WHEN the Cork minor football team play Galway on Sunday, they will be bidding to become the first Rebel side to secure All-Ireland final glory since 2000.
Back then they defeated Mayo to claim the Tom Markham Cup and one of their star players was centre-forward Conrad Murphy.
The Clonakilty man has great memories of that special season.
“I look back at that entire football year and that squad of players with fond memories. The Munster final win against Kerry stands out due to my parents being from Kerry and it being such a tight game towards the end.
“We played a lot of challenge games throughout the country and the sing-songs on the way home were a major part in building success for that team,” revealed the classy playmaker.
Conrad’s role in helping the young Rebels to All-Ireland final glory represented a proud day for both his family and his beloved Clonakilty.
“It is only when you look back in later years that you see how proud your family and club are of your success.”
Cork last contested the All-Ireland minor in 2010 when Damien Cahalane, John O’Rourke, Luke Connolly and Brian Hurley featured. They were defeated by Tyrone on that occasion and the minors have struggled to get out of Munster regularly since but Murphy is very confident Cork underage football is progressing in the right direction.
“Any All-Ireland success is difficult to achieve with the effort all counties are putting in. With the minors reaching the final and the U20s’ recent All-Ireland final victory, it appears Cork football may be turning a corner.”
The crop of 2000 were captained by Nemo Rangers club man James Masters.
“James had a difficult time early that year as I recall him being taken off early against Kerry in the Munster final and being embarrassed accepting the Munster Cup. We all wanted him to be the one to accept it.
“He turned a corner in the semi-final against Derry, where he produced a pivotal scoring performance. There were a lot of leaders on that team, but the football James produced in the semi-final cemented his place as the true captain.”
Conrad always believed that they would defeat Mayo, as the team gradually grew as their Munster and All-Ireland campaign progressed. Their chemistry off the pitch was a huge factor in their success revealed Conrad.
“I had no doubt we would win the final against Mayo, but I was not so sure about games earlier in the year. We barely beat Clare following a dogfight in Limerick and we beat Kerry in a cracker of a game in the Munster final. Those two battles stood to us. We grew as a team as the year progressed. A special bond grew between that group of players as the year went on.
“That was the key to success. Momentum can be a great force and we certainly gained that through the Munster campaign.”
Curbing the influence of star Mayo forward Conor Mortimer was key to their win in the 2000 All-Ireland final.
“They were not afraid to make difficult calls. They made some brave substitutions which altered games in our favour. Picking Eddie Bourke (Ballincollig) at corner-back for the All-Ireland final to mark Conor Mortimer was a masterstroke. Eddie was a leader at centre-back, but he was the key to winning that final in Croke Park when he started at corner-back.”
The camaraderie which existed amongst the victorious Cork squad in 2000 is still maintained to this day revealed Conrad, who works as a solicitor in Clonakilty.
“There were many characters on that team from all different parts of the county and that was what our success was built on. Ray Cahalane stands out as a man who played a lot early in the year and perhaps not as much later in the year.
Clonakilty have one player in the Cork squad this season in Daniel Peet.
“It is great to see Daniel playing and representing Clonakilty. As a 17-year-old, it is very easy to get caught up in the hype in the week coming up to the final. If I was to offer any advice it would be to try and avoid that as much as possible. Looking back, it is the win that you will cherish, not the build-up.”
Conrad who also played for the Cork senior team, unfortunately, had to retire early from both club and inter-county action following a series of injuries.
“I have no regrets. Hamstring injuries did cause me great frustration and a lot of time was spent trying to prevent injury or recovering from one.
“I had some great days and difficult days on the football field, but the people you meet along the way make playing the game so worthwhile.”