WHEN the race for the Liam McCarthy Cup began back in 1990, Cork were well down the list of leading contenders.
In the three years since the county last lifted the old trophy in ‘86, things had not gone particularly well, the previous year of 1989 was best forgotten after a loss to a Waterford team that was not exactly setting the world alight either.
But 12 months is a long time in the sporting arena and what transpired in that year of 1990 is now part of Leeside lore.
The team swept through Munster, taking out the All-Ireland champions Tipperary in the final and subsequently ended up in Croke Park on the first Sunday in September to end the aspirations of Galway.
Teddy McCarthy was an integral part of the team, making a huge impact on that September Sunday, winning his second All-Ireland hurling medal before creating history a few weeks later when the Sam Maguire Cup accompanied Liam McCarthy on a lengthy tour of the county.
The Sarsfields club man has happy memories of that year, focusing in this interview with the Echo on the hurling campaign.
“We won the All-Ireland in 1986, lost in ’87 to Tipperary and we a had a lot of players at that stage, Der McCurtain, Tom Cashman, Johnny Crowley, Jimmy-Barry Murphy, all seasoned players who gave fantastic service to Cork.
“That campaign in 1987 was the last throw of the dice for a lot of those players and if you think about ’87 we were a trifle unlucky.
“I remember that day, in particular, I won a ball and pucked it into the square and Tony O’Sullivan got a flick to it and it was a very tight game as you remember and Sully put it into the net.
“It was ruled out for a square goal but to this day it’s common knowledge that he was outside and I reckon if we got that score we’d have won the All-Ireland. The game ended in a draw, went to extra-time as Tipp came out on top."
There was no joy either in the two years that followed and, according to McCarthy, it was now a rebuilding job.
“It was, it was an onerous task for anybody who took us on and I remember in 1990 in a league game against Kilkenny, they destroyed us.
"I remember that day there were hailstones as big as golf balls and I saw Cork fans almost in tears as we went back to Langton’s.
"They believed Cork hurling was in desperate trouble but we turned it around, we got it together, it was a new team in many ways.
"You had Seanie McCarthy and Brendan O’Sullivan, just to mention two, they came on board and the management too, Gerald McCarthy and Canon O’Brien, they came in and were very instrumental in turning the ship around.
"There was a job of work to be done from the previous two years. We built up momentum, kept a low profile and as everybody knows we came out of Munster, beating Tipp in the final.
“That was huge for us, they were the top team around then."
Antrim were taken care of in the All-Ireland semi-final before Galway lined up on final day.
“We were huge underdogs again going into that final and at half-time, we were six points down.
“But, in fairness to Gerald and Fr O’Brien, it was backs to the wall at that stage but everybody upped their game thereafter.
“Our second-half performance was inspirational. Some choice words were said at half-time, we were in a huddle and Fr O’Brien roared that just three players had performed in that first-half.
“Kevin Hennessy, a great character, great guy interrupts and asks, 'who were the other two Fr?'
"That did happen and it had a huge effect on everyone.
“It broke the ice, we all started laughing, I did anyway but what Hennessy said eased the tension and we went out and we were a totally transformed team.
“We actually enjoyed that second-half and ultimately that’s what it is about."
The great cleric O’Brien and Gerald had a huge input into that campaign, he believed.
“The two of them showed great respect for each other. There was no tension at all between them, they were so well regarded in Cork and always will be.
“Having those two in your dressing room should be worth a few points anyway. We needed inspiration at half-time that day in Croke Park and they provided that, great motivators and we needed them then."
Ultimately, though, it was all about the players inside the white line that day.
“Look, I didn’t realise until I saw the game recently again how bad we were in the first half, totally outplayed everywhere and being honest, the only one that stood up was Seanie Gorman.
“He was outstanding. I know Tomás Mul got Man of the Match but I think even he would admit that Seanie deserved it.
“But in saying that, in the second half, everybody went at it hammer and tongs, we all stood up."
Of course, the Munster final of that year was crucial, the final forever known as Mark Foley’s final.
“He got 2-7 but overall that year he got around 3-10, 3-12, that’s huge from play. But I remember leading up to that final we had a fierce A versus B game and Foley was very good, he’ll kill me for saying it but he was well on top against Jim Cashman.
“Mark was untouchable that day in Thurles, everything he touched turned to gold."