THIS year marks the 80th anniversary of when Glen Rovers made Cork hurling history.
In 1941, this illustrious club won their eighth Cork Senior Hurling Championship in a row, having won their first in 1934.
Glen Rovers Hurling Club was founded in 1916. There was no hurling in the Blackpool area at the time and a number of locals decided they would form a club.
They had no place to meet and they approached the Glen Boxing Club, who had a small premises in Spring Lane. The boxers were happy to facilitate their hurling friends and so the first of many hurling meetings took place in the boxing club, which was also founded in 1916, but six months earlier.
The nearby Gouldings Glen was an oasis of panoramic beauty, nestled gently between Blackpool and Dillon’s Cross. It was the magnificent splendour of this location that inspired the members to name the club Glen Rovers.
The club initially chose green and gold as their colours, but quickly added a black band to honour the men of 1916.
The club soon attracted many members and made great progress, winning titles at minor, junior, and intermediate grades.
Ten years after their foundation, the Glen Rovers entered the senior hurling ranks, in 1926. Four years later, in 1930, the Glen reached their first county senior hurling final.
They were led by their first player to make the Cork senior hurling team, Paddy ‘Fox’ Collins. Their opponents in that final were Blackrock, who had a star-studded team, seven of whom played with Cork.
The Rockies were trained by Pakie O’Mahony, the former heavyweight boxing champion of Ireland. Pakie was also a former trainer of the Glen Boxing Club, but had since married and settled in the fishing village of Blackrock.
The inexperienced Glen team were no match for Blackrock and were heavily defeated in their first country final. One of the biggest contributory factors towards the Glen defeat was their severe lack of fitness.
In 1934, the Glen qualified for their second country final. Their opponents were St Finbarr’s.
The ’Barr’s were reigning country champions, and the final was billed as the northside versus the southside. Thus began a sporting rivalry that exists to the present day.
Prior to that, the Rockies, with 16 titles, were the main rivals of St Finbarr’s, with 10 county championships and who were now looking to make it four in a row. The Barrs were now installed as favourites to win the 1934 final.
In January of that year, the Glen held their AGM in Bird’s Quay, where they had a clubhouse. The gathering agreed that they had great hurling talent, but had no trainer.
It was proposed at the meeting that the Glen Boxing Club should be approached about encouraging the boxing coach, Michael O’Brien, to consider training the Glen hurlers for the 1934 senior hurling championship campaign. O’Brien, who had been a supporter of the Glen hurlers, readily agreed.
From St Patrick’s Day, the Glen began to train under a new system devised by O’Brien. Never forgetting their lack of fitness against Blackrock in their first final, Michael O’Brien drilled into them that they had to be first to the ball.
The Glen now began to train often at their pitch in Kilbarry. This was a field the club obtained the use of when they went senior in 1926 and they remained there until 1952. Prior to the final, the Glen swept all before them and qualified for the semi-final, where they defeated Seandún at the Mardyke.
At that game, their captain, Joe Lee, sustained a leg injury and was replaced by a 17-year-old prospect named Jack Lynch. The Glen won the game well, but Lynch played very poorly. It later transpired that Lynch had gone swimming the day before. He learned his lesson and never again made that mistake, as he was dropped for the final.
This was a prestigious final, as the GAA were celebrating their golden jubilee, having been founded in 1884.
Hours before the game was due to commence, on Sunday, October 7, crowds began to assemble at the Cork Athletic Grounds (now Páirc Uí Chaoimh).
Consternation prevailed in Patrick Street, where thousands tried to travel on the big convoy of buses provided by CIE.
However, while the fleet was large, it was inadequate to cater for the crowds, so that many people walked.
The referee was Dr Tommy Daly, from Clare. The official attendance was 18,516, with record gate receipts of over £620, but the Examiner, in their report, estimated attendance as in excess of 25,000. This was the biggest attendance at a county final in the history of the GAA, nationwide.
A week prior to the final, Blackpool was abuzz with supporters making caps and badges bearing the club colours. The jerseys the team would wear were knitted by the nuns at St Mary’s of the Isle.
Sidecars were draped with messages of support and the local priests prayed for victory at all masses. Following the national anthem and the team’s parade, the game got underway. Amidst a great atmosphere, supporters roared their teams on. No quarter was asked or given, and the real cut and trust of a northside-southside hurling rivalry was born.
From the throw-in, the Glen’s backs tore into the Barrs forwards and kept them to just three points in the first half, which saw the Glen lead at the interval by 1-2 to 0-3.
In the second half, the Glen maintained their hunger and kept the ’Barr’s again to 0-3, while the northsiders added a further two goals, from Patcheen Murphy, which helped to record a historic victory for the Glen, 3-2 to 0-6.
On this famous day, the Glen were captained by Josa Lee and, using one sub, he led 15 other heroes. His team lined out as follows: goalkeeper, Mick Casey; backs, J Corkery, T Kiely, DM Dorgan, J Burke, P O’Connell, and P Collins; midfield, J Lee and W Highland; the forwards, C Buckley, P Murphy, P Dorgan, B Barrett, W O’Driscoll, and E Carroll.
Following the final whistle, the Glen supporters went hysterical; never had so many caps been thrown in the air. The cup was going over the bridge, led by the Blackpool Brass and Reed Band and the celebrations were only just beginning.
For weeks, Blackpool was thronged with pilgrims and the players — though at the time they did not know it — were to become trailblazers and history-makers, going on to win the next seven titles to complete a record-breaking eight county titles in a row.
In the following seven finals, the Glen defeated Carrigtwohill, Sarsfield’s, Carrigtwohill, Midleton, Blackrock, Sarsfield’s, and Ballincollig.
Over the eight years of this Glen team’s success, they were served by outstanding players, many of whom created many other historic achievements. The captain of the 1934 team went on to captain the club to five successes in a row.
Joe Lee’s record, from ‘34 to ‘38, may never be equaled. The man to captain the Glen to their sixth and seventh titles, in 1939 and 1940, was Jack Lynch and what a legacy that man has left.
The eighth title, in 1941, saw the Glen led by Connie Buckley, who was the only man to play in all eight finals. Also that year, he captained Cork to the first of the four-in-a-row All-Ireland titles.
On the Glen 1941 team was Christy Ring, the greatest hurler of all time. The famous Glen squad included Din Joe Buckley, who won five All-Irelands with Cork.
Dave Creedon was the only man playing in goal in both codes to win Cork senior hurling and senior football championship medals and added three All-Ireland hurling medals to his tally after coming out of retirement to play for Cork during the three-in-a-row success of 1952, 1953, and 1954.
Another outstanding Glen performer from that era was Paddy ‘Fox’ Collins, who designed the beautiful Cork senior hurling championship medal.
Paddy O’Connell, the ‘father’ of many of the Glen’s great underage successes, was also part of the eight-year panel. Finally, the man who was plucked from the ring in the Glen Boxing Club, Michael O’Brien, trained the Glen to 13 senior championship wins between 1934 and 1950.
Today, we salute the great men who achieved the iconic eight-in-a-row success and who truly epitomised ‘the spirit of the Glen’.