THE bainisteoir when Cork last lifted Liam McCarthy and a selector when the Rebels most recently got their hands on Sam Maguire were in direct opposition when St Finbarr’s faced Duhallow in the 1991 SFC final.
John Allen was at the helm of the Barr’s while Ger O’Sullivan was the coach of the divisional unit that defended their title at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
Allen had a storied career on the playing fields in both codes for the Blues after transferring from Aghabullogue – who incidentally clash with Muskerry rivals Cill na Martra in Sunday’s IFC decider – but retired after 1989’s county final loss to Castlehaven. The Barr’s were beaten by Duhallow in 1990 and Allen was asked to come in as manager.
It all went according to plan until their county final rematch with a rock-solid team captained by Cork midfielder Danny ‘the Yank’ Culloty that prevailed by just a point.
It didn’t help the Barr’s cause that Dave Barry wasn’t involved but they still had the likes of John Kerins, Eric Barrett, Tony Leahy and Mick Solcum.
Allen remained as Barr’s boss for the following season when they were defeated by the Haven and was later involved for two years down in Fr O’Neill’s before getting involved with Cork teams under Jimmy Barry-Murphy and progressing to selector in 2003-’04 and All-Ireland-winning manager.
Ger O’Sullivan’s management team included John Fintan Daly, who was the coach in 1990 but a selector in ’91, and Joe Murphy.
O’Sullivan is a native of Dromtarriffe, who, in another quirk, are in the Cork JAFC final against Kilmacabea on Saturday at Páirc Uí Rinn, and ended up becoming a Cork selector for Billy Morgan.
After the All-Ireland defeat to Kerry in 2007, Conor Counihan came in but retained O’Sullivan, which paid off in 2010 when the Rebels beat Down at Croker.
It all started though with Duhallow’s county wins.
“We had some very, very good players in that era,” reflected O’Sullivan, on a spell when they made nine of the 11 semi-finals from 1988 to 1998.
Culloty was their marquee man while Aidan Walsh’s uncle Jerome played in all 56 Duhallow games in the 11 seasons.
The likes of Jimmy Dennehy (Kiskeam), Niall O’Connor (Knocknagree), Maurice Angland (Kiskeam) and John Murphy (Dromtarriffe) always performed in the orange and black, while Kanturk’s Tim Healy has a son, Mark, on the panel this weekend.
“Danny was a great leader.
“There was no doubt about that because the bigger the game, the better he played, but there was just a great balance to the squad. Imokilly have won the last two hurling counties and it’s not just because of the stars like Séamus Harnedy and Paudie O’Sullivan but the panel they have.
“Now, we had times early in the season when we might have three or four at training because of club games and so on but the structure was good so the players bought into it.
“They enjoyed it, they could express themselves and it put them in the shop window. It’s why the divisions are important for Cork inter-county teams.
“There are lads on Sunday who deserve to be given a chance and a bit of time for Cork next year. Not just from Duhallow. Steven Sherlock, the Barr’s forward, has great potential.”
The Barr’s have eight football counties but they came in two golden eras. In the 1950s they captured the title three times and from 1976 to 1993 they were perennial finalists and five-time winners. The Togher unit got the better of Duhallow in the 1982 final and in 1987 captured the All-Ireland club crown despite having lost to Imokilly in the previous year’s county final.
Current Cork hurling manager John Meyler was the captain of the Blues in ’87 but the last county football was actually secured in ’85 against Clon.
In the 33 years since, they’ve endured endless heartbreak, falling short in ’86 against Imokilly, in three successive finals from 1989, in 1993 at the hands of city rivals Nemo, back-to-back in 2009-10 and last season after a thrilling replay against Nemo. The stuff of nightmares for any club, let alone one as storied as St Finbarr’s.
“It’s hard to believe the Barr’s haven’t won a county since 1985,” said O’Sullivan, “but you could say the same for Duhallow going so long without one given all the good players. I actually played in 1982 against the Barr’ and they won three counties in four years then, so that was a great run for any club.”
1990 County final: Duhallow 0-8 St Finbarr’s 0-6:
Keeper Jerry P O’Leary was the hero here, saving brilliantly from Christy Ryan in the first-half and Con O’Mahony in the second.
Danny Culloty was Duhallow’s inspiration at midfield.
Scorers for Duhallow: A Barry 0-3, J Dennehy 0-2, T Healy, D O’Connor, N O’Connor 0-1 each.
St Finbarr’s: D Barry, T Power 0-2 each; J Griffin, T Leahy 0-1 each.
DUHALLOW: JP O’Leary (Millstreet); M Angland (Kiskeam), S Culloty (Newmarket), N Kelleher (Millstreet); L Dennehy (do), D O’Connor (Knocknagree), B O’Connor (do); D Culloty (Newmarket, c), J Walsh (Kanturk); J Dennehy (Kiskeam), R Dennehy (do), T Healy (Kanturk); D O’Connor (Knocknagree), N O’Connor (do), A Barry (Millstreet).
Sub: N Moynihan (Ballydesmond).
ST FINBARR’S: J Kerins; K Scanlon, S O’Leary, R O’Dwyer; M Slocum, N Leonard, C O’Mahony; P Hayes, T Leahy; B Searles, D Barry, J Griffin; T Power, C Ryan, M Barry.
Subs: E Barrett, M Carey, B O’Connell.
Referee: Joe O’Leary (Na Piarsaigh).
1991 County final: Duhallow 0-11 St Finbarr’s 0-10:
Another tight and tough battle, the Barrs led by three with 15 minutes to go with Jimmy Dennehy landing a 50-metre free to level the game and then a disputed 45 to snatch the win in extra time.
Mick Slocum was the stand-out player but Duhallow still ground out the result.
Scorers for Duhallow: J Dennehy 0-4, N O’Connor 0-3, P Mahoney 0-2, L Dennehy, D O’Connor 0-1 each.
St Finbarr’s: T Leahy 0-6, M Barry 0-2, T Power, K Scanlon 0-1 each.
DUHALLOW: JP O’Leary (Millstreet); M Angland (Kiskeam), S Culloty (Newmarket), N Kelleher (Millstreet); L Dennehy (do), J Walsh (Kanturk), B O’Connor (Knocknagree); D Culloty (Newmarket, c), P Mahony (Knocknagree); J Casey (Rockchapel), A Barry (Millstreet), J Dennehy (Kiskeam); N O’Connor (Knocknagree), J Murphy (Dromtariffe), D O’Connor (Knocknagree).
Sub: Richard Dennehy (Kiskeam).
ST FINBARR’S: J Kerins (c); M Carey, S O’Leary, R O’Dwyer; M Slocum, N Leonard, B O’Connell; P Hayes, E Barrett; M Comyns, J Costello, T Leahy; T Power, K Scanlon, M Barry.
Subs: I O’Mahony, C Ryan.
Referee: Niall Barrett (Carrigtwohill).