Billy Morgan: You can't beat the buzz in Cork before an All-Ireland

Billy Morgan: You can't beat the buzz in Cork before an All-Ireland

Cork manager Billy Morgan celebrates at the final whistle after beating Meath in 1990. Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

SECONDS after the final whistle sounded to signal Cork’s All-Ireland hurling triumph in 1990, football manager Billy Morgan felt a tug on his sleeve.

He was sitting in the upper deck of the Hogan Stand savouring another famous day for the Rebel County.

Two weeks later Morgan would be down on the sidelines marshalling the footballers against the old enemy Meath, hoping Sam would be joining Liam on Leeside.

“This Cork supporter standing behind me got my attention. The pressure is on ye now,” he said.

As if the heat in the kitchen wasn’t soaring enough before the hurlers’ stirring success!

Yet, Morgan took in his stride. “I have to admit we never felt pressure.

“There was such a buzz around Cork for the couple of weeks between the two finals that it actually lifted us.

“We were so much up for it anyway and I certainly didn’t feel any pressure. I don’t believe the players did either,” he said.

To say there was recent history between Cork and Meath wouldn’t even scratch the surface on the animosity between the pair.

Meath had Cork’s measure in the 1987 and ’88 finals, but there was more as Morgan explained.

“We were really geared up for the final. We had played Meath in the league semi-final earlier in the year and it was a rough game again.

“Niall Cahalane was the only player sent off and I remember Dave Barry being struck from behind with the ball about 60 yards away.

“We vowed in the dressing room that day that if we met them again, we would not be beaten physically.

“Accordingly, we were well up for the final and in the game itself we were going great, on top, when Colm O’Neill, who was having a blinder, got sent off.

“We were down to 14 players and went in at half-time two points up.

“We were then four points ahead with about 10 minutes to go, when Meath got it back to two.

“I can remember John Kerins making a great save and we hung on to win.

“We had wiped the slate clean in the sense that we had beaten Meath in an All-Ireland final and did it with 14 men, the same as did they to us in 1988.”

That’s an obvious stand-out memory for the Cork maestro and so is the Munster final that year against Kerry, the 25th consecutive year the neighbours met in the decider.

“We had so many injuries going into that game that when we met up in Jury’s Hotel on the morning of the game we didn’t know who was fit and who wasn’t.

“When we were in New York with the All-Stars the previous Spring, I had a good chat with Colm, who wasn’t in the team.

“He wasn’t complaining or anything like that, but Colm did say he hadn’t got a chance to prove himself.

“I remember saying to him at the time that when the opportunity arrives, you’ll get your chance and that came against Kerry.

“Colm came in at right corner-forward and was outstanding, scoring 11 points. I was delighted for him.

“It was great the way it worked out. We won the game convincingly (2-23 to 1-11) and there was great craic in the crowd, too.

“When Kerry supporters starting to move away before the final whistle, the cry went up ‘close the gates and make them look.’”

Morgan detected an obvious increase in confidence in the players coming into the season as defending All-Ireland champions.

But, as far as he was concerned, the win over Mayo was consigned to history.

“There was also a determination to win it again, particularly after comments made about the game.

“Mick O’Dwyer called it a mickey-mouse final while Colm O’Rourke and Liam Hayes also remarked about the lack of physicality.

“And if we did meet Meath along the way, the plan was to set the record straight.”

Cork’s 0-11 to 0-9 triumph was another first for the Nemo Rangers great, managing a team to retain the Sam Maguire Cup.

It was another feather to his bow, having played and captained Cork to the 1973 edition, a star-studded team overwhelming Galway in the decider, decorating their display with five memorable goals.

“Obviously, playing is the best part of it, as I’ve always said.

“And of course, playing and captaining a winning All-Ireland team could never be surpassed, but I have to say I got a huge thrill out of us winning in ’89 and ’90, particularly having lost in ’87 and ’88.”

Older generations have happy memories of returning All-Ireland winning teams being greeted by tens of thousands of delirious Corkonians.

“I remember in ’89, coming up MacCurtain St towards Barry’s corner and Teddy McCarthy was beside me.

“I can recall him telling me ‘the lads won’t realise this, when they go around the corner and see the huge crowd’.

“It was the same in 1973 and it was just a sea of people. I was thinking how is the bus going to get through here?

“Having won the double, there was a change in location for the podium.

“Normally it was outside the Imperial Hotel on the South Mall, but this time it was on Patrick St.

“And what a view we had. You could see all the people to your left down Patrick St and to your right up to Bridge St.

“The atmosphere was brilliant. Everyone was in great form. They were unbelievable times really.”

Billy Morgan during a feature at his home on the South Douglas Road. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Billy Morgan during a feature at his home on the South Douglas Road. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

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