Cork had the majority in the last Oireachtas Hurling Tournament

2005 clash with Galway was the last hurrah for second-tier competition
Cork had the majority in the last Oireachtas Hurling Tournament

Cork's Shane O'Neill gathers the ball from Galway's Niall Healy in the last-ever Oireachtas Hurling Tournament final at Páirc Uí Rinn in October 2005. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

In case you were unaware, 2005 marks the last time that Cork won the All-Ireland senior hurling title.

The win over Galway that September secured the county’s first back-to-back victories since the three-in-a-row of 1976-78 but, while they made the 2006 final, hopes of another treble were dashed by Kilkenny. Cork have only featured in the decider in two seasons since, the 2013 replay loss to Clare and this year’s reversal against Limerick.

It’s perhaps understandable that Cork’s last piece of silverware in 2005 – also secured with a win over Galway – is less heralded, even though it did represent the last resting place of a once-popular competition.

If you look up the Oireachtas Hurling Tournament on Wikipedia, you will be told that the 1999 edition was the last. The difficulties in keeping the competition going are exemplified by the fact that Kilkenny’s win over Galway to claim that year’s title came in December 2000. Nickey Brennan, future GAA President and then chairman of the Hurling Development Committee, said at the time that it was “almost certainly the last game ever in the Oireachtas competition because there just ain't enough Sundays in the year.”

That comment perhaps shows how ubiquitous floodlit games have become over the past two decades but what had been at one time a decent bridge between the end of the championship and the start of the league had become outmoded, especially with the move to a calendar-year inter-county season and the increasing importance of the pre-season provincial competitions.

There was, however, to be one last hurrah, allowing Cork to add to the victories of 1973, 1974, 1975, 1985 and 1998.

As part of Cork holding the title of European Capital of Culture in 2005, the last week of October saw Oireachtas na Gaeilge – an arts festival of Irish heritage run since the 1890s – take place in the city and the hurling competition was briefly resurrected to coincide with that. Fitting, given its origins as a one-off challenge game in the 1930s and 1940s, it was just a final, with Cork clashing with Galway seven weeks after their All-Ireland final.

The bank holiday Monday, falling on Halloween, saw the game take place in Páirc Uí Rinn. While Galway had seven survivors from the Croke Park joust, which Cork had won by five points, Rebels manager John Allen opted to experiment as he looked at his options. None of the starting 15 from the All-Ireland featured, though Neil Ronan and Kieran Murphy of Erin’s Own, introduced as subs in the decider, were named.

Corner-forward Stephen O’Sullivan’s goal helped Cork to a 1-6 to 0-7 half-time lead, with Murphy and Michael Naughton dominating at midfield for the home side. Two Graham Callanan points early in the second half extended the lead, while Killian Cronin and Darragh McSweeney excelled in defence for Cork.

A pair of Neil Ronan goals eased the Rebels clear and, while Galway did have a late green flag from a Ger Farragher free, a 3-14 to 1-10 scoreline was a fair reflection of the difference between the sides, leaving Allen happy.

“It was never going to be easy in the underfoot conditions,” he said, “but all credit to our lads, who did very well in the circumstances.

“Considering that we had none of the team that started on September 11, it was a very satisfying result. The performance was very workmanlike and clearly we have plenty of hurlers keen to the make the breakthrough. That can only be good for Cork.

“I was very impressed with the defence, particularly the full-back line. Neil Ronan also looked sharp. It augurs well for the coming year and it looks like we are going to have a lot of competition for places in 2006.”

While none of the newer intake made a breakthrough in 2006, Shane O’Neill played that day and would go on to become a key member of the Cork defence from 2007 onwards and Callanan was a valued squad member.

For the Oireachtas, that proved to be it once and for all. Given that the members of the Cork squad that won the Munster title in 2006 were waiting until 2013 to get their medals, it’s unlikely that any mementoes were sought or received for this victory. Presumably, the trophy is still somewhere on Leeside, given that it hasn’t been contested since – perhaps it will feature in the new museum that is planned for Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

Scorers for Cork: N Ronan 2-3 (0-1f), S O’Sullivan 1-0, K Murphy (0-1f), G Callanan 0-3 each, M Naughton, M O’Sullivan, R O’Dwyer, P Kelly, M O’Callaghan 0-1 each.

Scorers for Galway: G Farragher 1-4 (1-2f, 0-1 65), F Healy 0-2, G Mahon, N Healy, D Hayes, K Wade 0-1.

CORK: M Coleman (Ballinhassig); E O’Sullivan (Cloyne), K Cronin (Cloyne), D McSweeney (Blarney); S O’Neill (Bishopstown), P Kelly (Erin’s Own), J Barrett (Carrigtwohill); K Murphy (Erin’s Own), M Naughton (Cloyne); J O’Callaghan (Castletownroche), G Callanan (Glen Rovers), R Dwyer (Ballymartle); M O’Sullivan (Ballyhea), N Ronan (Ballyhea), S O’Sullivan (Na Piarsaigh). Subs: S Dineen (Ballinhassig) for O’Callaghan, K Canty (Valley Rovers) for M O’Sullivan, M Cussen (Sarsfields) for S O’Sullivan, M O’Callaghan (Argideen Rangers) for Naughton.

GALWAY: P Dullaghan; D Joyce, T Óg Regan, N Corcoran; A Coen, S Kavanagh, C Coen; D Collins, G Mahon; F Healy, G Farragher, D Hayes; K Wade, N Kenny, N Healy. Subs: P Killiea for Hayes, C Kavanagh for Kenny, Kenny for Kavanagh (injured).

Referee: S Roche (Tipperary).

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