1976

 

Cork 2-21 Wexford 4-11

RAY CUMMINS: Full forward, captain of Cork and scorer of 1-2, he is one of the few players to have won All-Ireland medals at both football and hurling. His total was four hurling and one football He was also the first player to win an All Star in both codes.

Wexford's big win over Kilkenny and the hard-fought defeat of Galway made them favourites and they began the match in that vein. After six minutes, they led 2-2 to no score. Even being hauled back to level terms by the interval didn't daunt the Leinster champions and they led by two points with a quarter of an hour left.

They didn't however score again and in the last seven minutes, Cork took six unanswered points - including three from Jimmy Barry Murphy - to win a first title in six years and the first of a three-in-a-row.

"Wexford took the lead too early so we were in a sense lucky," says Cummins. "We had time to come back and we plugged them back point by point. It was demoralising for them. They were a strong, physical team with very good forwards, John and Martin Quigley and Tony Doran.

"We were a fairly new team. Some of us came in 1969 when we were only young fellas, but 1975/76 was the start of a new breed on the team which saw us through the three years with one or two changes.

In a familiar plan of attack, Cork's coach Canon Bertie Troy said that his team's emphasis would be on direct hurling as a counter to Wexford's preference for taking the ball to hand. Troy's advocacy of this style had extended to recommending a heavier hurley to the players.

"We concentrated on first-time hurling throughout the field," says Cummins. "We were more or less like a club team, a good blend of physical strength and ball players. At that time the standard in Cork was very high. Blackrock, the Glen, Finbarr's had all won All-Irelands. In contrast to today where you'd rarely see more than one or two of the Cork team in a county final, there might be nine or 10."

Cummins was the first Blackrock player since the legendary Eudie Coughlan in 1931 to captain Cork to an All-Ireland. At the end of the match he remembers nothing "other than being exhausted. When I went up for the cup I felt physically drained."

Cork went on to defeat the same opposition again the following Year, by an ever-smaller margin, since when Wexford have not won a single provincial title. In 1978, Cork completed the treble against old rivals.

"We sometimes feel," says Cummins, "that we haven't won an All-Ireland unless we've beaten Kilkenny, so that final was the most important from our point of view."

1986

Cork 4-13 Galway 2-15

JOHNNY CLIFFORD: Scorer of the winning goal in the 1954 All-Ireland final he has been involved in several Cork management teams and, as well as coaching the successful 1985 minors, has had three separate terms as county coach. This was the most successful.

The first Johnny Clifford heard about the Mayor of Galway was on the bus to Croke Park. Apparently the Mayor, John Mulholland, whose son Alan plays football for the current Galway team, had been in a bar with some supporters on the Friday before the match and had been cajoled into saying something feisty for the television cameras.

The Mayor obliged with some advice for Cork goalkeeper Ger Cunningham: that he bring plenty of hurleys to board up his goal as that would be the only way of stopping goals flying past him all afternoon. This greatly caught the imagination of the Cork hurlers and captain Tom Cashman shouted as they disembarked, to remember the Mayor of Galway. Clifford still remembers him.

"I think it was an aside that he was asked serious," says the former Cork coach. "When it was all over, he actually invited myself and Tom Cashman down for the weekend with the cup."

In terms of motivation, Councillor Mulholland was only the icing on the cake. Earlier that week, Clifford himself said something extraordinary. "I don't wish to sound arrogant," he said, in an interview published the Thursday before. "But when Cork are properly prepared physically and mentally, when the attitude is right, they will always beat Galway."

There was a purpose behind the assertion. Cork had been so unimpressive in their semifinal and Galway's demolition of Kilkenny so awesome that Cork supporters tended to write off the team.

"Even our people who got on the train at Thurles - they'd gone to see Kilkenny and Galway and skipped our semi-final in Croke Park - were saying we'd no chance. Cork may think it's got the best supporters, but it doesn't - unless we're in a final.

"All I did was to build up my own fellas. What I was saying was that Cork had gone to Croke Park a couple of times for semi-finals not thoroughly prepared. But in `83 when we beat Galway, we were well prepared and really buzzing."

An element of Galway's semi-final success had been the use of a third midfielder. Clifford had been concerned enough to consider changing Cork's game.

"I looked at the video on the Monday and I thought they'd been a bit lucky in that a lot of things really came off for them - a ball going in off Joe Cooney's foot. They were well the better side, but the margin wasn't a fair reflection. I kept the same formation in the end, but I had a practice match with a third midfielder and to tell the truth, I didn't know where I was. I couldn't make it work."

At the team's press night, captain Tom Cashman had convened a team meeting to establish the party line. "I said `alright'," remembers Clifford. "So we all went into the dressing-room and Tom looked at me and I looked at him and said `Tom wants to say something'. There was silence and then he said `what do we tell them'?

"I decided to take the bull by the horns and said `look, what you say is: we're in great form, no injuries and we're going to win'. I was very confident going into the final."

The confidence was justified. As in 1976, Cork employed a direct, first-time style which disorientated Galway and an early goal meant that the Connacht side were chasing the score throughout the match. Galway had lost the previous year's final to Offaly, again when favourites, but they were to rally and carry off the next two All-Irelands, the county's first double.

The phantoms conjured up by Clifford, however, were still in evidence four years later when Cork again defeated a well-fancied Galway side in the final, despite having been obliterated in the first half.

Ten years ago, Jimmy Barry Murphy won his fifth All-Ireland medal and retired from inter-county action. On the same day, a 20-year-old made his championship debut in what was only his second appearance for the hurlers. Already an established footballer, Teddy McCarthy began a dual career that would make him the only player to win an All-Ireland medal in both codes in the same year.

This championship sees JBM as Cork manager and McCarthy a member of his panel. It's a young team which looks a bit under-developed for this year and has already been relegated to Division Two.

Does the scenario sound familiar?