History teaches us to expect the unexpected as Clare and Cork lock horns again
Players who underperformed in the first game likely to prove the heroes today
Cork’s goalkeeper Anthony Nash shakes hands with Patrick O’Connor of Clare after the drawn game. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
When Cork and Clare clash in this evening’s All-Ireland final replay, it will be the sixth time the sides have met in competition this year. The players know each other like parish rivals.
Many of the players mix at college level, too. When Mary Immaculate College lost to University College Cork in the Fitzgibbon Cup final in March, Clare’s John Conlon and Colm Galvin soldiered alongside Cork’s Luke O’Farrell in their team.
Three of Cork’s starting XV from its senior side – Séamus Harnedy, Conor Lehane and William Egan -–lined out for UCC. Clare substitute Shane O’Donnell is also a UCC player. Clare’s manager Davy Fitzgerald trained Limerick IT. Several more of his players are scattered among the other colleges’ teams.
The world is a smaller place than it was 50 years ago. Rival intercounty players didn’t tend to share university digs together.
Tipp versus Kilkenny in the 1960s was possibly hurling’s greatest rivalry. They met several times, in league finals, and All-Irelands. Tipp had a hoodoo over the Cats, going back to September 1923, which was finally broken in the 1967 All-Ireland final.
“They were real tough games, deadly,” says Kilkenny’s six-time All-Ireland winner Eddie Keher. “There was an investigation into one of them. It was fairly horrific, a lot of injuries, as there was during in 1967 final.
“We never met these guys – only on the field of play. We didn’t know them. That increased the tension. We were All-Ireland champions in 1963 and Tipp were league champions. They brought both teams out to New York to play what was loosely termed ‘a World Cup’. Tipp arrived in the city before us. We were staying in the Manhattan Hotel. We came in at night.
“The next morning Sean Buckley, the fella I was sharing a room with, and myself came out and pressed the button on the elevator. When the doors opened John Doyle, Babs Keating and a heap of the Tipp lads were coming down in the lift.
“When the doors opened and we saw them there, we said, ‘Oh, hello lads’. We were met by stony silence. We had to get into the lift with our backs to them while it went down 40 floors or something, and no word spoken.”
The battles between Tipperary and Galway in the late-1980s have been the game’s most toxic in recent times. The two counties divvied up seven All-Ireland under-21 titles from 1978 to ’86 before they met four times over a couple of years at senior level. After a cracking semi-final clash in ’87, which Galway won, they met in the 1988 All-Ireland final. Galway won again. Their half-back line was imperious and Conor Hayes kept Tipp’s star forward Nicky English quiet.
There is a story told that English asked the ref how much time was left towards the end of the match, and that Galway’s corner back Sylvie Linnane interjected: “At least another year for Tipperary”.