Classic Cork county hurling finals: The day Na Piarsaigh joined the top table

Classic Cork county hurling finals: The day Na Piarsaigh joined the top table
Christy Coughlan, Na Piarsaigh captain, raises the Seán Óg Murphy cannister in 1990 after beating the Barrs. Picture: Denis Minihane

IT started with a first round victory over Ballyhea and a few months later in ended in a glorious Cork County SHC title victory for Na Piarsaigh, the first time that this great Northside club had landed Cork hurling’s biggest prize.

It’s all of 30 years ago now, 1990, but the memories of that Sunday afternoon in Páirc Uí Chaoimh when they defeated the Barrs in the final after a replay are still vivid for selector Bill Kelleher and team coach Eamon Ryan.

Kelleher takes up the story.

“We had great success in Na Piarsaigh down the years at all levels but making the big breakthrough at senior level was the big thing.

“We had to live in the shadows of the the Glen, the Barrs and the Rockies but that year we joined them as Cork County Senior championship winners.

“We had a very good team assembled, we had good men on the line like Joe O’Leary and John Gardiner snr, I was there myself too and we had brought Eamon Ryan in as coach.

“Eamon was first class, he had a great attitude with the players and they bought into what he was saying to them.

“You had the likes of Tony O’Sullivan, the late and great Christy Coughlan, Leonard Forde, Sean Guiheen, the Connerys, Richie McDonnell, John Sullivan, great clubmen and Eamon got the best out of them.”

Having secured good wins en-route to the final against Midleton and the Rockies, Na Piarsaigh found themselves up against the Barrs in the final.

“The first day we drew with them and it was clear there wasn’t anything between us. There was a huge crowd there that day, 25,000 plus I think.

“The replay was just as tight but we got there by two points. I’ll always remember, I think it was John Meyler and he had a last-gasp shot for a goal right at the end which just went wide, I almost died on the line when that happened.

“There was drama right to the end but it was finally our time and the scenes that followed were simply amazing when Christy (Coughlan) went up to get the trophy.

“It was a win for everybody, all the great players of the past, for everybody that had an association with our club.

“I’ll never forget going back to Farranree that night, the joy that it brought to peoples lives and you must remember that we played that day without the great and now late Paul O’Connor who was injured.”

Coach Eamon Ryan has very fond memories of that day too.

“Firstly, when I went in there, there was no conflict of interest, I was coming from Watergrasshill and Glenville and there was no going to be playing them.

“They were just great to me, they made me feel right at home, they were not judgmental of me if things might go wrong, they were just so welcoming.

“There was a great atmosphere running through the club. The players had a great attitude, Christy was a great captain, Tony Sull, Paul O’Connor, John Sullivan, all the rest of them.

“They worked hard, never moaned or anything like that and, I’ll be honest, it was just a privilege to be involved with those bunch of lads at the time.

“It was hard to win a county back then, it’s very hard to make that breakthrough, to win your first county title but I had great lads on the line, great hurling men, John Gardiner, Joe O’Leary and Bill Kelleher, true Piarsaigh men.

“It meant so much to those fellows, Piarsaigh always had those type of fellows, the Connerys and so on.

“I will treasure that time I had up there, beating a great club like the Barrs in the final after a replay was special because the were very strong at the time.

“It went right to the end in the replay, they had a chance near the end but we held out and I suppose your first title is really that special.”

Na Piarsaigh won the title again in 1995 and 2004 which led to Seán Óg Ó hAilpín captaining Cork to All-Ireland glory a year later.

But the torch had been lit by the men of 1990 and the northern lights burned as bright as they ever did on that October Sunday 30 years ago Na Piarsaigh’s time had come The scores in the two games was Na Piarsaigh 1-12, St Finbrr’s 3-6; replay: Na Piarsaigh 2-7, St Finbarr’s 1-8.

The Na Piarsaigh team that beat St Finbarrs in the 1990 Cork county final.
The Na Piarsaigh team that beat St Finbarrs in the 1990 Cork county final.

The Na Piarsaigh team that day was: Liam Connery; Christy Connery, Jim Hannafin, Sean Guiheen; Christy Coughlan, Leonard Forde, Christy O’Donovan; Tony O’Sullivan, Richie McDonnell; Mick Mullins, James O’Connor, Mark Mullins; Mark Dineen, Liam O’Callaghan, John Sullivan.

Subs used: John Twomey, Gearoid Daly.

It was a win for everybody, all the great players of the past, for everybody that had an association with our club.

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