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Brian Murphy clears from Kilkenny's Dermot Mackey in the 2003 intermediate All-Ireland. The following season he'd be in defence for the seniors. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Brian Murphy clears from Kilkenny's Dermot Mackey in the 2003 intermediate All-Ireland. The following season he'd be in defence for the seniors. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
SOCIAL BOOKMARKS

Gallery: Cork and Kilkenny served up cracking intermediate hurling clashes

NOT too many people can lay claim to the fact that they coached and managed an inter-county team to three All-Ireland titles but here in Cork we have one.

The provincial and All-Ireland intermediate hurling championships are no longer on the GAA’s agenda and more’s the pity. Cork have nine titles in all, the most, and landed the last title, two years ago.

Picture: Patrick Browne
Picture: Patrick Browne

The grade was once upon a time taken very seriously by all the counties and for many players it was used as a stepping stone to bigger and better things.

In the more recent past the likes of Bill Cooper (below), Anthony Nash, Brian Murphy from Bride Rovers, Lorcán McLoughlin, Luke O’Farrell, Brian Lawton, Stephen Moylan, Shane O’Neill and others all had success on the intermediate stage before their graduation to senior ranks.

Picture: INPHO
Picture: INPHO

However, the interest in the competition dwindled to the point when you had only two or three counties bothering to participate in it and the powers that be decided that the time had come to end it.

Cork was one of the counties that continued to participate right to the end and in Leinster, Kilkenny kept things going too.

Mark Harrington in action against Pat Hartley in the 2010 final at Semple Stadium. Picture: Diarmuid Greene/SPORTSFILE
Mark Harrington in action against Pat Hartley in the 2010 final at Semple Stadium. Picture: Diarmuid Greene/SPORTSFILE

Down through the years, Cork had great success in the grade, winning it on numerous occasions with very strong teams.

In the years 2004, 2006 and 2009 the All-Ireland trophy was lifted under the managerial guidance of Johnny Keane, a great hurling man from Liscarroll.

The 2009 All-Ireland winning team, which included Nash, O'Farrell and McLoughlin. Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy
The 2009 All-Ireland winning team, which included Nash, O'Farrell and McLoughlin. Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Keane and his selectors in those years put great store in the competition and were duly rewarded for their efforts.

“Yes, I was fortunate to be involved as team manager with three All-Ireland winning teams and it was a privilege at the time to be able to give something to Cork hurling.

“It was a very enjoyable time, we had some very good players in the ranks in those years and I suppose winning the All-Ireland three times and the Munster championship four times wasn’t bad going at all.

“We participated in some very good games in those years, a lot of them against Kilkenny and an All-Ireland medal in any grade is something every player should be proud of," Keane told the Echo.

Johnny Keane. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Johnny Keane. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

The games in the provincial championship used be the curtain-raiser to the big senior games in Thurles, the Gaelic Grounds, Páirc Uí Chaoimh etc and that was a big thing for the players.

“It was, playing in Thurles before Cork and and Tipp or whoever was huge for the players. At the start of the match there might not have been a big crowd present but in the second-half you could have 30,000 in.

“It was often the difference between winning and losing a game, the Cork fans getting behind you in the closing minutes when the game was very close, that really drove on the players.

“I had very good men with me on the line and I must mention Pat O’Connell from Delanys who was there the whole time, a great hurling man.

Joy after beating Kilkenny in 2006. Picture: Dan Linehan
Joy after beating Kilkenny in 2006. Picture: Dan Linehan

“There used be a lot of bite in a lot of the games, quite a few of the players were back in the years that followed as Cork senior stars and that made it all the better."

Collective training for the games was often very difficult because the players were involved in the club championships.

“It was but we did the best that we could and the players were training with their clubs anyway so they were always fit and ready.

“In the years that I was involved I must say that we got great support from the Cork County Board, from the various chairmen, people like the late Jim Forbes, Mick Dolan, Bob Ryan.

“Frank (Murphy) too, he was always at our games and took great pride in Cork victories, anything we wanted we got.

“I remember one time we played Antrim in Parnell Park, that was a great occasion because you know how serious they take their hurling up there.

“The games against Kilkenny were always special. I remember in 2004, we were 12 points up at half-time but they came back at us to draw in the end.

“It went to a replay but if there had been extra-time that day we could have been in trouble because they had the momentum.

“We beat them in the replay and we beat them after extra-time in Dungarvan in 2006. In 2009 we had a super team and won it easy against them."

Rory Dwyer battles Paul Murphy, who went on to senior success, in 2009. Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Rory Dwyer battles Paul Murphy, who went on to senior success, in 2009. Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Keane told the Echo that it was an honour to be involved and that he was sad when the decision was taken to discontinue the competition.

“It was great to be involved, I love Cork hurling and getting the opportunity to be involved is something that I am very grateful for.

“We had great days out in Thurles on hot summer days and it was a pity that the competition no longer exists.

“But that’s the way it is." 

2009 selectors Johnny Keane; Ger O'Halloran; Jerry O'Sullivan, chairman, cork county board; Pat O'Connell, Fintan Coleman and Michael Holland. Picture: Larry Cummins
2009 selectors Johnny Keane; Ger O'Halloran; Jerry O'Sullivan, chairman, cork county board; Pat O'Connell, Fintan Coleman and Michael Holland. Picture: Larry Cummins

The year of 2009 was extra special for this great hurling man as he coached Dripsey to All-Ireland glory in the junior club championship that year too.

“Ah, that was something else. Two of the lads, John Carey and Mark O’Sullivan were from Dripsey and they ended up with two All-Ireland medals that year.

“For me personally, it was a great year too, winning with Cork and going up to Croke Park with Dripsey, great days and great people to be involved with.’’