Barrs v Glen 1977: Christy Ryan helped end a wait of 22 years for hurling glory

Recalling a history Cork county final which drew 34,151 fans to Páirc Uí Chaoimh
Barrs v Glen 1977: Christy Ryan helped end a wait of 22 years for hurling glory

The St Finbarr's team walk around the parade before the 1977 county final victory over the Glen at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

1977 county hurling final: St Finbarr’s 1-17 Glen Rovers 1-5

THE recent sad passing of Christy Ryan evoked happy memories of his county hurling final debut at just 20, a couple of years after an all-conquering minor team ruled the roost.

The 1977 decider attracted a record attendance of 34,151 to the new Páirc Uí Chaoimh, which had only opened the year before.

It was 3,000 more than the previous best, also between these fierce rivals, who met in a replay in 1955.

Gate receipts came to 23,193 pounds, a substantial sum in those days, and it took six hours to count. It would be around €155,000 today.

The Barrs were considered rank outsiders because Glen Rovers were the reigning Cork, Munster and All-Ireland champions and strongly tipped to retain their title on Leeside.

One of the many remarkable aspects of a game that only had 23 frees was that the Barrs held their opponents in the second half when the wind was at the Togher club’s backs.

Action at a packed Páirc Uí Chaoimh in 1977, with referee Frank Murphy in the background.
Action at a packed Páirc Uí Chaoimh in 1977, with referee Frank Murphy in the background.

Parading a team combining youth and experience, the Barrs took a long to settle and the concession of a 20th-minute goal didn’t help.

It came from a Mick Ryan cross which Patsy Harte batted down in the direction of Red Crowley, whose low well-hit shot flew past keeper Jim Power.

Still, the Glen’s 1-5 to 0-6 interval advantage didn’t look that imposing an obstacle for the Barrs, whose blistering start to the second half put them on course for their 19th title and a first in 22 years.

A couple of early points helped lift the team to new levels as Charlie McCarthy, at last, eluded the clutches of Jerry O’Sullivan and Barry Wiley drop-pucked the equaliser.

Then came the defining moment and what a thrill it was for the rookie Ryan, now stationed at full-forward from the corner and up against the great Martin O’Doherty.

McCarthy’s perseverance in chasing after O’Sullivan, who was coming out with the ball, paid an immediate dividend as he turned over possession before sending the ball floating across the square.

Ryan managed to gather cleanly and while his shot didn’t carry too much power it still ended up in the net beyond keeper Finbarr O’Neill.

Barrs forward Christy Ryan clashes with Glen men Teddy O'Brien and Martin O'Doherty. 
Barrs forward Christy Ryan clashes with Glen men Teddy O'Brien and Martin O'Doherty. 

And when John Allen pointed from all of 100 yards immediately after the goal, the Barrs were on their way to a famous victory.

From there to the finish, the Barrs dictated matters all over the pitch with inspirational captain Denis Burns leading by example.

HEROIC

“Burns was outstanding. When the need was greatest, he performed heroically, covering and going on solo runs, which turned defence into attack. He had an unbelievable influence on his colleagues,” wrote Michael Ellard in the Cork Examiner of September 19.

Despite the Glen’s spirit and resistance, they just couldn’t cope with the accuracy of the Barrs forwards, notably Jimmy Barry-Murphy and Wiley, who had an equal share of 0-8, and McCarthy, who hit 0-3.

And while the second-half proved too one-sided for the many neutrals in the huge crowd, the joy of winning was obvious for all involved with the Barrs.

Barrs captain Denis Burns holds the cup aloft.
Barrs captain Denis Burns holds the cup aloft.

“We needed this win at this particular time,” Barry-Murphy exclaimed afterwards.

“And our young players played a decisive role in it,” he added.

The club’s minor chairman, Jim Goulding, watched four of his successful 1975 minor team, Jerry Murphy, Niall Kenefick, John Cremin and Ryan, step up to the plate.

“It was a great victory,” he said. “There is a lot of continuity and tradition there.

“In the case of many of the players, their fathers also won county championships with St Finbarr’s.”

Scorers for St Finbarr’s: C Ryan 1-1, J Barry-Murphy and B Wiley 0-4 each, C McCarthy 0-3, G McCarthy and J Allen 0-2 each, E Fitzpatrick 0-1.

Glen Rovers: R Crowley 1-0, M Ryan 0-3, P Horgan 0-2.

The St Finbarr's team from 1977.
The St Finbarr's team from 1977.

ST FINBARR’S: J Power; D Burns, T Maher, B Manley; D O’Grady, N Kenefick, J Murphy; J Cremin, G McCarthy; J Allen, J Barry-Murphy, B Wiley; C Ryan, E Fitzpatrick, C McCarthy. 

Sub: T Butler for Manley.

The Glen Rovers team before the county final.
The Glen Rovers team before the county final.

GLEN ROVERS: F O’Neill; J O’Sullivan, M O’Doherty, T O’Brien; F O’Sullivan, D Clifford, D Coughlan; P O’Doherty; JJ O’Neill; P Horgan, L McAuliffe, R Crowley; M Ryan, T Collins, P Harte.

Referee: F Murphy (Blackrock).

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