IN the storied history of the Cork County Senior Hurling Championship, some memorable chapters have been penned but surely very few can compare to Carrigtwohill’s sensational victory of 2011.
At the outset of the competition that year the east Cork club were quoted at 100/1 by the bookmakers, in other words as rank outsiders as you can get, remaining in that position right up to the final.
Carrigtwohill had always produced good teams and good players through the ages and won a senior county in 1918.
Every team that left the village was well known for being ultra-competitive but in the pecking order of senior title contenders they hadn’t figured prominently for a very long time.
They had no form at all to suggest that things might change in 2011 given their performances of previous few seasons when they sailed in the very choppy waters of relegation.
The 2011 campaign began with an opening assignment against Ballinhassig and from here on in, outstanding centre-back on that team, Noel Furlong, takes up the story.
“That was a very strange game for us. We led at half-time on a score line of 1-13 to 0-5 and seemed to be well on our way to victory.
“However, we failed to score any more after half-time and we were very fortunate to win the game. There was certainly nothing that day to suggest what was ahead for us.
“We defeated Muskerry by a couple of points in our next game and that brought us to a quarter-final meeting with Cloyne.
“They had beaten us well in previous years and had reached three county finals three years running.
“But our forwards played very well on the day with Rob White, Niall Mc, Micky ‘Da’ Fitzgerald and Brian Lordan doing the business for us.
“That was a fine Cloyne team so to get past them was a big confidence booster and the momentum built up from there.’’
Despite things moving along very nicely, Carrig were still ranked as outsiders, all the more so when they faced up to arch rivals and near neighbours Midleton in the semi-final.
“That was the big game for us, Midleton in a county semi-final, outside of meeting them in the final, it could not have been bigger,” Furlong recalls. “Most of us knew each other from going to school in Midleton and there would have been a rivalry there alright.
“That day we put in a very good defensive display and kind of dug in there and we got the win. I suppose for us that day, it was as good as winning the county itself, it was huge and suddenly we found ourselves preparing for a county final, unbelievable really.”
Waiting for them in the final was a crack Cork IT team, then guided by Keith Ricken who happens to live in Carrigtwohill, a team containing some of the best hurlers in the county and from outside. That included Lorcán McLoughlin and Pat O'Connor, an All-Ireland winner with Clare in 2013.
“We were still rank outsiders going into that final. They had a very good team, a team that had beaten Newtownshandrum who were champions two years earlier and they had beaten Sars. There was a huge build-up to the final in the village, everybody got behind us and I think the weather on the day suited us a bit.
“It all came down really to the last 10 minutes or so. Niall Mac got two great points for us and he had a massive blockdown under the stand which really set the fire lighting.
“That gave us huge energy, Seanie Farrell was brought in from the bench and, as they say, the rest is history.
“He scored the winning point for us, the score that won the county final, you could not have written that, it was the stuff of fairy tales.
“I will never, ever forget the moment the whistle blew, I was on my knees screaming at the sky, there was bedlam everywhere.
“There were people in bits all over the place, grown men crying their eyes out, old Carrig hurlers swept away on a tide of pure emotion.
“We went into the game without Jason Barrett and Seamus Farrell, both injured, but we just got there and it was unreal.”
Coaching the team that season was James O’Connor, now gone to Ballyhale Shamrocks after further success in Cork with Fr O'Neill's, who incidentally Furlong also coached in recent years. According to the former Carrig centre-back, the Lismore native changed everything.
“He brought a discipline that might not always have been there, he brought a structure that everyone bought into and he brought in the now renowned Caroline Currid [who worked with Tipp the year before in landing the All-Ireland and in 2018 Limerick] in to assist us as well.
“He made a huge difference for all of us.”
And the homecoming to the village?
“It was unreal, everybody came out, it was a case of an outpouring of emotion rarely seen. We were the ultimate underdogs and bar Niall Mac, no big names, there were thousands on the pitch that night when we went up there.
“I suppose we gave hope to others in our position, that rank outsiders can triumph, we were maybe the wind beneath the sails of other teams with similar aspirations.
“That day, that season will live forever for Carrig folk and I was one of the lucky ones to have played."