Classic county hurling finals: Carbery bounced back to upset the odds in 1994

Classic county hurling finals: Carbery bounced back to upset the odds in 1994
Carbery hurler Darren O'Donoghue tries to evade Midleton's Kevin Roche in the 1994 Cork Senior Hurling Championship final. Picture: Des Barry

WHEN a team loses a county final the pain is acute, all the more so when it’s just by a point after a replay.

The post mortems will be many, a case of so near and yet so far with maybe your best chance gone forever.

The most recent example of this was Glen Rovers, heavily defeated by Sarsfields in the 2014 SHC final. Many were sceptical if they could recover from that devastating loss.

But fast forward 12 months later and they were on the winners' podium after defeating the same opponents.

There have been other examples too of that occurrence and one of them involved Carbery in 1994.

Now when a division loses a final it makes it very difficult to pick yourself up and go again the following year.

It can be very hit and miss with a divisional unit with a lot of factors involved, players not available the year after, an intermediate club graduating, that sort of thing.

Carbery lost the county final to the Barrs in 1993, the last time the city club lifted the title, and many in west Cork feared their best chance had passed them by.

But they stuck together, their cause endured and 12 months later they defeated a very strong Midleton team in the final.

It’s the only time the old trophy wended its way west and one of the stars of the side, Jerry Ryan, a former Cork selector with Denis Walsh, told The Echo how it all came about.

“Firstly, we should have won in 1993, we had a very good squad of players and I think that up to 17 of them had featured for Cork at some level.

“To tell you how strong we were, Mark Foley was only a sub in 1994 after he had starred for Cork a few years earlier.

“I suppose for us the whole thing would have started up in 1989, ’90 when Peter O’Halloran got it off the ground.

“He was a great motivator, he saw the potential was there and it was all about getting it organised, getting the backing of the West Cork board, getting the clubs on board.

“We had good men involved, Noel Crowley was a top coach while we had Pa Brennan, Neil Morrissey, Patsy Ryan, and Noel and Peter.

“Obviously, we were devastated to lose in ’93 and we knew that getting back into a final again would not be easy."

But get back they did, proving that maybe the old theory of having to lose one to win one does work at times.

“We beat Ballyhea in the first round after a difficult enough game. We had the Glen and Na Piarsaigh after that, two big clubs, but we kept going and found ourselves in the final again against Midleton.

“Maybe the experience of the previous year stood to us but they had a team of very big names. We had lost to them in 1991 and they were a bit lucky to beat us that day.

“We had been knocking around for a few years, unlucky very much at times, but never quite getting over the line until 1994.

“So to win it in 1994 was a fantastic feeling. It’s never easy for a division and when you get the chance you must take it.

“As it turned out, we got two chances and took it the second time. Look, to win a Cork county senior medal was a massive feeling, coming from small clubs, as we did, made it all the more so.

“We had the players, the backroom team, a good captain in Barry Harte, and it just came together. It was probably a one-off. But we had a committed bunch who got the job done."

Reeling in the years... The Carbery hurling squad champions in 1994 were introduced to the crowd. Picture: George Hatchell
Reeling in the years... The Carbery hurling squad champions in 1994 were introduced to the crowd. Picture: George Hatchell

The aforementioned Peter O’Halloran vividly remembers the time too.

“A lot of the players would have known each other up along the way. I think 11 of them went to St Brogan’s in Bandon and nine went to Farranferris.

“So they were not strangers to each other and that was a big thing. We stuck to our plan along the way and we made a few changes in 1994 from 1993.

“But we had very good hurlers in that team, in that squad. Players had to earn their place and the West Cork Board gave us great support.

“Beating big clubs like Na Piarsaigh, the Glen, and Midleton made it that bit extra and the players kept at it after that shattering loss to the Barrs a year earlier.

“You could say we all worked towards a common goal and I suppose too we led the way that year for the other divisions like Avondhu and Imokilly who won the county in the years after us, Avondhu in 1996 and Imokilly in ’97 and ’98.

“It’s great to look back on it now, knowing what we did with a great bunch of players who did the Carbery division proud."

They certainly did that and proved that if any division can get its house in order they too can achieve big things. No easy but doable.

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