WHEN the Cork minor hurlers won the All-Ireland championship in 1964, they were bridging a gap of 13 years. The county had last triumphed in that grade in 1951.
The team was regarded as one of the best to have represented Cork for quite some time and they lived up to that tag: They swept to the title on a September Sunday in Croke Park.
A number of that team went on to become senior stars, Con Roche, Donal Clifford, and Charlie McCarthy adding Celtic Crosses to their medal haul.
That 1964 team was captained by Kevin Cummins, a member of one of Cork’s greatest-ever GAA families, and he was following in the footsteps of his father, Willie, who secured All-Ireland minor medals in 1938 and ’39.
In an interview with The Echo this week, Cummins recalled that campaign, now all of 56 years ago.
“It’s a long time ago now — hard to believe it — but we had a very good team that year, a team that contained some very strong, physical young men,” Kevin Cummins said.
“The reason I got the captaincy was because the Rockies had staged a remarkable comeback the year before to win the county, after coming from five goals down against the ’Barr’s in the city. We won the county and I was made captain, which was, obviously, a great honour.
“The first that I knew about being selected on the team was a phone call that I got at home; you had no such thing as trials back then, as you do now,” Cummins said
The team was coached by Jim Regan, from Kinsale, and one of the selectors was Frank Murphy.
“Jim was a sound voice to us and we had great respect for him. He definitely set the right tone for us as young players. Frank was a selector after Blackrock had won the county and maybe that was his first involvement with Cork at any level,” Cummins said.
“We had some very good hurlers: Con Roche; Charlie McCarthy was just magic; Andrew Flynn, from the Glen, who sadly passed away very recently; Ger Aherne, from Cloyne; Barry Wylie; Barney McAuliffe; Henry O’Brien, from Inniscarra, was the goalkeeper; Donal Clifford, who was a star player; Tim Murphy; Mick Kenneally and Willie Murphy.
“We had Nick Dowling, from Castlemartyr, a brother of Liam, who won senior All-Ireland medals: It was a very strong squad,” he said.
Cummins has vivid memories of the campaign. “We beat Waterford and Galway, who were then in Munster, and Tipperary in the Munster final.
“What happened afterwards that day was hugely disappointing for us, because Tipp forgot the cup and we got no cup, which was a massive disappointment,” Cummins said.
“I must tell you a story: Before the Galway game, I was nearly off the team before it started, because I attended a soccer match.
“I was doing a bit of photography and was at a soccer game and I was spotted. There was a ban then on attending foreign games and I was reported by somebody,” Cummins said.
“But, to be fair, the County Board took a more reasonable view and I was okay to play, but it did make the papers back then.’’
Cummins remembers the All-Ireland campaign, too, and a trip to Casement Park in Belfast.
“We played Antrim in the All-Ireland semi-final up there and by God were they rough. It was the roughest match I ever played in and we were fairly sore afterwards, even though we won comfortably,” Cummins said.
“We met Laois in the All-Ireland final and it was a totally one-sided game. They had somehow slipped Kilkenny in the championship, but we destroyed them in the final, scoring 10 or 11 goals; it was probably one of the most one-sided finals of all time,” Cummins said.
“But we were All-Ireland champions. It was Cork’s first minor title for a long time and it was a huge honour for me to receive the cup that day in the Hogan Stand.”
And the celebrations afterwards?
“We actually came back on the Sunday night, but there was a big celebration for us the night after, in the Victoria Hotel, after a parade through Patrick Street,” Cummins said.
“We had a night down in Cloyne, too, and it was a time that we all enjoyed. But, as I said, we had a very good team. A lot of them — Rochie, Charlie, Donal Clifford — won senior medals a few years later and others played for Cork, too. The training back then was so different to what it is now: A puck-around above in the Mardyke and a few laps.
“That’s the way it was, but it was great and we made great friends for life, as well. Sadly, a few of the squad are no longer with us, but it was a long time ago and we are all getting older every day,” he said.
Path to final:
Beat Waterford 5-15 to 3-4, beat Galway 8-10 to 2-1, beat Tipperary 2-14 to 2-9, beat Antrim 7-9 to 2-4, beat Laois 10-7 to 1-4.
The Cork team against Laois was:
H O’Brien (Inniscarra); T Murphy (Redmonds), G Aherne (Cloyne), P O’Sullivan (Midleton); J O’Callaghan (Glen), B Wylie (Carrigaline), P O’Riordan (White’s Cross); C Roche (Barrs), D Clifford (Cloyne); L McAuliffe (Glen), K Cummins (Blackrock); C McCarthy (Barrs), A O’Flynn (Glen), M Kenneally (Glen).
We met Laois in the All-Ireland final and it was a totally one-sided game ... we destroyed them, scoring 10 goals