Cork football rewatch: When Brian Hurley gave one of the greatest county final displays

Cork football rewatch: When Brian Hurley gave one of the greatest county final displays
Brian Hurley, Castlehaven, couldn't be contained by Alan Cronin, or any other Nemo defender, in the 2013 county final at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: Diarmuid Greene/SPORTSFILE

THE criteria for a classic county final can vary.

Top teams, top game, top performances. The 2013 county final had that high-level iconic feel to it — since 2000 Nemo had won eight titles, Castlehaven two, so this was their first final against each other

But Nemo’s wins had an average winning margin of over seven points and if there’s a tendency to remember games differently when the kingpins lose, well this game had something else to it as well. 

The most remarkable individual performance you’re likely to get: I don’t think there’s been a performance like this in the club championships over the last what, 25 years or so, not with these sort of stakes and against this sort of opponent and with this sort of impact.

By the way, there was a subplot on their opponents here. I remember there being a lot of talk in the lead-up about how playing a sweeper was not the Nemo way of doing things, that Nemo were going to go with a man-marker for Hurley, who was ripping up defences with club and county by this stage really and had already torn Nemo apart for 0-8 and 2-5 in two round one games in Bandon so they can’t say they weren’t warned, and trust themselves to deliver.

Brian Hurley about to drill the ball to the net for the Haven against Nemo. Picture: Denis Scannell
Brian Hurley about to drill the ball to the net for the Haven against Nemo. Picture: Denis Scannell

It didn’t work and the interesting postscript came a few years later in the 2015 county final when they did in fact have special plans drawn up for Hurley (and won). We’ll never know if it would have made a difference but they may have regrets.

Here, look, Hurley was sensational. It’d be impossible to analyse the game and not mention him in more or less every single line. The plain stats are 0-12 scored plus two assists from 0-16: five points from play and he was fouled for most of the scored frees.

The longer version is that he just devastated the Nemo backline every time he got the ball and it was interesting to watch how it was done. Firstly, Haven were quite clever with how they got him in possession, in that they hit him almost every time they attacked but not with many hopeful long punts – at one stage, Stephen Hurley delayed a kick-pass for a moment while Alan Cronin had Hurley’s space covered but one shimmy later was able to pick him out perfectly.

It was thoughtful attacking, helped by the presence of Mark Collins’ play-making abilities out the field. Secondly, it’s noticeable right away just how simply Hurley had the beating of his man and the entire Nemo defence, that constant movement and pace and power was just too much to halt.

Point one was a lovely crossfield ball into space, Hurley took control on the hop running out towards the sideline on the left-wing but got turned, ran to go outside his man before he cut back inside and popped a handy point on his right foot.

Point two, a Mark Collins diagonal dink pass bounced into his chest and he didn’t even need to lose his man with a movement, one turn over his shoulder and a left-foot finish. Point three, a long high ball that Hurley leaped in the air to get a touch down to Mark Collins, who ran past, and then fed Hurley on the loop for a lovely combination score.

Collins and Hurley have always played together coming up through the ages and you can always tell that sort of understanding that’s developed over a lot of games and training and knowing movements of the other player. It’s not like they would have needed to specifically work on this, it just came with years and years of Mark Collins getting possession somewhere in the forward line and knowing where to look and who to look for.

Point four, again a Collins assist with a kick-pass that hopped in front, Hurley managed to win possession, turn and go at his man before smashing a kick off his left foot that soared over.

He even had time to miss a chance here, another run around his marker and along the end-line before a wild attempt at goal.

And here’s another impressive thing.

Shortly after that miss, Hurley got the ball (from Collins again, who else?) facing the defender straight on, sort of flat-footed for the first time.

It hardly mattered. Hurley did a couple of little movements, opened an inch of space and bustled past his man and then had the mind to slow himself and calmly side-foot the ball over the bar. He kicked important frees as well as the scores from play, seven of them at vital times to keep the scoreboard ticking away from Nemo all the time.

It’s a sensational snapshot of a player in that unstoppable form like someone had switched to a different power mode on a computer game and everybody else was playing on normal mode.

It’s not that Nemo were even bad on the day. Alan Cronin showed all the cleverness that defined his time with a technically excellent goal. James Masters kicked points like James Masters. And they were the better team for long spells of the opening half especially.

But they tried two or three different individual markers on Hurley and you just felt sorry for them really, all that space in front for Haven to pop balls into and a player on fire so much that every time he got the ball, everyone in the ground just edged off their seats a little, expecting some burst of brilliance to happen, anticipating a chance to be created every single time he got the ball.

It generally did and it was something to see Nemo being overwhelmed in the end by one player’s excellence, where you could have believed anything was possible for the 21-year-old Hurley.

Castlehaven captain Sean Cahalane raises the Andy Scannell trophy after defeating Nemo Rangers. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Castlehaven captain Sean Cahalane raises the Andy Scannell trophy after defeating Nemo Rangers. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

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