Beating Kilkenny made Jimmy Barry-Murphy believe an All-Ireland was possible
Liam MacCarthy Cup not on Cork hero’s agenda until that quarter-final win over Cody’s men
Cork hurling manager Jimmy Barry-Murphy: ‘The win over Kilkenny was the fillip we needed. I think the county needed it as well because until then I don’t think you are sure as to what progress you are making’. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
He said at the time his mind was made up about an hour after he was asked. He must have seen headlines almost as quick: “Jimmy Barry-Murphy – The Second Coming”.
It’s not just that plenty of people in Cork do seriously consider him as their god. Not that a player who won five hurling All-Irelands, 10 Munster titles, an All-Ireland football title and seven All Stars during an incredible 13-year career (and that’s only the highlights) would ever be considered a mere mortal.
It’s more the fact that in his first coming as Cork hurling manager, Barry-Murphy delivered an All-Ireland title, back in 1999 (their first in nine years).
So it’s only logical to see him delivering another All-Ireland on Sunday to end an eight-year wait for Cork.
Whatever about F Scott Fitzgerald’s old dictum that there are no second acts in American lives, there have been few in hurling management.
Plenty of god-like figures have tried it and failed – Michael “Babs” Keating, Ger Loughnane, Eamonn Cregan, Michael Bond – either returning to their own county, or elsewhere.
The last man to realise it was Cyril Farrell, who managed Galway to the 1980 All-Ireland, took a breather, then came back and won two more, in 1987 and 1988.
When the Cork county board came calling, almost two years ago now, Barry-Murphy could have told them to go away:
“I just felt maybe I could contribute something again,” is how Barry-Murphy recalls it. “Maybe a bit naively at times, too, because some mornings I wake up and wonder what I’ve let myself in for. And some days, when I’m coming in for training, I look at the young players and I feel like I could be their grandfather.
“But it’s great to be back, and it’s certainly enjoyable at the moment. And when you’re involved in Cork you’re always dreaming of All-Ireland finals.
“Now I would be telling lies if I said at the start of the year that I was thinking of finals.
“I really didn’t think that far ahead, to be honest. I was just thinking firstly of respectability and then, kicking on to the next level so we would be able to go out any day and compete with the likes of Kilkenny, Tipperary and Galway, the three top teams in the last two years.
“I wouldn’t be cocky enough to say we were dreaming of All-Ireland final days.”
If anything that suggests he has taken Cork to an All-Ireland final ahead of schedule: when Barry-Murphy last took charge, in 1996, Cork hurling was also in transition.