Féile special: The Barrs beat a Brian Cody team to land the All-Ireland

Féile special: The Barrs beat a Brian Cody team to land the All-Ireland
St Finbarr’s Féile winners 1978.

FOR the seventh time in eight years and the sixth in succession a Cork team won the premier division of the 32 county Féile na nGael hurling competition when St Finbarr’s, in 1978, joined Blackrock, Glen and Piarsaigh on the role of honour. 

It was the Togher team’s first appearance in the concluding stages as they had become virtual bridesmaids having lost five of the previous county qualification deciders competed in on their home patch.

In their opening match, they ran out comfortable winners over their spirited host club Thomastown. Later they travelled to Callan and defeated Monaleen 5-6 to 2-3. It was back to Thomastown for the semi-final against Éire Óg of Ennis where, after a classic display by both teams, the Cork boys marched on to meet St Pat’s in the decider.

Con Murphy, President of the GAA and RTÉ commentator Mícheál Ó’Muircheartaigh described St Brendan’s (Barrs) performance in defeating St Patrick’s (Kilkenny) in the 1978 All-Ireland Féile final as the best since the inauguration of the competition. 

St Pat’s, coached by Brian Cody and Fan Larkin, made it tough for the Barrs who had to produce their very best before claiming the laurels to write another chapter in their glorious history.

The Blues were comfortably in control in the first half but were shaken by the dramatic recovery of the Noresiders in the second half when Pat’s scored two brilliant goals to leave just a point between the teams. But the shock spurred on the Barrs to greater heights and they finished with six points to spare. 

Interestingly, it was brought to the Féile committee’s notice that some teams, who in previous years had been meticulously prepared, enhanced their prospects through keeping their starting 15 fresh by abstaining from the traditional pre-tournament parade; there was never any shortage of willing subs who were proud to carry the banners in the long pageantry marches through the cities and towns. 

The organisers consequently insisted that all participants take part in the parades.

1978 turned out to be a glorious year for the Barr’s as they won 22 of the 26 competitions (hurling and football) in which the club competed.

Seven years passed before the Barrs again mounted the winners' rostrum. They did so in Nowlan Park in ‘85 after “skinning” local boys Gowran by a ridiculous winning margin of 8-10 to 1-2 which, surely, was a record for a final.

Scorelines like that wreck your head and wouldn’t have been what the organisers would have wanted. Fortunately, these massacres only occur just once in a “blue moon”.

It was an exhibition but with one team only displaying a range of immense skills belying a team of such tender years.

Sadly, as a contest, this game was over after just three minutes but from a Barrs' point of view, to use that awful cliche, “you can only beat what’s put in front of ya”.

Naturally, after such a mismatch in front of a fine crowd which included a host of dignitaries, the celebrations were a little muted. The media were even “cheesed off” and, apart from the ref, few kept a check of the scores or the scorers.

Those who helped to nurture such brilliant skills deserved the highest praise and tributes were accorded to mentors John 'Diver' Casey, Charlie Cullinane, John Hodgins, John Nason, Steven Meighan, Eddie McCarthy, Ray Kelleher and officers Tony Maher and Gerald McCarthy. Incidentally, the team contained three sets of twins — Lehanes, Corcorans and Leahys.

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