Barr legend Maher: The Cork and Tipp rivalry needs get old

Barr legend Maher: The Cork and Tipp rivalry needs get old

Former St Finbarr's and Cork great Tony Maher on the sideline with the club in a clash with Ballinhassig. Picture: Des Barry.

CORK and Tipp on any given Sunday in Thurles takes on a significance all of its own and the time of the year matters little, the result is always of paramount importance.

The clashes between the two counties are legendary and through the ages, the intensity of the rivalry has remained steadfast.

Obviously, some of the games are more important than others but speak to any player who has participated in them and the answer will always be the same, they are the games you want to be involved in.

Next Sunday another chapter will be penned in the rivalry when the sides collide in a fairly important game in Division 1A of the national league.

There’s another guaranteed meeting in the Munster championship in the Summer and who knows what might await both counties deeper into the year.

One man who has featured in some of the great Cork and Tipp encounters is Tony Maher from the Barrs and he has fond memories of them and of what transpired afterwards.

“I would have played against them quite a bit in the late ’60s and early ’70s. That was at a time when Cork were starting to get on top again after a very lean spell in the early ’60s when Cork would have been on the wrong end of some bad beatings.

“Long before my time, there was always a fierce rivalry between the counties. Despite that, however, there was always a great respect there too. There is a fierce passion for the game in both counties and the two sets of supporters always want to get the better of each other.”

Maher, at corner-back, marked some of Tipperary’s finest forwards during a glittering career which saw him become one of the most resolute defenders of that era.

“Tipp had great players both in defence and in attack. I would have marked Babs (Keating) a good few times, he was a great player and he always made life difficult for you but we had a good few battles.

“I would have played against Jimmy Doyle too, one of the true greats, maybe not directly on him but you were always aware of what damage he could do when he got possession.

“Mick Roche, Noel Dwyer, Tadgh O’Connor, Sean McLoughlin, John Flanagan, he was a tough bit of stuff, they were all Tipp players who were great hurlers back then.

“Mick Roche worked here in Cork with Carroll’s and he often trained with us in the Barrs and we became great friends.

“Sadly he passed away last year and of course, Jimmy is gone too. Myself and Jimmy became great friends too and after our playing days ended, there were so many great friendships formed.”

Playing in Thurles was something that Maher always looked forward to.

“I suppose a good few of the games I was involved in were played in Limerick. There wasn’t a home and away arrangement then because the Athletic Grounds could not accommodate the huge attendances.

“But going to Thurles was an experience you always enjoyed. The town itself on match day is a unique experience, the train station is only a few minutes walk and it all adds up to creating an unrivalled atmosphere.”

Sadly, quite a few of those who the great ‘Barrs man played with and against in his Cork days are no longer with us and he is saddened by their loss.

“Yes, on both sides players have passed away, here in Cork John Horgan, Charlie Cullinane and more recently Frank Norberg, in Tipp, Jimmy (Doyle) Mick Roche, John Flanagan.

“All were great hurlers and it was a privilege to play with and against them.

“We had good days against Tipp, not so good ones too but I believe the rivalry between the two counties will endure as long as the game is played.”

Tony Maher fact-file:

St Finbarr’s:

All-Ireland Senior Club Hurling Championship (2): 1975, 1978

Munster Senior Club Hurling Championship (4): 1965, 1974, 1977, 1980

Cork Senior Club Hurling Championship (7): 1965, 1968, 1974, 1977, 1980, 1981, 1982

Cork All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship (1): 1970

Munster Senior Hurling Championship (4): 1969, 1970, 1972, 1975

National Hurling League (3): 1968–69, 1969–70, 1973–74

All-Ireland U21 Hurling Championship (1): 1966

Munster U21 Hurling Championship (1): 1966

Railway Cup (1): 1970.

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