THE roars that greeted Kanturk’s outright victory in the 1969 County JAHC were ones of relief as much joy.
A series of high returns yielded 17-16 in four games saw them win Duhallow and county titles.
It was a time when the Kanturk team came of age to add new name to the county roll of honour. Nostalgia will loom large in the north west town this weekend as those marvellous memories of the 1969 final are recalled.
In more recent times, one of the stories of the current decade has been the brilliant rise of Kanturk as a dual club, culminating on All-Ireland intermediate hurling glory early last season.
Fifty years ago, Kanturk laid the seeds for a glorious future, hitting the big time, securing a first County JAHC, completing the only five-in-a-row achieved in Duhallow hurling history and managing to better a number of traditional powerhouses in Cork hurling en route.
Team captain Denny Kenneally was part of a legendary side that enjoyed an exciting victory over Mayfield in the November 30 decider. The skipper talks about his time with Kanturk with a passion and vigour that characterised the approach of both himself and his team-mates had to the game.
“I was captain in both ’67 and ’69 — thrilled to do so. There were so many tough battles along the way but coming up against Mayfield in the final, I felt it inside in the dressing room, it was going to be our day," he said.
On the formation of the Duhallow division in 1933, Kanturk enjoyed a breakthrough to land the 1944 Junior Hurling Championship, repeated in 1949, progressing to a county final only to incur a defeat to Bandon .
“My brother Tom captained the 1949 side, it was made up of players drawn locally, many of them were working in the local creamery in addition to a number of players from Millstreet and Mid Cork," said Kenneally.
Football dominated for the next 15 years before Kanturk began a spell of hurling dominance by collecting an impressive five divisional honours in a row, ultimately landing the elusive county title.
Banteer, Castlemagner, Newmarket, and Tullylease were dominating domestic affairs before Kanturk got the measure of Tullylease and Meelin to land four divisional titles from 1965-68. However hopes of adding county accolades were denied by Courcey Rovers, Valley Rovers, Kilworth, and Newtown respectively.
All involved with Kanturk felt there was some unfinished business, the challenge was to create inroads in the county championship. A fiercely driven approach surfaced as the 1969 campaign advanced. What emerged in a hurling odyssey was a litany of close-run tussles against quality opponents.
“In the Duhallow final, we were lucky to win by a point, Meelin gave as good as they got, but Kanturk had more of a cutting edge when the game was up for grabs," said Kenneally.
Effort and determination were in plentiful supply throughout the county, and no more than a few points divided teams when Kanturk bettered Bride Rovers and Newcestown to secure a place in the county final.
“Bride Rovers held a quality about them. Seanie Barry was their star player, but our own Charlie O’Loughlin blotted him out and by doing so, it was good enough to win. Much the same in the semi-final — Newcestown having bettered Kilworth were fancied but we weren’t found wanting.”
No effort was spared ahead of a county final against Mayfield as Kanturk attempted to break new ground. As hurling fever gripped the Duhallow capital, team captain Kenneally was understandably looking forward to the big game.
“Our trainer Billy Barrett was years ahead of his time," he said. “Usually backs against forwards emerged in training. In their normal work, everybody was doing physical duties in addition to playing road bowling and handball. That meant we were well prepared.”
As a preparation, Kanturk played two games against Glen Rovers. Both finalists had momentum going into the game, which was sure to be a competitive, hard-hitting, and close.
“We didn’t get a look-in during the opening half with Mayfield on top. The changes made at half time made a huge difference. And thanks to a lucky goal, we rose to the challenge in a positive and effective response that ultimately secured victory," said Kenneally.
The way Kanturk went about their business became a source of delight for supporters, with performances all through the campaign were so full of energy and invention. Indeed, the attacking flair of Kanturk was too hot to handle for opponents, their artistry was difficult to counteract, as Kanturk registered a cumulative 17-16 tally against Meelin, Bride Rovers, Newcestown, and Mayfield.
“Our team was a mixed blend of experience and youth that included minor players Bill Mullane and Pat Joe Cremin. It was fairly simple tactics — whip or pull on the ball into the full-forward for Bobby Quinn, Teddy Fitz, and Billy O’Dea to perform the business," said Denny.
Kanturk weren’t denied and the full-time whistle in Castletownroche sparked jubilant scenes of celebration, with the team captain presented with the silverware by then county board chairman Jack Barrett.
“On return to Kanturk, we walked in from the grotto, a fleadh cheoil was taking place, that added to a bit of a hooley. However, there was no question about losing a day’s work — everybody had to be at work the following morning at the start of a new week," said Kenneally.
Anybody with a hint of Kanturk blood were delighted to see their junior hurling team mature together and deliver a county title.
The triumphant team on duty was:
Don Fitzgerald, Joe Moroney, Dave Hickey, Tom Murphy, Tim Cremin, Denny Murphy, Christy O’Loughlin, John O’Mahony, Hugh O’Sullivan, Denny Kenneally, Pat Joe Cremin, Bill Mullane, Bobby Quinn, Teddy Fitzgerald, Liam O’Dea. Subs. P J McInerney, Ben O’Riordan, Hugh Neville, Billy Cashin, Brendan O’Connor, Jack McCarthy, Frank Barry, Con Roche, Brian Kelly.