Game of My Life: John Fenton on leading Cork to glory against Offaly in 1984 

In extract from new book, Rebel captain John Fenton remembers the centenary decider in Thurles
Game of My Life: John Fenton on leading Cork to glory against Offaly in 1984 

John Fenton lifts the Liam MacCarthy Cup after Cork's victory over Offaly in 1984.

In an extract from the book Cork Hurling: Game of My Life, John Fenton remembers the 1984 All-Ireland hurling final, when he captained Cork to victory over Offaly in Thurles. 

See below for how you can win a copy

Under normal circumstances, we would have travelled to Thurles by car, four or five players to a car. On that occasion, they didn’t want to take any chances with traffic or cars breaking down – not that that ever happened! – so were told be at Kent Station on the Sunday morning. We got the train to Thurles, which was most unusual, and we didn’t know where we were going once we got there nor were we told.

After we reached Thurles, we got on a bus, just the panel and the selectors, and we had two Garda outriders, who took us to the gates of the Ursuline Convent. We drove in, the gates closed behind us and we spent the next few hours with the nuns in their convent grounds and it was absolutely fabulous.

Fr O’Brien was the chaplain to the Cistercian Order in Blackrock and he arranged it through them. We had a puck-around – we had to show the nuns how to hurl, too! – and we went in then and we had Mass and it was powerful. The last hymn coming out was Faith of Our Fathers and every fella belted it out. Up then for the tea and sandwiches and it was all red and white napkins. We’d no interference, no interaction with anybody else only ourselves.

Derry Gowen was the chairman of the county board at the time and knowing where we were going turned up at the convent gates. He told them who he was but he was told that there was no Cork team there and he wasn’t allowed in so he had to go away! The two Garda out-riders had stayed with us and, while we were upstairs having the team meeting, the nuns were outside with the gardaí, sitting on the motorbikes and getting spins out to the gates and back! From what I can remember, Offaly were in two different hotels on that day, so that didn’t help their preparation. Such was our preparation before the game that we promised the nuns before we left that, win, lose or draw, we’d be back the following day. On the Monday morning, two bus-loads left the hotel at 11am for the convent and there was nobody late. 

The excitement and reception we received from the nuns when we arrived back with the trophy will stay with us for all our days.

Pat Hartnett, my Midleton clubmate, was my midfield partner. Somebody once described centre-field play as being like a postman – you collect the ball and you deliver it. 

That’s the way we were taught and we had a forward line with the likes of Jimmy Barry-Murphy, Kevin Hennessy, Ray Cummins, Seánie O’Leary, Charlie McCarthy, Tony O’Sullivan, Tomás Mulcahy - all these lads wanted was a good, quick, fast ball from midfield. They didn’t want it put into their hands, necessarily, but once it came in hard and fast, they were happy and it’s the way we trained – get the ball into the full-forward line. We had the most lethal forward line in the country and, the more ball you gave them, the more chances they had of scoring. 

You could see that in the All-Ireland final – Seánie got two goals and Kevin Hennessy got the third.


It was 1-5 to 0-7 at half-time, so it was there or thereabouts, but in the second half we scored 2-11 while restricting Offaly to 1-5. The longer the game went on, the more we were going to win by. From that point of view, as a spectacle it was probably a bit of an anti-climax coming up to the end but, from a Cork point of view, that didn’t really bother us. All that we were interested in was the win.

· Cork Hurling: Game of My Life by The Echo’s Denis Hurley is published by Hero Books and is out now, priced at €20. It will be launched by Cork author Tadhg Coakley this evening, March 24 at 6.30pm in Waterstones on St Patrick’s St in Cork.

· To win a copy, simply tell us when Cork next won the All-Ireland senior hurling title after 1984 – email entries to denis.hurley@theecho.ie

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