CORK football will be all the poorer for the revamped All-Ireland junior championship, which now becomes an overseas competition along with just one Irish county, Kilkenny.
As anticipated, the motion calling for a change in format sailed through Congress at the weekend, sounding the death knell in effect for a competition that was losing interest by the season in recent years.
Munster was first played for in 1910 with Tipperary defeating Limerick, but suspended on three occasions, 1917-22, 42-45 and 73-82. In 2016, all six Munster counties competed, but that number fell to four for the next two seasons and then only Cork and Kerry entered in 2019.
That year, Meath triumphed in Leinster, one of six counties entering, while Galway were Connacht champions. Five teams participated. Ulster has had no junior championship since 1986 and Cavan and Fermanagh were accepted into Leinster and Connacht on occasions.
Kerry were the last winners in 2019, when they defeated Galway to complete five-in-row. The same stronger counties kept appearing even when a rule was introduced preventing an All-Ireland winning 15 from trying to retain their crown the following season.
You only have to look back at Cork’s last All-Ireland senior triumph in 2010 to appreciate the influence of the junior championship as nine or 10 of that side were also junior winners along the way.
Kevin O’Donovan, Cork CEO and secretary said recently: “We’ve been a great supporter of this competition over many years. It essentially ran into disrepute with other counties not entering. And as you all know it was down to one or two games to win an All-Ireland.
“Intermediate hurling went to just one game to win an All-Ireland before that competition fell and Junior football was also about to fall.
“However, we found other units of the association like the British junior and New York winners, for example, with representation from clubs in Scotland, also, needed this competition.”
It has been redrawn with the British winners and runners-up meeting Kilkenny and New York in the All-Ireland semi-finals. Between them Kerry and Cork were crowned All-Ireland champions 37 times, the only counties to reach double figures in the roll of honour.
Kerry, predictably enough, occupy first place with 20, three more than Cork, whose 17 wins came between 1951 and 2013.
The great rivals also dominate Munster: Kerry lead the way on 46 titles followed by Cork on 29, Tipperary 7, Limerick 4, Waterford 3 and Clare 1.
Canovee’s JJ Henchion had the honour of becoming the first Cork captain to claim All-Ireland honours and others such as John Lyons (Clonakilty), Eoin McAuliffe (Glanworth), Con Kelleher (Millstreet) and Dermot Kehilly (Newcestown) followed suit up to 1972.
Subsequent skippers included Martin Kelleher (Kilmurry), Diarmuid McCarthy (Naomh Aban), Joe Collins (Rockchapel) and Paul Hanley (Urhan) before the new millennium. Youghal keeper Pat Mackey led the county to glory in 2001 with Michael Prout (Shamrocks) following in his footsteps four years later.
Cork were champions in 2007, as well, when Barry Goggin (Adrigole) captained the side before Chris O’Donovan (Valley Rovers) lifted the cup in 2009 and Carthach Keane (Newcestown) did likewise in 2011. Cork’s last All-Ireland came in 2013, when they defeated Kildare by 0-13 to 1-7 in the final at the Gaelic Grounds.
The team was captained by present senior star Ruairí Deane from the Bantry Blues club and was managed by Paul McCarthy (Kinsale) with Danny Culloty (Newmarket), Michael Lyons (Araglen), Tim O’Sullivan (Macroom) and Alan Whelan (Brian Dillons) selectors.
Scorers for Cork: Cathal Vaughan 0-5 (0-3 f), Fiachra Lynch and Kevin O’Driscoll 0-2 each, Ruairí Deane, Micheal O’Laoire, Andrew O’Brien and Colm O’Driscoll 0-1 each.
CORK v Kildare: D Hanrahan (Douglas); AJ O’Connor (Kiskeam), E O’Mahony (Macroom), K Harrington (Bantry Blues); Richard O’Sullivan (Kinsale), Rory O’Sullivan (Argideen Rangers), S Kiely (Macroom); R Deane (Bantry Blues, c), M Ó Laoire (Naomh Aban); C Vaughan (Iveleary), A O’Brien (Kildorrery), C O’Driscoll (Tadhg MacCarthaighs); K O’Driscoll (do), F Lynch (Valley Rovers), D Harrington (Adrigole).
Subs: P Daly (St Mary’s) for Rory O’Sullivan, M Vaughan (Millstreet) for D Harrington and E Buckley (St Michael’s) for O’Brien.