Sars club legend recalls when Riverstown hosted the Munster hurling final

Sars club legend recalls when Riverstown hosted the Munster hurling final
Club legend and former All-Ireland winning Cork hurling selector Denis Hurley at Sarsfields GAA Club. Picture: Des Barry

RIVERSTOWN, the magnificent home of Sarsfields Hurling Club has housed many games of great significance down through the corridors of time and is today one of the fines GAA complexes in the county and beyond.

Many county finals, outside of the senior grade, have been played there and it’s a venue that has retained its popularity through the years.

Clubs throughout the county have happy memories of playing there, others maybe not so and the recent success story of Sarsfields in the Cork County SHC and in other grades as well owes much to the wonderful facilities of Riverstown.

Those success stories have been well documented but what very few people know is that the old venue housed a Muster senior hurling final there 100 years ago this month.

The participants were Limerick and Tipperary and, of course, one immediately might ask, how come the game was played there and not in the old Cork athletic Grounds or in some other Munster venue.

Well, here’s the reason why.

In that year of 1920, the country was in a lot of turmoil, it was a time of tension and violence in the thick of the Black and Tan war.

Crowds of onlookers throng Patrick Street on the day following the burning of Cork city centre by Crown Forces in 1920.
Crowds of onlookers throng Patrick Street on the day following the burning of Cork city centre by Crown Forces in 1920.

The game was originally fixed for the Athletic Grounds but at that time large assemblies were frowned upon and at the last minute, the game was switched to Riverstown.

GAA stewards directing the crowd that attended the game were posted everywhere along the secondary routes to the venue: St Luke's, Dillon's Cross, Mayfield, the Fox and Hounds, Rathcooney and so on.

Those who were in attendance on that day now a century ago travelled in all modes of transport but a lot of them walked to the venue.

The then chairman of the Cork County Board, Sean McCarthy who later became the president of the Association paid tribute to all those who had helped with the game’s arrangements, all the more so at such short notice.

Among those who he mentioned were Michael McGrath, John Canavan Jimmy Buckley, Mick Moynihan, Paddy Hickey Mac Aherne, at the time great GAA personnel.

On the day Limerick proved too strong and qualified for the Munster final against Cork.

However, that game never took place because Cork decided not to play because of the arrest of the then Lord Mayor, Terence McSwiney.

It was a decision that gained widespread support and as a result, the game on that August day was effectively the Munster final and Limerick were crowned Munster champions.

It was a red-letter day for all involved in the Sarsfields club, a club that had been founded in 1896 by Willie O’Neill among others.

O’Neill himself was a great Cork hurler and also played rugby with Constitution, now Cork Con.

They sported the colours of black, blue and white and today Sarsfields players play in the same colours.

Denis Hurley, Sarsfields club president, told the Echo that the club is very proud to have been able to house that game back in 1920.

“This month is the centenary of the game and the club was delighted to facilitate the holding of the game at a time when the country was a very troubled one.

“Riverstown pitch was opened in 1903 and we are delighted that we now have a complex that all of our members can be proud of.

“Back then there were very few pitches in East Cork so Riverstown got to hold a lot of county finals down the years.

“The club has in the subsequent years spent a lot of money in developing the venue and as recently as last February the GAA president John Horan came down to officially open our new hurling wall and all weather pitch.

“A lot of people in our club have put in tremendous work to make Riverstown what it is today and what we have now will serve future generations. 

“People outside of the club might not be aware of that Munster semi-final which subsequently became a final and the people back then put in a huge effort to make it happen.’’ he said.

Today, Sarsfields is one of the country’s thriving clubs, Riverstown is a venue that caters for spectators in a very comfortable fashion with splendid viewing areas and a magnificent pavillon.

Little did those people who were involved 100 years this month when Limerick and Tipperary came down to play realise what the future held for a now hugely popular venue.


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