had a couple left, I tried to get too clever and ended up cutting a ball too close to me and chopped onto my stumps.

"Five more overs and I reckon we had it won, but YM were not the best side without a reason and they took their chance."

That wicket was to prove the pivotal moment in the game as Alan Lewis came back into the attack, although it was perhaps a serendipitous intervention by the umpires which was to prove Clontarf's downfall.

"We knew we still had a chance as a total of over 300 is still hard to get and when Vinno chopped on to Angus Dunlop we were well back in the game.

"I say well back as there is one difficulty in Leinster and that is a setting sun behind the bowlers end from the Rathmines end. Never easy to settle as a batter coming in then.

"I persuaded the skipper to give me the ball again having gone the distance early, courtesy of Vinno, maybe this was my time again.

"Early problems arose when I was warned for running down the pitch, so I decided to come around the wicket and six wickets later Clontarf were done - all out for 245.

"I hit the stumps with all six dismissals, as the batters really struggled with the sun in their eyes. It is never nice to score a 100 and end up on the losing team but it was going to be me or Derek!"

The Man-of-the-Match award was a formality as a beaming Lewis finished with 6 for 36 to go along with his 129, and YMCA had the trophy in their grasp once again.

For Vincent though, the loss would prove hard to take, and he confesses that it gave him nightmares.

"For many years after, I would wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, reliving the game.

"Yes, we had our redemption in the 1992 Final, but if I could play one innings, one more time, this would be it and I would not try get too clever again."

In that 1992 decider the teams would meet again, when a clearly motivated Vincent scored 161 and took five wickets as Clontarf beat YMCA by 44 runs at Phoenix Park.

The Holy Grail was back at Clontarf after 23 years, but for Castle Avenue fans, 1990 will always be 'the one that got away'.