Lyng’s men lay some historical ghosts to rest in Belfast

Kilkenny hadn’t played a competitive match at Corrigan Park since since a famous shock defeat to Antrim All-Ireland semi-final defeat 80 years ago

Derek Lyng’s Kilkenny got off to a winning start on Saturday. It marked the first time since April 1998 that the county had played a league fixture without Brian Cody in charge.

Corrigan Park has been Antrim’s home since Casement Park closed 10 years ago for its long drawn-out redevelopment.

It has been the scene of some competitive hurling from Antrim over the past two seasons since the county returned to Division One and there was added historical resonance in Corrigan Park at the weekend.

Kilkenny hadn’t played a competitive match at the ground since a famous All-Ireland semi-final, 80 years ago.


In Marcus de Búrca’s history of the GAA, the significance of the date is made clear.

“The year 1943 was notable in Gaelic games for the appearance in each final of a county that had never before got so far – Antrim in hurling and Roscommon in football.

“Antrim’s first appearance in a senior hurling final was the result of a freak defeat in Belfast of an unprepared Kilkenny side, wartime conditions notwithstanding.”

The visitors should have been prepared, as in the quarter-final, a last-minute goal by Noel Campbell had beaten Galway by the ‘of its time’ score of 7-0 to 6-2.

Kilkenny still contained nine of the team that had won the 1939 ‘Thunder and Lightning’ All-Ireland final but they were beaten 3-3 to 1-6.

Seamus King in his History of Hurling, outlines the scale of the surprise and the reaction.

“Antrim’s success over Galway was regarded as a fluke and Kilkenny were expected to achieve victory. When the result of the game, 3-3 to 1-6, came over the radio on Sunday night it created a sensation and qualified the Northerners for their first All-Ireland.

“They had led at half-time by 2-2 to 1-3 and their defence never wilted despite frenzied attempts by the Noresiders to get the equalising goal.

“Kilkenny’s followers found the defeat hard to take and when the team returned home on Monday evening – having left on the first stage of the journey on Friday evening – they were accused of being drunk during the game.”

That implication was challenged by Tullaroan hurling sage Dick ‘The Church’ Walshe, who lived to be 101. In an interview with Dermot Crowe for the book Hell for Leather, he recalled the events.

“Antrim beating Kilkenny was unheard of. Jack Mulcahy [Killkenny corner forward on the day] was there and they were asking him, ‘What the hell happened ye at all?’ ‘An awful bad oul’ field,’ says Jack Mulcahy, ‘there were rushes in it’.

“And Pat Clohosey says, ‘Will you tell me, were the two of ye hurling in the one field?’ Pat Clohosey didn’t take codology.”

Antrim’s first All-Ireland final ended in an emphatic defeat by the Cork four-in-a-row team. Many of them did return to Croke Park 50 years later to be presented to the crowd before the 1993 All-Ireland final between the counties they had so memorably beaten five decades previously, Galway and ultimate champions Kilkenny.

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times