ON a trip to Ardmore last week I came across a photograph of a Munster hurling team from 1960 that had won the Railway Cup of that year.
That’s 60 years ago now but the photograph of the team that had beaten Leinster in the final brought back memories of an era when the province had some of the greatest hurlers of all time.
Cork had four representatives on the team, Paddy Barry from Sarsfields, Mick Cashman, Jimmy Brohan, and the maestro from Cloyne, Christy Ring.
Waterford had a very strong representation on the team too and that made perfect sense because they were the reigning All-Ireland champions from the previous year of 1959, the last time that the Liam Carthy Cup visited the county.
Philly Grimes, Martin Óg Morrisey, Frankie Walsh, John Barron, Tom Cheasty, Seamus Power, and Austin Flynn, probably some of the greatest players that the county has ever produced lined out that day.
Many have followed in their footsteps in the Déise but, my God, they were legends of their time.
Tipperary had John and Jimmy Doyle on the stating 15 while the great Jimmy Smyth represented the Banner County of Clare.
Limerick had that wonderful dual star Tom McGarry on the team, a person who we still have the pleasure of meeting on big Munster hurling days through his work with the Munster Council.
Munster won that game on a scoreline of 6-6 to 2-7 with a team that you could easily describe as the cream of the crop, players that we got to see in action for their counties in the early ‘60s on halcyon summer days in Thurles and in Limerick.
Munster has always produced the greatest of hurlers and if the Railway Cup was still part of the GAA calendar and every player was available to play you would have some job putting 15 down on paper.
The exercise that we are about here is to come up with the best since 1970, like all other past selections that we have been trying to construct, an impossible task.
Who would be the goalkeeper on the team? Take your pick from Ger Cunningham, Brendan Cummins, Seamus Durack, Donal Óg Cusack, Davy Fitzgerald, Tommy Quaid.
You would have Diarmuid O’Sullivan, Brian Corcoran, Denis Coughlan, Martin O’Doherty, Tony Maher, John Horgan, both Brian Murphys, Johnny Crowley, Dermot McCurtain, Seán Óg (below), John Gardiner, from Cork to choose from for defensive positions.
Tipp would supply Pádraic Maher, Declan and Bobby Ryan, Brendan Maher while Limerick would have Pat Hartigan, Ciarán Carey, Ollie Moran, Leonard Enright, Steve McDonagh among others.
Waterford would have Tony Browne, Ken McGrath, Austin Gleeson, Tadgh de Burca battling with the rest for one of those six defensive spots.
Seanie McMahon, Brian Lohan, Anthony Daly, Ger Loughnane, Seán Stack, Liam Doyle were all great Clare defenders and very much in contention for this fantasty Munster 15 that we are trying to select.
Getting two midfielders would be an even bigger task, John Fenton, Gerald McCarthy, Tom Cashman would lead the way for Cork while Tipp would have Tommy Dune, Mick Roche, and Noel McGrath.
Colin Lynch, Colm Galvin, and Ollie Baker from Clare would be in contention while Waterford would have Ken McGrath again, Pat McGrath, and John Galvin. Cian Lynch from the current Limerick team would be a candidate as would Sean Finn.
You would require another page to list all the forwards to choose from all the five Munster counties.
Here is just a random selection, Ray Cummins, JBM, Charlie McCarthy, Tomás Mulcahy, Tony O’Sullivan, Joe Deane, Ben O’Connor, Patrick Horgan, Nicky English, Willie Walsh, Pat Fox, Lar Corbett, Babs Keating, Paul Flynn, Michael Cleary, Jamesie O’Connor, Tony Kelly, Niall Gilligan, John Mullane, Noel Casey, Gary Kirby, Eamon Cregan, and so on.
So, following on down through the decades from that great Munster team of 1960, their successors are so many, some of the greatest talents ever.
In the players that we have mentioned we have omitted an equal amount.
It would require the wisdom of Solomon to get 15 that would gain approval across the province.
Without locating them in any position here is our 15 that would lead the debate:
Ger Cunningham, Brian Lohan, Diarmuid O’Sullivan, Seanie McMahon, Brian Corcoran, Eamon Cregan, Nicky English, John Fenton, Ray Cummins, JBM, Ken McGrath, Pádraic Maher, John Horgan, Mick Roche, Gerald McCarthy.
If we had space, we could name an alternative 15, in fact, you could come up with three of four alternative selections.
We did not include any Kerry Hurlers in the aforementioned but Shane Conway would be up there with the best of them. If there was a transfer market in the game there would be some clamour for his signature.
All of the above is just to illustrate the depth of talent that Munster hurling has had at its disposal over the past half-century.
There were great hurlers, there are great hurlers and who knows what the province will produce going forward, maybe the best are yet to come.