Echo 130: Dual diamond Teddy McCarthy made history in Rebel red

As we celebrate 130 years of The Echo, John Coughlan talks to Teddy McCarthy, iconic double winner
Echo 130: Dual diamond Teddy McCarthy made history in Rebel red

Teddy McCarthy, Cork in action against Brian Stafford and PJ Gillic, Meath, in the 1990 All-Ireland final, Croke Park. Picture: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE

THERE have been many memorable feats, games, and events in the history of the GAA and Cork GAA covered by The Echo over the past 130 years.

This week as your favourite paper celebrates 130 years in existence, we look back at some of the great games, players and events over that period of time.

As you can imagine picking out a favourite player or game is a very hard thing to do, but the achievement of Teddy McCarthy in 1990 in winning both the All-Ireland senior hurling and football titles in the one season is one that stands the test of time and one that is never likely to be repeated.

32 years on and the former Sarsfield’s and Glanmire star took time to reflect on that memorable year.

First up for the Cork hurlers in 1990 was a trip to Tralee to play Kerry in the Munster hurling championship quarter-final.

“I remember it well as we were overwhelming favourites and to be fair our display on the day was fairly average,” McCarthy said.

“It was just taking things for granted but we had to dig deep in the second half before we got the job done as we ran out nine-point winners.”

Two weeks later Cork played Waterford in the Munster semi-final at Semple Stadium in Thurles.

Waterford had defeated Cork in the championship the previous year and doubts about the Cork selection surfaced again.

In the end, Cork made light of the opposition and finished easy winners with a 4-15 to 1-8 victory.

“Obviously from 1987 to 1989 Cork were in transition with a number of key players retiring and to be honest with Tomás Mulcahy and I out injured 1990 was rather a frustrating year.

“On my own behalf, I was out almost the whole season up to the All-Ireland semi-final when I came off the bench.

“Ankle ligaments at any time is a nasty injury but the lads were gelling well and as a team, we seemed to progress as the season matured.” 

Teddy McCarthy wins the sliotar against Galway at Croke Park. Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Teddy McCarthy wins the sliotar against Galway at Croke Park. Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Cork’s next outing was a July Munster final against Tipperary who were the reigning All-Ireland champions and were hot favourites going into the game. An infamous interview from the Tipperary manager Michael ‘Babs’ Keating severely riled the Cork team when he stated that “donkeys don’t win derbies”.

In the biggest upset of the season Cork produced champagne hurling and with Mark Foley chipping in with 2-7 from the Rebels ran out 4-16 to 2-14 winners.

Although Babs' comment upset a few people and gave us extra motivation in hindsight he was praising us in stating that donkeys do not get to a Munster final.

“Mark Foley was from Timoleague and was studying dentistry and what I am led to believe afterwards is that our coach Canon O’Brien was the only one of the management team that rated him good enough to start.

“We were playing an A versus B game prior to the Munster final and Mark was doing his dentistry exams in UCC at the time and Jim Cashman got roasted marking him in that game.

“I joked with Jim after training about how Mark dominated him and he remarked that Canon O’Brien had told him to watch Mark’s hands as he was doing exams so ultimately Jim stood off him and the rest is history!

“In fairness, Canon O’Brien’s cuteness in instructing Jim not to defend Mark made him a standout player and in fairness, he grasped at the opportunity with a stunning display.” 

RELIEF

Antrim were next on the agenda and as the Ulstermen had shocked Offaly in the All-Ireland semi-final of 1989 nothing was left to chance for Cork.

“It was good for me as I got my first taste of championship hurling in that season and I got through it okay which was a huge relief.” 

In the end, Cork showed their class and ran out 10-point winners as a final against Galway beckoned. On September 2 Cork faced Galway who were hoping to win their third title in four years having defeated Kilkenny and Tipperary in the 1987 and 1988 respectfully.

“I think at halftime we were in serious trouble and with Jim Cashman having a tough day in the free-taking department we trailed by five points at the break.” 

The mood in the Cork dressing-room was one of annoyance as coach Canon O’Brien remarked there were only three players playing to their form.

The legendary Cork forward Kevin Hennessy quipped “Who are the other two?” a joke that broke the tension in the camp.

The comment from Kevin was hilarious because looking back it took the tension from the team and when we went out for the second half we were far more relaxed.” 

Cork were superb and ran out 5-15 to 2-21 winners as the first leg of the Teddy’s All-Ireland double was rubberstamped. Looking back on that win Teddy believes the camaraderie in the team was exceptional.

“We enjoyed it as we trained hard and took it serious when we were supposed to but in truth, I always ask myself could I fit into the present demands of GAA players in this country.

Teddy McCarthy in the latter stages of his career as a Cork hurler. Picture: INPHO/Tom Honan
Teddy McCarthy in the latter stages of his career as a Cork hurler. Picture: INPHO/Tom Honan

“To be honest I couldn’t go into an inter-county system with the present demands of training five days a week. 

To be truthful I wouldn’t go near it as I would rather give commitment to my club and that’s no disrespect to the players all over this country.” 

Teddy also reflected on his lifelong club Sarsfields who had to battle hard to compete with the big guns in Cork hurling.

“We had Springmount and Meadowbrook as estates as we were a rural community with a population of 500 people so we had no chance of attracting players with those numbers.

“We had one school in the parish and we had to rely on guys coming from Upper Glanmire and Carraig na bhFear who were parishes in Glanmire but such is life as we now have a fairly big community and hopefully winning another county is not too far away.” 

Cork's Teddy McCarthy and Eoin Liston of Kerry battling in a Munster football final at Fitzgerald Stadium. Picture: INPHO/Billy Stickland
Cork's Teddy McCarthy and Eoin Liston of Kerry battling in a Munster football final at Fitzgerald Stadium. Picture: INPHO/Billy Stickland

On the football side, Teddy recalls the 1990 season with lots of pride as he recalled playing Limerick in the semi-final at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

“We had a very talented side and we simply blitzed Limerick with some cracking football as another final against Kerry loomed.” 

Playing Kerry was always a great occasion but Teddy believes Cork had a wealth of football talent in the city and county at that time.

“What we had was a good mixture of youth and experience and in the final against Kerry we showed our class to win by 15 points and that was some going to win our fourth Munster final in a row.” 

Cork were then pitted against Roscommon in the All-Ireland semi-final and after another gritty display they managed to run out 0-17 to 0-10 winners.

The rivalry between Cork and Meath was fierce as Teddy smiled when trying to explain the explosive games between the counties.

“I honestly don’t know where the rivalry came from but looking back I think its because both counties were down for so long and the battle for supremacy probably went a level too far.” 

BOOST

When Cork signed Kildare-born players Larry Tompkins and Shay Fahy they brought sheer class to the Cork set-up.

“Larry in particular was an incredible talent as he would be going to the gym in the morning and then training at night and he was a tremendous addition to this county.

“Larry and Shay were magnificent players but I always said they knew joining Cork wasn’t a bad idea as we had some quality players at that time.” 

The All-Ireland final was another dogged affair but McCarthy’s incredible achievement was completed when Cork defeated Meath 0-11 to 0-9 with Tompkins and Fahy sharing eight points on the day. Teddy believes the contribution that coach and manager Billy Morgan gave to Cork football should never be forgotten.

“Billy was an incredible coach as his love for the game holds no bounds with the loyalty he has shown Cork and Nemo Rangers over many years.

When Billy spoke you listened because nine times out of 10 he was right as he never gave teams any waffle and consistently spoke from the heart.

“In my book, Billy Morgan was way ahead of himself in football but when you played for him it was hard but enjoyable as he knew when lads needed a break.” 

Kerry's Seamus Moynihan, Dara O'Sé, Maurice Fitzgerald and Liam Flaherty battling Cork's Teddy McCarthy, Liam Honohan and Danny Culloty, in the 1995 Munster final. Picture: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE.
Kerry's Seamus Moynihan, Dara O'Sé, Maurice Fitzgerald and Liam Flaherty battling Cork's Teddy McCarthy, Liam Honohan and Danny Culloty, in the 1995 Munster final. Picture: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE.

McCarthy’s record of winning two All-Irelands in different codes is still intact and did he think when he achieved it that it would still be standing alone 32 years on?

“To be fair I thought I would do it again the following year! At the end of the day, people have went close to equalling and I don’t wake up every morning and wonder will it ever be done again.

“I would love to see somebody doing it but in all honestly with the present demands on inter-county hurling and football players, I cannot see another player doing it in my lifetime.

“On the other side of the coin if a dual player is good enough maybe the managers in the coming years should accommodate them to go for it but that’s highly unlikely.”

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