When Newtownshandrum made it to the promised land

The North Cork side claimed national glory in 2004
When Newtownshandrum made it to the promised land

Newtownshandrum's Jerry O'Connor tries to evade Dunloy's Conor Cunning in the 2004 All-Ireland Club SHC final at Croke Park (©Inpho/Patrick Bolger)

All-Ireland Club SHC final

Croke Park March 17, 2004

Newtownshandrum 0-17 Dunloy (Antrim) 1-6  

Ordinarily – well, up until just over a year ago – the middle of March would be taken up with chat surrounding the All-Ireland senior club finals in Croke Park.

Such was the impact of Covid-19 last year that there were no provincial or All-Ireland club championships at all and, given how compacted the 2021 calendar would be, sadly it wouldn’t be a surprise if it were a similar situation this time around.

The situation means that Cork’s wait for an All-Ireland senior club hurling title will go on to a 18th year, with the last victory coming in 2004 when Newtownshandrum triumphed. When grouped with the droughts at senior, U21/U20 and minor grades at a national level, it makes for a grim package, but at the same time, while there is a link, the club championship is a competition that can be decoupled from the intercounty fare.

Obviously, the dominance of Blackrock, Glen Rovers and St Finbarr’s in the competition in the 1970s aided Cork’s All-Ireland three-in-a-row and Munster five-in-a-row in that decade, but before Newtown’s 2004 win, one had to go back to Midleton’s triumph of 1988 for the last Cork win. In between, Cork won senior All-Irelands in 1990 and 1999, U21 in 1988, 1997 and 1998 and minor in 1995, 1998 and 2001. All the while, the Munster – and obviously All-Ireland club titles – remained elusive.

Newtownshandrum had won their first county title in 2000 and lost the ’02 decider to Blackrock before turning the tables on the Rockies the following year (of course, Blackrock would have to wait until last year to end their wait).

Munster glory would be achieved for Newtown when Toomevara were seen off by 0-15 to 1-9 in the provincial decider in November. Against O’Loughlin Gaels in the All-Ireland semi-final, a replay was needed before Newtown prevailed, with Antrim’s Dunloy providing the opposition in the final on St Patrick’s Day.

As was the case against Toomevara, Newtown’s opponents wore green and gold jerseys, necessitating a change. In the Munster final, the actual Cork jerseys, with O2 sponsorship, were worn, but this time it was a bespoke red and white strip featuring the club name in Irish on the front. Dunloy wore the Antrim colours, effectively a reversal of their usual style.

Colm McGuckian opened the scoring for the men from the Glens inside the first minute, but poor shooting – in the form of six first-half wides – was to hamper them while Newtown eventually began to find their feet.

Liam Richmond would get Dunloy’s second point in the 19th minute but Newtown got on top, with Ben O’Connor’s free-taking very impressive while the hardworking Alan T O’Brien also got on the scoresheet.

It was 0-7 to 0-2 at half-time, but the opening stages of the second half brought hope for Dunloy after Martin Curry was fouled for a penalty, which goalkeeper Gareth McGhee fired to the net to reduce the gap to just two points.

Ben O’Connor had a wide just after that and Richmond got another Dunloy point to leave the minimum between the teams but Newtown in their pomp never resorted to panic and they wouldn’t do so on the biggest stage, either.

That Ben O’Connor wide proved to be just an aberration as his free-taking reliability returned while his brother Jerry more than made his presence felt too, despite an ankle injury hampering him towards the end of the game.

As the points continued to go over with the end nearing, the subs on the sideline began to replace their red shirts with the usual green and gold, and at the whistle the team followed suit before following captain John McCarthy to accept the trophy that confirmed them as the best team in Ireland.

  Scorers for Newtownshandrum: B O’Connor (0-10, 0-7f), AT O’Brien 0-3, I Kelleher, Jerry O’Connor, J Bowles, M Morrissey 0-1 each.

Scorers for Dunloy: G McGhee (1-0 penalty), L Richmond, P Richmond 0-2 each, C McGuckian, A Elliott 0-1 each.

NEWTOWNSHANDRUM: P Morrissey; J McCarthy, B Mulcahy, G O'Mahony; I Kelleher, P Mulcahy, P Noonan; AT O'Brien, Jerry O'Connor; D Mulcahy, B O'Connor, JP King; J Bowles, D O'Riordan, M Farrell.

Subs: John O'Connor for Farrell (half-time), M Morrissey for O'Riordan (51), D Naughton for JP King (58), AG O'Brien for O’Mahony (60).

CUCHULLAINS, DUNLOY: G McGhee; S Mullan, Gary O'Kane, F McMullan; M Molloy, M McClements, D McMullan; C Cunning, P McMullen; L Richmond, C McGuckian, P Richmond; M Curry, Gregory O'Kane, A Elliott.

Sub: D Quinn for Curry (39).

Referee: B Kelly (Westmeath).

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