The John Horgan column: Looking back on a decade of club hurling in Cork

The John Horgan column: Looking back on a decade of club hurling in Cork
Carrigtwohill's Sean O'Farrell and Niall McCarthy celebrate the win over CIT in 2011. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

THE end of every decade is always a time for reflection and over the past 10 years there have been some notable achievements and occurrences in Cork GAA. There have been five different senior hurling champions, all of them significant in their own right.

In latter times, Imokilly have been the dominant force, winning three-in-a-row but it must be remembered that Sarsfields won three as well.

They never managed to retain the title but bouncing back the following year after they had lost out was a tribute to their character and that club will continue to be one of the most formidable forces in the county.

The Glen did manage to put back to back titles together in 2015 and ‘16 and that wonderful feat came on the back of a heavy defeat by Sars in the 2014 final.

In fact, at the conclusion of that loss there were many who believed that the lengthy famine in Blackpool would continue for a very long time.

And it might well have if it wasn’t for the desire and character of the players and the management team that were involved.

A lesser bunch might never have recovered from that 2014 loss but those boys did and Graham Callanan taking the cup across the Christy Ring Bridge en-route to Blackpool was a moment frozen in time.

Picture: Jim Coughlan
Picture: Jim Coughlan

However, perhaps the victory of Carrigtwohill in the 2011 final stand apart from all the rest.

A team that was ranked at 100/1 at the outset of the year, their victory was the stuff of fairytales.

Carrig is steeped in the history of the association but nobody saw this coming and to defeat their great rivals and near neighbours Midleton along the way made it even more sweeter.

The final against Cork IT was memorable for many reasons, the display of Niall McCarthy playing himself to a standstill, Micky Da too, Noel Furlong, Rob White and all the rest.

But the arrival off the bench of Seanie Farrell and the clinching point that he delivered will stand the test of time.

Being out on that Páirc Uí Chaoimh pitch afterwards, one was almost carried away on the tidal wave of emotion that engulfed the place.

Midleton’s victory in 2013 was achieved by a very young bunch of players, a team that had Conor Lehane giving one of the great county final performances, scoring 2-10 of their 2-15 tally.

Imokilly’s three victories provided a lot of players with the opportunity to achieve something that they could never do with their clubs.

And that’s one reason why divisions exist and in Imokilly’s case put in a huge effort on and off the field.

On the inter-county hurling front there is not a whole pile of satisfaction to reflect on, no All-Ireland in minor, U21 or senior. It will be a decade and a half in 2020 since the MacCarthy Cup last found a home on Leeside. That’s too long.

The major accomplishment outside of the playing arena was the redevelopment of the new Páirc. It has had its teething problems, there is a considerable debt to be paid on it but it will serve Cork GAA for decades to come.

A new decade will dawn on the first day of January and many challenges will lie ahead in those 10 years.

And the greatest one of all has to be trying to find the right balance between club and county.

This has been a problem for a long time now and there seems to be no end in sight.

It just cannot be right in any way that the playing fields here in Cork and beyond are lying idle for the three most important months of the year.

There are many who believe and they are quite right that the power of the intercounty manager across the country has just become too dictatorial.

And this is not just at senior level, it’s creeping in at all levels.

Cork secretary Kevin O’Donovan didn’t hold back at the county convention when he stated: “The continued removal of club championships from the summer months will mean the end of the GAA as we know it in Cork and in my opinion will do irreparable damage to the fabric of the club game which is the primary participation outlet of 99% of our players.

“Therefore, for now, we must find ways within the existing structures.”

Issues with the U21 competitions this year are proof of that.

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