IAN MAGUIRE hadn’t had a great relationship with the new Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
A year ago, he was part of the St Finbarr’s team which staged a great comeback to draw with Nemo Rangers in the county SFC final but they fell just short in the replay and then 2018 with the Cork team brought league defeats to Tipperary and Cavan before the forgettable Munster final against Kerry.
The county semi-final win over Carbery Rangers provided a first victory for the St Finbarr’s and Cork captain and the change in fortune continued on Sunday as he led them to victory over Duhallow in the final.
He became the first Barrs captain to lift the Andy Scannell Cup since Gene Desmond in 1985 and the outpouring of emotion at the final whistle showed what it meant to those associated with the Togher club.
That it was Maguire who led the team meant that it was an interesting double in terms of the county senior championships as Cork hurling captain Séamus Harnedy led Imokilly to victory in the SHC three weeks ago.
Until 2007, the custom in Cork – which still persists elsewhere, like Kerry and Kilkenny – is that the county champions in hurling and football got to choose the captains of the Cork senior team the following year.
Kieran Murphy and Erin’s Own and Nemo Rangers’ Derek Kavanagh were the last men to lead Cork under the old system, with John Gardiner and Graham Canty the first skippers chosen by management.
With Stephen McDonnell departing the hurling panel at the end of 2017, new coach John Meyler opted for Harnedy as captain while Ronan McCarthy appointed Maguire as football skipper with Paul Kerrigan absent for the national league and the midfielder retained the role for the championship.
Funnilly enough, it’s not a first for the two Cork captains to have led their teams to the county senior title in the same year.
For it to have happened before now would have needed the county champions in both codes to have retained their titles as well as the Cork skipper leading his club team, but that is exactly what happened in 2002 as Colin Corkery and Wayne Sherlock led Nemo and Blackrock respectively to back-to-back titles, with the pair also having been the men to lift the cups in the year previously.
Incidentally, Martin Cronin and Alan Browne were the men appointed to the roles for 2003.
Back to the Barrs and a day to remember.
Having lost finals in 1986, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1993, 2009, 2010 and 2017 since the victory against Clonakilty in 1985, there was no doubt some pressure to get over the line, but as manager Ray Keane pointed out, Robert O’Mahony was the only panellist to have been born back in 1985, so the current squad couldn’t be held responsible for the drought.
With most of them having achieved underage success with the club, there was a far more reliable form guide than the weight of history and it was clear to see on Sunday that, even when they fell five points behind in the first half, there was no sense of panic among the team.
Credit to Duhallow for coming back from three points down to level and then reducing a four-point deficit to one but another equaliser was beyond them and it was to the Barrs’ day.
It was nice to see the aforementioned Robert O’Mahony brought on in the closing minutes – if anybody deserved a county medal, it was him – and while the injury to goalkeeper Declan Murphy was a most unfortunate situation, it allowed John Kerins to come into the team. His father, of course, was the goalkeeper in 1985 and it continued a strong lineage.
Teams like Sarsfields, Glen Rovers and Imokilly have shown that ending a long drought can be followed by a period of sustained success and the Barrs will hope that this is the start of something special for them.
Before that, though, there is the Munster championship and a likely clash with Dr Crokes if they overcome Tipperary’s Moyle Rovers.
It will be a big test but they have scaled the highest mountain.