EVERY so often a time comes for reflection on sporting days of yesteryear.
Unfortunately, the lack of playing activity until the weekend gone, meant hurling fans across the country have been in overdrive digging into the archives.
There is a much-used phrase 'we will be talking about it in 20 years' which is often uttered in many walks of life. Yet there is little doubt that on an October afternoon 20 years ago, some Blackrock fans would have proclaimed those words in relation to Alan Browne’s county final performance.
The county senior showpiece of 2001 against Imokilly saw the big full-forward produce a virtuoso performance, nailing a personal tally of 3-8. It was title number 31 for the Church Road team, secured on a 4-8 to 2-7 scoreline.
Blackrock began that campaign 20 years ago against St Catherine’s in Fermoy with a 0-17 to 0-11 triumph.
Their next outing kept them in that general locality with Rathcormac hosting the tricky third-round encounter against Avondhu. At the end of the fixture, the city side triumphed by 1-13 to 0-12 after a keenly contested hour. Blackrock were now eyeing up a quarter-final engagement against a talented UCC side in the last eight.
A positive 3-12 to 1-13 outcome led to a completely new challenge against Castlelyons in the semi-final.
The experience of the city side was a key factor as they impressively drove onto the final winning comfortably by 3-18 to 1-8.
In the final, Blackrock managed to build up a 2-3 to 1-2 interval advantage despite playing into a strong wind in the first half.
By this stage, Alan Browne had already made his mark, scoring goals on either side of the quarter-hour, both the product of excellent Brian O’Keeffe build-up play.
Cork’s captain in 1999, Mark Landers, smashed home an Imokilly goal in response, but at the break missed chances were a cause of major concern.
Imokilly were to rue these spurned first-half opportunities even more immediately on the resumption, as Browne almost scored his third goal, but Derek Gosnell was on hand to finish the chance after Browne’s strike rebounded to him.
As Imokilly struggled to mount a comeback, again it was Landers who came to the rescue, offering them a major lifeline with his second goal 10 minutes from time.
However, any thoughts of over-turning what was then a four-point deficit were banished when Browne again took control. He finished with 1-3 on the bounce, with his goal again set up by the very lively Brian O’Keeffe.
Naturally, there was no disputing the Man of the Match as Browne’s name was on everybody’s lips in the post-match chats.
While it was almost a one-man show on the scoreboard, Blackrock had plenty of other heroes around the field.
In particular, their defence came in for many plaudits as they restricted a highly rated attack to just nine scores.
Wayne Sherlock was a shining light as Blackrock gained revenge for 1998 when Imokilly completed a two-in-a-row in a low-scoring final, which saw Browne register 1-1 of Blackrock’s 1-5 tally.
Interestingly, in the 2001 final only five players managed to get on the scoresheet.
Blackrock’s only non-Browne score was that goal from Derek Gosnell, while Mark Landers (2-2), Niall McCarthy (0-3) and Joe Deane (0-2) contributed for the eastern barony.
Overall, Browne scored five of his team’s 11 goals in the championship season. He posted 5-25 but had to give best to Newtownshandrum’s Ben O’Connor on the overall season’s statistics.
The flying forward from north Cork returned a seasonal tally of 6-29. O'Connor's standout figures were 2-6 against Seandún and 2-5 against St Finbarr’s.
While all the headlines regarding Browne’s final appearances tend to recall that 2001 decider, it’s easy to skate over the fact that the deadly marksman was also his team’s top scorer in the 1999 and 2002 finals.
Alan helped his club end a barren spell of 14 years when chalking 2-2 (2-1) from play in what transpired to be a very one-sided decider against UCC in the last final of the old millennium.
When Blackrock returned to make it back-to-titles in 2002 against 2000 champions Newtownshandrum, it was Browne's day again. He registered 1-5 of the 1-14 team total in the five-point success on a significant day for the club, retaining the Sean Óg Murphy Cup for the first time since 1979.
Significantly, it brought his scoring contribution to 7-15 in three final wins, which averages out at 12 points per day. Certainly a big-game player.
Two decades on, it’s young Alan Connolly who is calling the tune at the top of Blackrock’s scoring charts, after his 5-52 contribution in last year’s success.
In an exciting young career, Connolly has shown that he too can produce the goods on the big day after raising 13 white flags in that pulsating victory over Glen Rovers last autumn.
No doubt as he began to write his own hurling story, his early days were filled with references of Alan Browne — who we are still talking about 20 years on from his individual exploits on county final day 2001.