TG4 bring hurling fans back to an era of revolution but also two titles for Cork

A great Brian Corcoran performance features in Réabhlóid GAA on Wednesday night
TG4 bring hurling fans back to an era of revolution but also two titles for Cork

Brian Corcoran of Cork in action against Ken O'Shea of Kilkenny during the 1999 All-Ireland hurling final. Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

THE hurling exploits of Clare, Offaly and Wexford in the 1990s transformed the game.

As captured in TG4's documentary Réabhlóid GAA, which airs at 9.30pm this Wednesday, those really were the 'revolution years'. Unfortunately for Cork of course, that came at the expense of the 'big three', as the Rebels, Tipperary and Kilkenny were smashed out of the way by a new breed of fit and confident hurlers.

For Leesiders, there is still plenty of footage here from Cork's All-Ireland victories in 1990 and 1999, framing the period of real change. 

It draws from a host of classic GAA prgrammes from the era: Breaking Ball, Road to Croker, Committee Room, Championship Matters and Thank GAA It’s Friday. This style is appealing, as we get interviews from a youthful Davy Fitzgerald, Johnny Pilkington, Martin Storey and more and plenty of Corkonians. 

Teddy McCarthy features heavily in the opening section in his swashbuckling pomp and dual icon. 

"At the time I probably didn't understand the extent of winning two All-Irelands in one year because I was always saying 'why can't I do it again next year?' When I think about it now it was a great achievement," he explains in the clip used.

Teddy McCarthy, Cork gathers the ball against Galway in 1990. Picture: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE.
Teddy McCarthy, Cork gathers the ball against Galway in 1990. Picture: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE.

The harrowing loss to Kilkenny in the 1992 All-Ireland is also spotlighted, with Brian Corcoran admitting: "Basically, we were outplayed on the day."

From there, Cork hurling is shoved to the margins. Offaly's cult hero Johnny Pilkington summed up the shift. 

"We broke down that psychological barrier that only Cork, Tipperary and Kilkenny can win All-Irelands. It seemed to take off for the rest of the '90s."

The core segments of the show are rip-roaring entertainment, with soundtrack gems including Radiohead.

There are some interesting details, despite the hectic pace, particularly on how Liam Griffin reshaped Wexford's mindset to land the All-Ireland in 1996 after 19 years without a provincial title. 

Referee Jimmy Cooney's mistake in blowing up early in the 1998 semi-final replay between Offaly and Clare is also well-handled, particularly in such a short slot.

There are also a few cracking points, such as Ger 'Sparrow' O'Loughlin's tasty efforts for Clare while sporting an extremely old-school white Mycro helmet, well ahead of his time there, and a nifty short sideline from John Troy to set up a Brian Whelehan score, after a shimmy that would have impressed last weekend in Croker.

It concludes on a high note, from a Rebel perspective anyway. Jimmy Barry-Murphy and his youthful Cork team storming back from the wilderness.

"I always felt we had a team capable of playing at Croke Park but there's a certain amount of nervousness, not having played there before," explained JBM.

They certainly rose to the challenge at rain-soaked Jones Road against Kilkenny. The young guns fired but Brian Corcoran was majestic at centre-back.

Cork manager Jimmy Barry-Murphy celebrates with Brian Corcoran, 6, and Fergal Ryan, 2, after beating Waterford in 1999. Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Cork manager Jimmy Barry-Murphy celebrates with Brian Corcoran, 6, and Fergal Ryan, 2, after beating Waterford in 1999. Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

“Brian was nearly man of the match on every occasion we played. The performance he gave in the final versus Kilkenny was superb, for me it was the highlight of his career,” reflects Barry-Murphy. 

Hats off to director Ronan O’Donoghue, narrator Diarmuid Lyng and all involved.

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