TO be successful in any sporting arena, the importance of those directing affairs from the sideline cannot be stressed enough.
As they say, behind every good team is an equally good management team.
When Cork managed to complete the All-Ireland double 30 years ago, that was exactly the case in both codes.
The hurlers had Canon Michael O’Brien as team coach, Gerald McCarthy as team trainer with selectors Frank Murphy, Liam O’Tuama, and Denis Hurley.
They, as Gerald McCarthy told The Echo: “got on great, might have disagreed from time to time, but in general, it worked out very well”.
Here he recalls that memorable year with the hurlers.
“The previous two years had not gone well, on top of that you had maybe players who were considering dropping out, some very good players who eventually were brought back in.
“How did I get involved? I can remember parking my car up in Bandon Road, up by Moks, that general area.
“I don’t know was I coming out of Lennox’s chipper, I wasn’t in Moks, and there I saw Fr O’Brien walking down the footpath and he started chatting to me.
“He asked me about getting involved, a chance kind of meeting, and it was only afterwards I asked myself: ‘Was I in his mind originally or the only one that passed by?’.
“I was very surprised when he asked me, but I thought about it, what was involved, but I took it on and it worked very well as it turned out.’’
Getting players back who might have previously been pushed out was the first priority.
“There were players, Tomás [Mulcahy], a brilliant captain as it turned out, Kevin [Hennessy], others, they were delighted to come back in.
“We did very well in the national league, beat Tipp and Limerick — but we lost to Wexford in the semi-final, which was a disaster.
“That day was a one-off, an awful bad day weather-wise, and I think we just got two points in the second half, and they were frees.
“It was very bad, but we knew we were better than that. It could have been a bit of a blessing in disguise because players were decimated afterwards, some of the younger ones in tears.
“It was an eye-opener, but it helped us in the long run."
Back then it was a team trainer and team coach, no manager as there is today.
“The first night at training the Canon arrived with a brand new car with a new reg, 90 C 27 and everybody was looking at it. The 27 was for the 27th All-Ireland, and fellas laughed, but it was a reminder that it was business from the start with him.
“We got on brilliantly, I did not know the man at all before, but we became great personal friends and we had a good relationship as to how the sessions went.
“There was no gym there that time so we used to run around the tunnel in Páirc Uí Chaoimh — that was tough. We did bleep tests, but fellas hated the tunnel running, it was tough.
“The Canon was the ultimate at motivation, he was like a psychologist, he’d play with your head, he’d want to know what was inside it and he would not be happy until he found out.
“Overall, he was a great character, he knew when to hit players hard, but not always. I remember before the Munster final, Mark Foley got a fierce doing from him.
“At the time I did not know that he knew Mark and his family very well from Timoleague. Mark might have been a bit lazy at times and that one night before that final he gave him a right doing.
“But it worked, he was sensational in that final with a score of 2-7. He knew how to get at players.
“We had a good selection committee, Frank was a great man to have on your side, looking after the small details, brilliant that way.
On the week of that Munster final, McCarthy told The Echo he sensed that the players were ready.
“Yes, you could see that, they were, and they proved it. We had a few characters on the team, Kevin was one of them and yes, that did happen at half-time in the All-Ireland final against Galway when the Canon said only three players had played in the first half.
“Leaving the dressing room after the break, Kevin did ask him: ‘Who were the other two, Father?’, because we had a very bad first half.
“Just before we went back out the Canon was on his knees and he started crying. He said: ‘Go back out there, do it for your families, do it for yourselves and do it for me.’
“Afterwards, John Fitzgibbon, he didn’t take well sometimes to the Canon’s capers, and he asked at the dinner that night who had put the onion in the Canon’s bag that made him cry.
“Great characters, Kevin, Mul, Johnny Fitz — but some of the best players were the quiet ones, Brendan Sullivan, Seanie McCarthy.
“They never said much, but they always gave it everything, they deserve great credit."
The win, of course, was a forerunner for the footballers a fortnight later and they did not let the side down.
“I really admired the footballers, from the moment Tomás lifted the cup when he said we’ll be back in a fortnight for the double.
“That might have heaped the pressure on the footballers. But they handled it brilliantly, Billy got the Canon up on the final morning to say Mass.
“Billy might not have been that happy with the sermon, it went on a bit long, but it was tremendous, the whole year.
“In my hurling career, it was one of the real highlights. I would rate the achievement of that double with anything before or after.
“It was so satisfying for me personally, a great bunch to be with, no faults with anybody.”
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