THE sad passing last weekend of Tom O’Donoghue from the Sarsfields club has severed another link with the Cork All-Ireland winning team of 1966.
In one of the most famous of all of Cork’s Liam McCarthy Cup victories, O’Donoghue was full-back on that team who famously defeated Kilkenny in the September decider.
He was regarded as one of the strongest and toughest full-backs of that era and policed the square as though it was his own and with great authority.
In that ’66 final he fronted Cork’s ’keeper Paddy Barry, the St Vincent’s clubman who went on to captain Cork to another All-Ireland four years later.
This week he spoke to The Echo, remembering his old team mate and friend.
“Firstly, I was very saddened to hear of Tom’s passing. He was a wonderful person who was a good friend of mine and who gave me great protection as a goalkeeper — particularly in the 1966 victory.
“As a defender, he was rock solid, he got on with the job that he had been given and he was one who did not suffer fools gladly.
“He was a typical full-back of the time, as a goalkeeper you depended a lot on him and he had some great tussles with opposing forwards from Kilkenny, Tipp, Wexford, Limerick and so on.
“He formed a great full-back line in 1966 with Peter Doolan and Denis Murphy and there was a great understanding between the three of them which was of great benefit to me behind them.
“He covered the square and he made sure that you were protected, that no forward was going to get in on top of you.’’
Barry, a goalkeeper of great renown in the Cork jersey at that time, has very fond memories of the ’66 victory, one that was not expected at the time.
“It wasn’t I suppose considering that Tipp had beaten us well the previous two years in ’64 and ’65.
“We certainly were not one of the favourites at the outset.
“We were fortunate enough to draw with Clare in Munster, Justin McCarthy got a late goal from a free to secure the draw and we went on to beat them in the replay.
“We played Limerick in Killarney after that, it was a wet day, a low-scoring game and Paddy Fitzgerald from Midleton had a superb game for us.
“We won Munster, defeating Waterford in the final and we went on to beat Kilkenny in the All-Ireland final, the day Colm Sheehan got the three goals.’’
Barry remembers the homecoming the following night when more than 100,000 people lined McCurtain Street and Patrick Street.
“That was something else, I suppose people had waited 12- years for an All-Ireland and there was a fierce outpouring of joy.
“Tom played a huge role in that All-Ireland as did all the other lads. Tom was a very quiet person off the field, he had a great passion for dogs as well and when he got married, he settled down to live a very happy life until his passing.
“It was an honour to play with him."
Little did Barry know that four years later he would be going up the steps of the Hogan Stand to receive the same McCarthy Cup after captaining Cork to glory against Wexford.
“Yes, I certainly didn’t think that would happen but it did and it was a fantastic honour to do so.
“Firstly, it’s an honour to wear the red jersey any time and to be named captain was something else.
“It was a great honour for the family and, of course for my club St Vincent’s. That was the first 80 minute final and the main thing about the day was that Eddie O’Brien from Passage got three goals.
“We had a very good team that year after losing to Kilkenny in 1969. I remember before that ’69 final, we were staying in the Skylon Hotel and the night before myself and Tom went to the dog track.
“To come back the following year and win it was great. We won the league too and went to New York and had two tough games with New York who had great hurlers then on their teams.
“Ah, they were great times and while the All-Ireland victories of those years were special, the friendships that have endured for life were equally important.
“There was great camaraderie there and when I meet those players now, we happily recall those great days.
“A few of the lads have gone now from the ’66 team and that’s very sad. I was fortunate to have someone like Tom in front of me in 1966.
“He made you feel confident about yourself knowing that he and the other lads were fronting me.
“A very good person has been taken from us, may he rest in peace."