Cork GAA Jersey Wars: Cill na Martra v Midleton

From July 20 to August 28, your votes will narrow down 32 contenders to crown a winner
Cork GAA Jersey Wars: Cill na Martra v Midleton

Jersey Wars; Cill na Martra footballer Noel O'Leary and Midleton hurler Conor Lehane.

WE want to know what your favourite GAA geansaí is.

From here until the end of August, your votes will decide the best design in our Cork GAA Jersey Wars competition.

Our resident jersey expert Denis Hurley compiled a list of 32 clubs, based on those involved in the senior tiers and a selection of wild cards. We put them in alphabetical order and paired them up, number 11 versus 22, which is Cill na Martra-Midleton, and mapped out the path to the final. 

Full details of the competition are here.

Voting will run from 8am each day for 24 hours on the link below:

CILL NA MARTRA

ACCORDING to Cill na Martra’s own history, the recorded victory of the club occurred in 1887, back when football was a 21-a-side game, as Ballinagree were beaten.

Initially, the jerseys worn were similar to Sarsfields, blue with a white hoop, and this was the kit used in Mid-Cork junior football final defeats in 1938, 1958 and 1964. However, with fellow Muskerry clubs Naomh Abán, Aghinagh, Clondrohid and Gleann na Laoi all having predominantly blue jerseys, it was decided in the late 1960s that Cill na Martra – generally styled as the anglicised ‘Kilnamartyra’ in newspaper reports at the time – would wear white jerseys with blue trim instead.

While the club did well in the GAA’s cultural competition Scór, on the field they were in the lower reaches in Muskerry but the late 1970s brought a resurgence with more success at underage levels feeding into a stronger junior team.

Even so, it took until the turn of the millennium for the side from the Múscraí Gaeltacht to become Mid-Cork kingpins, claiming back-to-back divisional titles in 2002 and 2003. 

They reached the county on the latter occasion and, while they lost out to Carbery Rangers, restructuring of the intermediate grades meant that they were promoted, too.

With county minor C title wins in 1999 and 2004 providing strong players for adult level, Cill na Martra reached the IFC final in 2009 but were unlucky to lose out to Carbery. However, another minor win came in 2013 while there was a county U21B win in 2015, four years after defeat in the final.

The manager of that team, Caoimhín Ó Súilleabháin, had taken over the intermediate side and, at the outset of 2018, their record for the previous four years read semi-final, quarter-final replay, semi-final, semi-final. The pedigree was there, it was just a matter of taking the extra few steps to glory. Aiding them in terms of preparation was the fact victory in Division 2 of the county football league in 2017 had earned them a place in the top flight, with regular clashes against the top sides.

Ballinora, Glanworth (after a replay), Millstreet and Mitchelstown were all seen off as they reached the final, with Muskerry rivals Aghabullogue opposing them. While a bright Cill na Martra start was wiped out as they conceded a goal to fall 1-3 to 0-5 behind after 20 minutes, the response was strong as they reeled off 1-11 without reply, going on to triumph by 2-17 to 1-10.

Eoin Ó Loingsigh of Cill na Martra in action against Diarmuid Ó Ceallaigh of Naomh Abán. Picture: Denis Minihane.
Eoin Ó Loingsigh of Cill na Martra in action against Diarmuid Ó Ceallaigh of Naomh Abán. Picture: Denis Minihane.

Captain Graham Ó Mocháin delivered his entire speech as Gaeilge, while sponsors Cygnum were no doubt delighted with the exposure they received. The timber-frame construction firm still have their name emblazoned on the club’s jerseys.

While colour-clashes are rarer than when the shirt was mainly blue, they do occur, as against Bandon and Knocknagree in recent times. For such eventualities, there is a grey alternative jersey.

MIDLETON

IN the case of some of the clubs featured in this competition, ascertaining the original colours has been an impossible task, given that the retention of records wasn’t as easy as it is today.

However, in the case of Midleton, who enjoyed success from the earliest days of the Gaelic Athletic Association, triumphant team pictures provide irrefutable proof. The club represented Cork for the county’s first All-Ireland football win in 1890 and, while the players are dressed in a mix of the famous black-and-white hooped shirts and plain white, the 1914 Croke Cup hurling victory had more uniformity, with every player in hoops – though some jerseys were black with white hoops and others the opposite. The first mention of the ‘Magpies’ nickname in the media was in a 1931 newspaper report, though it would be safe to assume that it was in use well before then.

After 1914, another senior hurling title followed in 1916 but that initial flush of success proved difficult to sustain, even with the club’s junior team taking county honours in 1917.

Having dropped down from senior level to intermediate, Midleton won that title in 1948 but opted not to re-ascend, and it wasn’t until they were again intermediate champions in 1962 that they returned to the top tier but a 3-13 to 2-1 first-round defeat to Muskerry was their only outing before an immediate return to intermediate.

It would take until another intermediate victory, in 1978, for the club to re-establish themselves as one of the premier clubs in Cork, helping to break the stranglehold that the city big three of Blackrock, Glen Rovers and St Finbarr’s had on the Seán Óg Murphy Cup.

After UCC’s 1971 win, that trio would share 12 titles between them until 1983, when Midleton, after four successive semi-final losses to St Finbarr’s, bridged a 67-year gap between titles with victory over the Togher side. There was an added bonus as John Fenton became Cork captain for 1984, skippering the county to win the centenary All-Ireland.

Midleton showed that it was no fluke with further championships in 1986 and 1987, going on to win the All-Ireland after the latter title. En route to Munster championship glory in the winter of 1987, they would encounter Clare champions Clarecastle, who also play in black and white hoops and share the Magpies nickname – Midleton wore an all-black change kit.

Luke O'Farrell, Midleton, takes on Cillian O'Donovan, Douglas. Picture: Jim Coughlan.
Luke O'Farrell, Midleton, takes on Cillian O'Donovan, Douglas. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

That alternative strip would also be seen against the other Cork Magpies, Ballyhea, in the 1991 county semi-final, with victory over Glen Rovers in the final giving Midleton a fourth championship in nine years. While that great group of players moved on, Midleton remained a strong senior club and in 2013, an inspired performance from Conor Lehane in the county final against Sarsfields saw them come out on top again.

Midleton are one of the few clubs in the county to have neither a sponsor nor the team name on the front of their jersey. While the black change tops were worn against Ballyhea in the 2020 PSHC, in the 2020 junior B final – played this summer – the Imokilly shirts were used.


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