‘DOWN the Mardyke, through each elm tree.’
How often have we heard those words from our own Cork anthem, that iconic venue off the Western Road?
The Dyke, as it’s affectionately known, holds a thousand memories for the city’s older generation, a wonderful sporting venue that housed the Cork County SHC and SFC finals at a time when the old Athletic Grounds was being transformed into Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
In 1974 and 1975, both finals were played in the Dyke, in front of huge audiences.
In 1974, the Barrs defeated the Rockies in the hurling decider, while, in football, it was Nemo’s trophy, against Carbery.
A year later, the Rockies made up for the previous year’s disappointment by overcoming the Glen in the final, while Nemo won again, this time against Dohenys.
That Rockies team of ’75 was captained by Eamon O’Donoghue and contained some of the greatest hurlers ever to grace a GAA ground.
This week, O’Donoghue spoke to the Echo about his memories of that day, now 45 years ago.
“I remember it well. We had lost the year before in the final, to the ’Barrs by a couple of points, so there was a great determination to make up for that loss.
“The Mardyke fitted the bill perfectly, while Páirc Uí Chaoimh was being constructed. It was a great venue — still is — although, apart from the Fitzgibbon Cup and Sigerson Cup and minor games, it’s not used much now,” O’Donoghue said.
“The atmosphere that day against the Glen was unbelievable; the crowd walked up from Blackrock and down from Blackpool.
“What made the venue so special — the pitch was the opposite way to what it is now — was that the crowd was right in on top of you.
“There was a great sod there to play on and I remember, in the semi-final of that year, we had a very hard match in the semi-final, with Seandun. They had a very good team then: Jimmy Nodwell, Sean Lucey; I was marking Justin McCarthy in that semi-final,” O’Donoghue said.
The Rockies had a great team, too.
“We had players like John Horgan, Frank Norberg, Frank Cummins, Pat Moylan, a young Tom Cashman, and Der McCurtain, Donie Collins, Ray Cummins, and so on.
“The Glen were strong, too. They had Martin Doherty, Denis Coughlan, Pat Barry, Teddy O’Brien, Patsy Harte, Jerry Sullivan, Red Crowley, but, on the day, we won comfortably enough.
“I was fortunate enough to be captain of such a great team and it was a huge honour to captain Blackrock to win a county,” O’Donoghue said.
“Joe McGrath was our coach. He was very professional in his approach back then and it was a great day in the Mardyke; it was different, but it served the county board well, while the Páirc was being built.”
Nemo’s football victories at the same venue are fondly recalled, too, by Billy Morgan, goalkeeper on both winning teams in those years.
“Yes, I was captain of the Nemo team in 1974 and Frank Cogan was captain in 1975. We beat Carbery the first year and Dohenys, then, in 1975.
“The Dyke was a great venue; I suppose it was the atmosphere that made it. The crowd were very close to the pitch and there was always a very good sod there.
“We had a very good team in those two years and it was a special time in the club, after we won our first county in 1972,” Morgan said.
“We won well in 1975, against Dohenys, and winning in the Mardyke made it different and unique, before we went back down to Páirc Uí Choimh.”
Morgan remembers the famous Eucharistic matches at the great Cork venue, a yearly tournament game between the Glen and the Barrs.
“They were huge games back then; you had the procession in the afternoon and, after that, everybody went up the Dyke for the Eucharistic match on the Sunday night,” Morgan said.
“They were massive games, fought with championship ferocity: No quarter was asked or given.
“The atmosphere at those games used be massive.
“The Mardyke was a great venue back then and still is. I would still be going up there a lot, coaching the UCC Sigerson Cup team,” Morgan said.
“It’s a venue I have great affection for and very happy memories, too.”
The Blackrock team of 1975 was: T Murphy, Frank Norberg, C O’Brien, J Rothwell, D McCurtain, John Horgan, F Cummins, Donie Collins, P Moylan, Tom Cashman, Brendan Cummins, P Kavanagh, Pat Butler, Ray Cummins, Eamon O’Donoghue.
The Nemo Rangers team of 1975 was: B Morgan, F Cogan, B Murphy, J Weldon, D Linehan, K Murphy, D O’Driscoll, D Cogan, K Collins, J Barrett, S Coughlan, S Leyden, N Morgan, D Allen, C Murphy.