Na Piarsaigh recall great victory of 1995 while remembering fallen comrades

Na Piarsaigh recall great victory of 1995 while remembering fallen comrades

The Na Piarsaigh team before their win over Ballyhea in 1995.

FOR former Na Piarsaigh captain Leonard Forde, the reminder came from the terrific ‘Cork Hurling History’ account on Twitter.

It signalled that 25 years had passed since he lifted the Seán Óg Murphy Cup in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

On September 24, 1995, the northsiders met a team from North Cork, but crushed underdogs Ballyhea’s dreams to secure the club’s second senior county in six seasons.

“I think that report summed it up: ‘Once bitten, twice shy’. We’d been beaten against Erin’s Own in 1992 and there’s no doubt we underestimated them that day. We were confident, which is grand, but weren’t ready for what they’d bring,” Forde says.

“We were nearly saying, beforehand, ‘Sure, Brian Corcoran, how good is he?’ Well, I certainly knew all about him by the end of the game, anyway! He’d destroyed Pat Fox and he did the same to us. An incredible hurler.

“We’d a lot of great hurlers of our own and were we determined to get back to a county final and prove that. When it came around again, we weren’t going to underestimate Ballyhea,” Forde says.

The late Paul O’Connor was the official man of the match, from wing-back, in ’95, flanking Forde to the left, with Seán Guiheen on the right.

“Paulo was a pure hurler. He could play in any position. The defence was strong: Sure, you’d Christy Coughlan at full-back, Christy Connery, Seán Óg Ó hAilpín in the corner,” Forde says.

“He was just a minor, but an incredible athlete; sure the stamina and pace he had; pure power. He achieved more than any of us after; only Tony Sull could match him for medals.”

Five-time All-Star with the Rebels, Tony O’Sullivan was out in midfield, his younger brother, Mark, pilfering 1-1 from the corner. Mickey Mullins, a Cork panellist, was another vital cog, while they had two imports.

Mickey Mullins in action against Imokilly. Picture: Denis Minihane.
Mickey Mullins in action against Imokilly. Picture: Denis Minihane.

“John Anthony Moran was from Limerick: Class forward, great touch. He was in the army in Ballincollig and it was Ger Shaw got him up. Ger, or myself, used to give him a spin up to training,” Forde says.

“We’d Mark Mullins then, as well. He was from Carlow and, thankfully, he joined Na Piarsaigh when he came to Cork. It’s a bit like Shane Conway in UCC: Every club in Cork would love to have him transfer in from Kerry,” Forde says

It was a golden era for Na Piarsaigh, who also competed at the top tier of football, against the likes of O’Donovan Rossa and Nemo Rangers.

“We were up there every year. Huge credit would have to go to Eamonn Ryan. What he brought to Na Piarsaigh couldn’t be overstated. Sure, he had success everywhere he went; what he did with the Cork ladies’ footballers was unbelievable.

“He was so genuine. Everyone respected him, because of his great personality and, then, technically he was a very good coach as well.”

Collecting a second county title reflected the work the club put in and the talent on show.

For Forde, whose sons, Kelvin and Shane, are involved in the current Na Piarsaigh crop, a cruciate injury in ’96 called time on his career.

“It’s bittersweet, looking back on it, because we’ve lost three of the first 15 from ’95: Paulo, Christy Coughlan, and Conrad Lynch. That puts it all into perspective, but also makes you appreciate it more.”

This Sunday is the ideal showcase for city hurling: The Glen versus the Rockies, northside versus southside, two of the aristocrats of the greatest sport in the world.

Forde is looking forward to it.

“Ah, sure, of course, the Glen and Na Piarsaigh have a fierce rivalry, but it’s still great to see two city clubs in the final, two great clubs. Very hard game to call. This is an excellent Glen team — they have been for a while — but the Rockies have been coming, too.”

Scorers for Na Piarsaigh v Ballyhea: M O’Sullivan 1-1, JA Moran 0-4, T O’Sullivan (0-1 f), Mark Mullins 0-2, J O’Connor, C Lynch 0-1.

NA PIARSAIGH: L Connery; S Óg Ó hAilpín, C Coughlan, C Connery; S Guiheen, L Forde, P O’Connor; T O’Sullivan, Michael Mullins; J O’Connor, Mark Mullins, C Lynch; M O’Sullivan, G Daly, JA Moran.

The Na Piarsaigh team that beat St Finbarr's in 1990.
The Na Piarsaigh team that beat St Finbarr's in 1990.

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