Classic county hurling finals: Magpies soared to their first success in 1983

Classic county hurling finals: Magpies soared to their first success in 1983
Colm O'Neill about to wrap it up for Midleton as he races past the Sixmilebridge defence to slam home the clinching goal during the Munster Club Championship semi-final at Midleton.

THE rising of 1983, might well be an appropriate way to describe Midleton’s Cork County SHC victory of that year.

The last time the county had wended its way to the east Cork stronghold was 67 years previous, 1916, the year of the Easter Rising.

It was almost an eternity of waiting but when it happened it was hugely significant because it broke the monopoly that the big three city clubs had on the championship, the Barrs, Glen and Rockies.

Midleton had been threatening to make the big breakthrough for a couple of years but each time they were thwarted in their efforts by the ‘Barrs.

Current Cork County Board development officer and former Midleton chairman and a key figure down the years in the club, Pat Horgan takes up the story.

“The Barrs were the dominant team then and we had some fierce battles with them over the previous few years but each time they managed to get the better of us by a puck of a ball most of the time.

“When we played them in the final of 1983, they were going for four-in-a-row, they had a great team in those years but we finally got past them in ’83.

“On the way to the final that year we defeated Duhallow on a scoreline of 1-15 to 0-15, Muskerry by 5-12 to 1-11 and our east Cork rivals Youghal by 3-12 to 2-10."

Barrs' Ger Cunningham (right) in action against Midleton in 1983.
Barrs' Ger Cunningham (right) in action against Midleton in 1983.

Horgan told The Echo that the journey really began in 1978 when they won the Cork county intermediate final.

“Yes, we beat Newtownshandrum in the intermediate final of that year with what was a young team and a lot of those players graduated on to the senior stage and formed the backbone of the team for the years that followed.

“We lost a few semi-finals so getting into the final was a huge achievement under the guidance of Fr Denis Kelleher, Paddy O’Brien, and Ollie O’Keefe.

“Paddy Fitzgerald came in afterwards and he had great success too in his time.’’

Horgan has vivid memories of the year and the final day itself.

“You could say our victory that year was a defining moment in the history of the Cork SHC because we were the first team to break the stranglehold of the big three city clubs.

“That was a very difficult thing to do back then because they had great teams and, obviously, great players.

“We had a very good team too, a lot of them went on to have great success with Cork afterwards, John Fenton captained Cork the year later, the Centenary Year, Denis Mulcahy, Kevin Hennessy, Ger Fitz, others too.

“The score in the final was, I believe, 1-18 to 2-9 and it was just an incredible team performance on the day.

“I suppose we had been building towards that for a while and when it happened it was an occasion of unprecedented joy.

“We got great support from the rest of East Cork and you could say we led the way for other clubs in the division.”

John Fenton of Midleton holds the cup aloft after his team defeated St Finbarr's in the 1983 county final at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
John Fenton of Midleton holds the cup aloft after his team defeated St Finbarr's in the 1983 county final at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

Horgan recalls with great fondness too the homecoming to the town that night and on the Monday night.

“We had a huge parade on the Monday night through the town.

“I remember passing the old fire station and a big banner there read, ‘This is one fire that we won’t put out.’

“On the day of the match the Midleton Brass and Reed Band played up the Magpies out on the pitch and that really set the tone for the celebrations.

“You could say that day and time will always be frozen in the memory."

But it did not end there, that was just the beginning of a great era in the club Horgan said.

“It was really, it would have been easy to settle for the county that year but the players were really ambitious and wanted to represent Cork with pride in the Munster club.

“And we went on to win it a few months later, defeating Mount Sion, Sixmilebridge in Clonmult Memorial Park and Borrisleigh after a replay in the final.

“We won the county again in 1986 and ’87 and, of course, we went on to win the All-Ireland Club in that season.

“That was another massive day in Croke Park, we went to Dublin by train from Midleton so that was another massive occasion.

“It was a fantastic time in the town and in the club and after so many disappointments it really all came together with a great bunch of players, great men in charge and great supporters.’’

The Midleton team on that memorable day in 1983 in Páirc Uí Chaoimh was: 

Ger Power, Denis Mulcahy, Michael Boylan, David Crotty, Sylvie O’Mahony, Sean O’Brien, Pat Hartnett, John Fenton, Tadgh McCarthy, John Hartnett, Colm O’Neill, Kevin Hennessy, Dave Boylan, Ger Fitzgerald and John Boylan.

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