Midleton's glorious era from 1983 to 1991 changed the face of Cork hurling 

Magpies captured three county titles and broke the dominance of the city's big three
Midleton's glorious era from 1983 to 1991 changed the face of Cork hurling 

Action from the 1991 county hurling final between Midleton and Glen Rovers.

IT’S now 30 years since that famed Midleton team won their fourth county senior hurling title in a glorious nine-year period.

Midleton were very much groundbreakers in 1983, halting the dominance of the big three city clubs when winning the title and then going on to prove themselves as an outstanding side, as they captured Munster and All-Ireland titles.

Three decades on from the 1991 win over Glen Rovers, this group of Midleton players are still seen as legends whose feats will be remembered forever by all who followed them on what was an extraordinary journey.

In the ten years between 1978 and 1988, Midleton went from being an intermediate club to winning the All Ireland senior title.

They knocked loudly on the door immediately after winning the intermediate title in ‘78 by reaching four consecutive senior semi-finals, only to suffer the bitter disappointment of losing all four.

Suddenly all changed when the team were successful at their fifth attempt in the penultimate round by overcoming Youghal in 1983.

It was the first time since 1972 that the county final would not be contested by two of the big three of St Finbarr’s, Blackrock and Glen Rovers. Incidentally, 1983 was also the first decider in 15 years that featured an East Cork team.

Once again it was the Togher side who came through to oppose Midleton in the 1983 showpiece.

Winners in the previous three seasons, they began as favourites to complete a famous four in a row. On the day though the challengers proved more than a match for their opponents in what was the club’s first final appearance since going down to Glen Rovers 45 years previously.

Action from St Finbarr's and Midleton at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
Action from St Finbarr's and Midleton at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

After an excellent opening 20 minutes featuring some quality points from captain John Fenton, Jimmy Barry Murphy’s goal for the defending champions late in the first half was a cause of concern for Midleton.

However, they still retired leading by 0-9 to 1-2. Aided by the strong wind on the resumption, Midleton were given a massive boost when Ger Fitzgerald goaled and they went to be very worthy 1-18 to 2-9 victors.

It was the result that ignited the club and the entire town and began a storyline that reached a national audience.

The subsequent Munster campaign turned into an epic saga, climaxed by a replayed final win over Borrisoleigh in early December.

Thousands flocked to the East Cork town for the homecoming parade as the team’s status rose with every passing game.

It concluded a remarkable year as the club also won county titles at U21, U14 and U13 level.

John Fenton of Midleton holds the cup aloft.
John Fenton of Midleton holds the cup aloft.

Unfortunately, the loss to Gort in the All-Ireland semi-final in February temporarily halted the dreams of the ultimate fairytale becoming reality.

Midleton had to show real metal in the immediate years that followed. Beaten by the Barrs in an early summer rematch in 1984, they lost the final of 1985 to Blackrock by 1-14 to 1-8.

A year down the road the rematch produced contrasting emotions as the East Cork side earned sweet revenge when Kevin Hennessy captained them to a 1-18 to 1-10 win.

When star goalkeeper Ger Power led his team to a successful defence of the crown with a 2-12 to 0-15 triumph over Na Piarsaigh in 1987, the feeling abided that this was a team on a further mission.

Now in their prime, the chance to drive on to further glories was not going to be bypassed.

CROKE PARK CALLING

Clareastle and Ballyduff were ousted before another classic Cork-Tipp provincial final saw a late John Fenton 65 meter free edge out Cappawhite by the minimum.

Then, a long journey north produced a nine-point All-Ireland semi-final win over Cushendall.

Thus St Patrick’s Day 1988 saw a mass exodus to Croke Park where Midleton squared up to Athenry in the biggest day of their club history.

It was the final stop on a nine-game odyssey that saw Midleton rise to every challenge.

Two first-half Kevin Hennessy goals set up a 2-5 to 0-6 interval lead, which turned into a 3-8 to 0-9 result. 

In that all-conquering campaign, top talisman John Fenton posted 10-82.

The exertions of the marathon season took their toll in the months that followed. Blackrock eliminated Midleton early in the ‘88 and ‘89 championship seasons.

When Na Piarsaigh found their measure in the last eight in 1990, questions were being asked regarding Midleton’s reaction in the wake of three early eliminations.

Celebration time in 1991.
Celebration time in 1991.

Once again though, the East Cork side responded. Wins over Avondhu, Carbery and Ballyhea had them back where they wanted to be. A county final meeting with Glen Rovers awaited and it produced another Midleton success, on a 1-17 to 1-8 scoreline.

Substitute Cormac Quirke registering a classy goal late on. Ger Fitzgerald captained the club to their seventh county title on the day that his father Paddy had the personal distinction of managing the team to a third title.

In total nine players started all four of the club’s final wins. Ger Power, Denis Mulcahy, Mick Boylan, Sean O’Brien, Pat Hartnett, Kevin Hennessy, John Hartnett, Ger Fitzgerald and John Boylan hold that special distinction.

The Imokilly team that won the 1984 county football title included Midleton players Denis Mulcahy, Ger Glavin and Kevin Hennessy in the starting 15.
The Imokilly team that won the 1984 county football title included Midleton players Denis Mulcahy, Ger Glavin and Kevin Hennessy in the starting 15.

Yet but the entire panel is remembered as a very special group of talented hurlers, who 30 years on can look back on with a treasure chest of golden memories.

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