BACK in 2013, the official Cork GAA website ran a poll asking fans to vote for their favourite Munster SFC final memories and there was a clear winner.
With 56% of the vote, the 1983 decider, when Tadhg Murphy’s late goal added to the heartbreak of a Kerry side still reeling from the All-Ireland defeat to Offaly the previous September, was the clear winner.
Given that it prevented Kerry winning what would have been a record ninth Munster title in-a-row, it’s not surprising that he recalls it so well.
“I remember it vividly,” he said, “I suppose something like that lives long in the memory because there was no back door and we didn’t beat Kerry very often.
“I had been involved with the footballers in 1976 but after that I went with the hurlers and didn’t go back playing football with Cork until ’81.
“In 1982, we were unlucky, we drew with Kerry in the league and Munster finals but they beat us in the replays of both, and in those days you just had to grin and bear it, it was gone that was that.
“To be honest though, the group that we had at the time stayed very positive and we were quietly confident at the start of 1983. Eamonn Ryan and Joe McGrath were in charge and we prepared well.
“We struggled in the semi-final against Clare but it helped us to come in under the radar. Fellas were asking if we’d keep the ball kicked out to Kerry and that suited us.”
Such was the downpour in the hours before the game that there were even question-marks as to whether it would go ahead, however, according to Murphy.
“There was a thunderstorm in the morning,” he recalled.
“I went to Mass in Riverstown that morning, and Mick Dunne from RTÉ was there too. It was so wet afterwards that nobody was leaving the church, everybody was standing at the door, and Mick said that he’d be heading back to Dublin, that there was no way the game would be going ahead.
“It brightened afterwards, but I’d say that a lot of people stayed away because of the weather, that and the lowered expectations. Mind you, I’ve met an awful lot of people since who claimed that they were there that day.”
And yet, for long periods it looked to be a ‘normal’ Munster final. Jack Lynch often spoke of Kilkenny beating Cork “by the usual point”, and in football Kerry fulfilled that role. That is, until Murphy’s intervention.
“Kerry were slipping away in the second half but we came back, although with time nearly up we were two behind,” he said.
“We got a free about 60 yards out and Dinny Allen was lining up as if to take it but he wouldn’t have been able to reach the goal and Tadgh O’Reilly launched it in instead. I was lucky to be in the right place, I caught and turned and put it in the net.
“It’s funny, John Moloney was the referee and he had also been for the game in ’76 when Cork had a goal disallowed. I was thinking, ‘We surely won’t be denied again’, and thankfully the whistle went straightaway.
“It was a long time to have been down, Kerry were going for a ninth Munster title in a row, so to win in such circumstances was extra special.”
Scorers for Cork: J Cleary 1-6 (0-4 f), T Murphy 2-2, D Allen 0-2.
Kerry: M Sheehy 0-7 (0-6 f), J O’Shea 2-0 (1-0 penalty), S Walsh 1-0, G Power, J Egan 0-1 each.
CORK: M Creedon; M Healy, K Kehilly, J Evans; M Hannon, C Ryan, J Kerrigan; D Creedon, C Corrigan; T Murphy, E O’Mahony, D Barry; D Allen, J Allen, J Cleary.
Subs: T O’Reilly for Barry, E Fitzgerald for O’Mahony.
KERRY: C Nelligan; G O’Keeffe, J O’Keeffe, P Lynch; P O’Shea, T Kennelly, M Spillane; J O’Shea, V O’Connor; G Power, D Moran, T Doyle; M Sheehy, E Liston, J Egan.
Subs: JL McElligott for J O’Keeffe, S Walsh for Power.
Referee: J Moloney (Tipperary).