OVER the past 20 years, eight different clubs have been victorious in the Cork Senior Hurling Championship with Newtownshandrum and Sarsfields topping the list with four apiece, while a division, Imokilly, won the last three trophies.
For the record the other winning clubs have been Erin’s Own, Na Piarsaigh, Blackrock, Carrigtwohill, Midleton and Glen Rovers.
In that list there is one notable team missing: St Finbarr’s who have not been successful since 1993. That’s now a whopping 27 years which is a lifetime for a club of such renown.
In all of the above winning teams you had a number of inter-county players who contributed handsomely to the victories.
It’s often said that to win a county you must have a handful of inter county players playing at the top end of their game and in a lot of instances that may be true.
However, there would be a viewpoint too that it’s the players who never get to wear the county jersey that are the real stars, the unsung heroes.
So from the year 2000 let’s select a couple of those type of players who were the real backbone of the side.
Let’s start with the winners that year, Newtown.
The O’Connors, Ben and Jerry and Pat Mulcahy might have grabbed a lot of the headlines and rightly so but you had those type of grassroots individuals whose consistency was key.
We are talking about Brendan Mulcahy (above), a teak-tough defender, Philip Noonan, an outstanding wing- back in all of their victories and John Paul King, a hugely industrious individual who never gave less that a hundred per cent.
There were others too but from each club we will select just three.
In the four of Newtown’s winning sides those three were ultra- consistent.
Sars won four titles too and had Cork players, Conor O’Sullivan, Pat Ryan, Michael Cussen, Danny Kearney and Cian McCarthy making a huge difference.
But what about players like goalkeeper Alan Kennedy, one of the club’s most consistent performers between the sticks, one who rarely erred.
In front of him you had Ray Ryan hardly putting a foot wrong while up front Tadhg Óg Murphy was always there when you needed him.
We could mention a lot more of those what we’ll describe as real club hurlers.
The Rockies had two county titles to their credit in 2001 and the following year and they had plenty of Cork stars making large contributions, Fergal Ryan, Wayne Sherlock, Alan and John Browne.
But what about the likes of Noel Keane at full-back, a leader by example, Barry Hennebry (below) who secured some vital scores and one of the clubs great servants, David Cashman.
All three were solid players who made a difference in those years.
The Glen had two superb victories in 2015 and 2016 after their shattering experience of 2014 and they had one of the best forwards of all time in Patrick Horgan making a gigantic difference.
But they had an outstanding goalkeeper in Cathal Hickey, the best club keeper in the county in the past number of years and one of the best club defenders around in centre-back Brian Moylan while Conor Dorris always troubled the best of defenders.
There were a lot more but we are taking just three from those winning clubs.
On to Na Piarsaigh and their victory of 2004 when you had the Ó hAilpíns and John Gardiner making enormous contributions.
But what about the likes of Darren Mannix, Mark Prendergast, who came on and had a fine game for Cork in the 2003 Munster final, and Richie McDonnell who was a star in their first title win of 1990.
Carrigtwohill had Niall McCarthy in brilliant form in their famous victory of 2011 but we’ll select three more players who were hugely important to the victory, Noel Furlong a superb centre-back, Micky ‘Da’ Fitzgerald, a real honest hurler and Rob White who was a very talented forward, all very dependable club hurlers.
In the title wins of Erin’s Own in 2006 and 2007, Brian Corcoran was a giant of a performer but in Shay Bowen (below) they had quality netminder, with a huge puck-out who provided great confidence to those in front of him.
Fergus Murphy was another very good hurler while Stephen Cronin was an outstanding wing-back.
Conor Lehane scored 2-10 out of 2-15 for Midleton against Sars in 2013 but during that year they had Tommy Wallace providing great stability in goal, Pádraigh O’Shea depending solidly, a versatile player and Seamus Farrell contributing in midfield.
The point we are making in all of this that all those winning teams had that core of very good club hurlers who might just have been that bit short of making it at inter-county level.
You can have all the star names that you want but it’s those players who graft from January to October in less glamorous surrounds that than what the inter-county players might be training in a lot of the time.
They keep the show on the road while the Cork players are unavailable in the summer months and are always available for the important league games.
Some of them might never see their names in lights but without them success would be very difficult to come by.