Throwback Thursday: Cork hurlers lifted Rebel spirits in 1984

It was a tough time for Leesiders but John Fenton and co delivered against Offaly in Thurles
Throwback Thursday: Cork hurlers lifted Rebel spirits in 1984

Donal O'Grady races onto the loose sliotar against Offaly in 1984.

THIS week in 1984, Cork defeated Offaly in the All-Ireland hurling final at Semple Stadium in Thurles.

It was a historic day as it was the first time Liam MacCarthy was raised outside Croke Park since 1937.

But Cork weren’t interested in that side of history in the aftermath of their 3-16 to 1-12 victory on September 2, they were relieved to see the end of a small famine in the Rebel County.

At the beginning of the decade, All-Ireland titles had dried up on the banks of the River Lee. After a golden period in the mid-1970s – which saw Cork win three in a row from 1976 to 1978 – the team had gone six years without landing the coveted silverware. 

The lack of success was compounded by back-to-back All-Ireland final defeats to Kilkenny in 1982 and 1983.

The Cork bench during the Centenary All-Ireland hurling final against Offaly at Semple Stadium, Thurles. Included are Justin McCarthy, Dr Con Murphy and Fr Michael O'Brien.
The Cork bench during the Centenary All-Ireland hurling final against Offaly at Semple Stadium, Thurles. Included are Justin McCarthy, Dr Con Murphy and Fr Michael O'Brien.

The six years were eased by victories in the Munster championship, but this didn't compensate for the defeats to the Cats. The footballers were going through a similar period. They had won the National Football League in 1980 and the Munster championship in 1983. 

Their hopes of lifting Sam Maguire ended in the worst way possible, Dublin beat them by 16 points in a replay of the semi-final at Páirc Uí Chaoimh, after the Rebels left the win behind the first day at Croke Park.

This craving helped distract the city from the growing economic malaise at the beginning of the 1980s. 850 people were left unemployed in 1983 when rubber manufacturer Dunlop closed In January 1984, it was announced that the Ford plant would shut down with the loss of 800 jobs. 

The city was slowly shutting down and people wanted a reason to feel good.

Cork began their journey to All-Ireland glory with a 3-15 to 2-13 victory over Limerick in the Munster championship at the Gaelic Grounds on June 3rd. In the final, they outscored Tipperary 4-15 to 3-14 and this booked their place in the All-Ireland series. 

Cork met Antrim in the semi-finals and 18 points was the difference against the Glensmen.

The Cork players before facing Offaly in Thurles in 1984.
The Cork players before facing Offaly in Thurles in 1984.

This Offaly team were a totally unknown quantity to Cork, as this was the first championship meeting between the two teams. Offaly’s performances in that year’s Leinster championship were impressive, as they beat Wexford and Dublin. They faced Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final and they outscored the Tribesmen by 14 points.

UNIQUE

Cork prepared for the game behind ‘closed doors’ at Ursuline Convent in Thurles. The unique preparations seemed to pay off as Cork scored the first point of the game through John Fenton, who converted a free in the first minute. It took Offaly five minutes to respond and when they did, Pat Carroll put the sliotar over from open play.

The Faithful County went in front from a point and Cork hit three wides in a row. Tony O’Sullivan levelled things up but Pat Delaney put over a 65 and that put Offaly back into the lead.

The first half played out as an exhibition in scoring, with both teams exchanging points. Offaly went into a 0-6 to 0-4 lead during this period of the game, and then Seánie O'Leary knocked in the first goal of the game. This followed close link-up play between the left corner-forward and Jimmy Barry-Murphy, and this edged Cork in front. Tomás Mulcahy got the final point of the first half and Cork went into the break with a slender one-point advantage over Offaly.

Jimmy Barry-Murphy celebrating his goal against Offaly in Thurles in 1984. 
Jimmy Barry-Murphy celebrating his goal against Offaly in Thurles in 1984. 

The restart saw the Rebels put over five unanswered points and Kevin Hennessy scored the second goal of the final. They ended up with a 10-point cushion and for the first time since 1978, Cork had one hand on the Liam MacCarthy Cup. 

Even when Pat Delaney converted a 65, the Rebels remained dominant. They went straight up the pitch from the restart and Seánie O'Leary hit the back of the net.

Offaly never recovered from the tally Cork racked up in the second half, and they were left with a late goal from Mark Corrigan as some form of consolation. The puck-out from a point scored by Pat Hartnett coincided with the full-time whistle.

Cork’s All-Ireland triumph satisfied the city and it gave warmth to a city that would be further decimated by unemployment that winter. 

That November, Verolme shut its doors and 500 people were out of work going into Christmas. 

Times were grim but sport, and Cork’s All-Ireland triumph, gave them some sense of comfort.

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