Classic Cork county hurling finals: 51 years of emotion poured out for Sars

Classic Cork county hurling finals: 51 years of emotion poured out for Sars
Sarsfields captain Kieran Murphy raises the trophy after defeating Bride Rovers in 2008. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

WHEN Sarsfields triumphed over Bride Rovers in the Cork County SHC final of 2008, a famine that had lasted over half a century had finally ended in one of Cork hurling’s great clubs.

The last time that the Seán Óg Murphy Cup had found a home in Riverstown was in the year of 1957, an eternity in such a proud hurling home.

But as they say, the longer the wait, the sweeter the success and when Kieran ‘Fraggie’ Murphy lifted the trophy on that October Sunday 12 years ago now, the joy had no boundaries.

Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Picture: Eddie O'Hare

It was a novel final pairing when Bride Rovers lined up alongside them that day, a near neighbour from just a few miles out the Dublin road.

Sarsfields club secretary, Jim Murphy has vivid and fond memories of that year, a year that was the launch pad for so much success in the subsequent years.

“Yes, it was a long wait between 1957 and 2008 but maybe it was worth it in the end. We had been close a few times before but never close enough but it all came together in 2008.

“I suppose what started it all that year was that a year previous we won the county minor title and a lot of those players were brought in to the senior ranks almost immediately by team boss Bertie Óg Murphy and his selectors.

“Youth got its fling giving the team a very good balance and it paid a rich dividend and a great decision.

“We started the campaign with a win over Ballinhassig in a replay and that was followed with wins over Na Piarsaigh, Newtownshandrum, who were very strong at the time, and Bride Rovers in the final.

Sars veteran Pat Ryan. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Sars veteran Pat Ryan. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

“Most people would have put us down as hot favourites going into that final but there was no complacency for us, Bride Rovers had more than proved themselves as worthy finalists along the way and it was an East Cork derby.

“Those kinds of games could go either way." 

In the end that was very much the case, Sars coming out on top by the slenderest of margins, 2-14 to 2-13 after a real battle.

“We were fortunate enough to get the result but we knew how tough it was going to be against the Rovers, they were always renowned as great battlers, never beaten until the end.

“Michael Cussen got a goal for us that day, it was a huge score as it turned out and we managed to stay ahead of them.

Éamonn Murphy presents the Man of the Match award to Micheal Cussen. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Éamonn Murphy presents the Man of the Match award to Micheal Cussen. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

“We had to earn it, no doubt about that but the mix of youth and experience got us home.

“We had great leaders in that team, Fraggie was a great captain, Pat Ryan was outstanding, his brother Ray, Cussen, Ronan Murphy, everybody did their bit, they were a great bunch.

“When the final whistle blew that day, it was a mixture of everything, relief, joy, emotion, there was so much emotion among the older members, people like Denis and Neil Hurley, Paddy Lambe, Tom Murphy and others. We had great hurlers like Bertie Óg, Tadhgie Murphy, Teddy McCarthy, so many more who were not fortunate enough to win a senior county but they gave so much and still do.

“When we went back to Riverstown that night there was such an outpouring of emotion, 51 years all rolled into one. That victory that day was the beginning of a golden era in the club, three more titles followed in a very short space of time and we were very well supported by O’Connell Transport, our sponsors.

Robert O'Driscoll after his goal. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Robert O'Driscoll after his goal. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

“Yes, those boys led the way, we won again in 2010, 2012 and 2014, we contested seven finals in eight years, that was some going by those players and, of course, a lot of them are still back-boning the side today.

“The club is as strong now as it has ever been, we have a fantastic underage set-up all the way up and we’d like to think we will challenge again this season if and when it gets going, if at all.

“But that day in 2008 will always be special because it ended a long wait. We were very unlucky to lose to Mount Sion in Munster that year but the county was the one that we wanted most of all."

A delighted Sars coach Bertie Óg Murphy. Picture: Des Barry
A delighted Sars coach Bertie Óg Murphy. Picture: Des Barry

SARSFIELDS: Alan Kennedy, Ray Ryan, John Barry, Conor O’Sullivan, Daniel Kearney, Craig Leahy, Brian McCarthy, Pat Ryan, Kieran ‘Fraggie’ Murphy (c), Cian McCarthy, Ronan Murphy, Mick Cussen, Rob O’Driscoll, Pat Barry Tadhg Óg Murphy.

Subs: John Murphy, Daniel Roche.

Sarsfields' squad in 2008. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Sarsfields' squad in 2008. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

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