SUNDAY: Canon O’Brien Cup, Cork v UCC, Mardyke, 12pm.
HE was an iconic figure in the great halls of UCC and equally successful with various Cork teams and clubs throughout the county and it is only right and fitting that his memory lives on with this annual event featuring Cork and the Western Road college.
The O’Brien family donated the trophy with the wish that it would be played for every year between the two teams that were so very close to his heart.
‘The Canon’, as he was affectionately known, was called to his eternal reward in 2014 after a long illness and this wonderful trophy was first played for in the year before he died.
The Mardyke, a venue close to all Cork hurling hearts from a bygone era, has staged the game each year and it has always been very well supported.
Tomorrow morning’s game is the seventh featuring the inter-county team and the college and it has always proved to be a very useful preparatory game before the commencement of the National League and the Fitzgibbon Cup.
UCC, under his guidance, won 10 Fitzgibbon Cups in 11 years and that unique feat included an eight-in-a-row.
Three players, Nicky English, John Grainger and the late and great Paul O’Connor won five Cup medals, an achievement not equalled by anybody else.
Grainger is now the GAA Development Officer in the college and he stresses the importance of the annual event.
“This all started up back in 2013 and it was done at a time when the Canon was very unwell. He died a year later in 2014 and this trophy is played for between the two teams that he was so closely associated with.
“Look, the man was a huge figure in so many players lives, he made ordinary hurlers into very good ones and so many players down through the years owe him so much.
“I was fortunate enough to play with UCC under him and fortunate enough too to have been in very good teams that brought the Fitzgibbon back to the Western Road.
“He was a pure hurling man, a great motivator, probably one of the best there has been and he often turned games at half-time with his team talks.
“He was a man you just wanted to do your best for and it’s great that we can remember him now every year with the game between ourselves here in the College and Cork.”
It goes without saying that the Fitzgibbon is the major priority for all UCC hurlers and following the example that he has set.
“Of course, we take huge pride in this competition and it is our big target every year. “This year is no different and this game is ideal for preparing for it.
“We are in a tough group alongside UL, UCD and NUIG with just two to qualify.
“We have a strong team with the likes of Darragh Fitzgibbon, Mark Coleman, Shane Kingston, David Lowney, David Griffin, Michael O’Halloran, Shane Conway and Eoghan Murphy available to us.
“Both ourselves and Cork will be short a few on Sunday but we’ll field strongly and I am sure they will do the same.”
There is no admission charge to the game with patrons instead asked to make a donation to the Jack O’Driscoll fund, the young man who was seriously hurt in an accident during the snowstorm of last year.
“We are just asking people to donate what they can for the fund to help this young man in his recovery and that is something we do each year, support people that need our assistance.”
The UCC management team for Sunday’s game is manager Tom Kingston, coach Ger Cunningham and Peter Cody, Wes O’Brien and Ray Delaney.
John Meyler is expected to continue to experiment with his Cork team before the start of the NHL and the team is likely to be a blend of youth and more experienced personnel.
Sunday’s venue always lends itself to a good atmosphere, one that the older generation have many fond memories of.
The ‘Dyke tomorrow morning will be well worth a visit, a trip down memory lane.