Throwback Thursday: Cork hurlers were a force of nature in 2005

Liam MacCarthy was retained by the Rebels 17 years ago, inspired by Man of the Match Ben O'Connor
Throwback Thursday: Cork hurlers were a force of nature in 2005

Cork's Ben O'Connor hammers home his goal against Galway at Croke Park. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

IT'S 17 years ago this month since Cork defeated Galway 1-21 to 1-16 in the All-Ireland hurling final at Croke Park.

The Rebels' five-point victory retained Liam MacCarthy and it ignited a frenzy across Leeside.

Not only were Cork All-Ireland champions, but it was the midway point of a glorious year for everyone associated with sport on Leeside.

To fully understand what happened, one needs to rewind the clock to when Cork faced Tipperary in the Munster final on June 26. The Rebels went into the game after edging out Waterford by two points in the semi-finals, and they were eager to add a provincial title to their list of honours. Cork had won the All-Ireland in 2004 but a Munster title was missing.

The Rebels had lost the previous final to Waterford, and they buried that ghost by defeating Tipperary by five points.

That qualified Cork for the semi-finals, where they beat Clare by a point at Croke Park. On the other side of the draw, one goal saw Galway beat Kilkenny.

HISTORIC

The final gave Cork a rare chance to make history. The Rebels hadn’t retained Liam MacCarthy since 1978 and they were the third team from Leeside to qualify for an All-Ireland final that year.

The other teams were the camogie players and the ladies footballers. This meant that Cork could win a unique treble in GAA, provided they beat Galway.

If this wasn’t enough, Cork City were fighting for the Premier Division title in the League of Ireland. Munster had also won the Celtic Cup with a team containing a number of players from Leeside, including Ronan O'Gara, Peter Stringer and Donncha O'Callaghan.

While some places were dreaming of one of their teams winning a trophy, Cork was on the cusp of winning almost everything.

The hurling final was a familiar occasion to the panel. The spine of the team; including captain Seán Óg Ó hAilpín, first tasted All-Ireland glory in 1999. They picked up their second winners medal in 2004 after collecting Munster titles in 2000 and 2003.

The excitement was enhanced by Cork’s perfect record against Galway in All-Ireland finals.

The Rebels fed off the momentum and they cruised into a 0-4 to 0-1 lead inside 10 minutes. 

Cork's Diarmuid O'Sullivan bursting through Galway's David Forde in 2005. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Cork's Diarmuid O'Sullivan bursting through Galway's David Forde in 2005. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

The midfield of Timmy McCarthy, Tom Kenny and Jerry O'Connor dominated the centre of the pitch and controlled the game for the Rebels. In the 16th minute, Ben O’Connor drove in the first goal and Cork gained an early six-point cushion.

Galway slowly chipped away at Cork’s lead and they should have scored a goal through Alan Kerins, but his shot was excellently saved by Donal Óg Cusack.

The Tribesmen’s comeback mission was helped by Ger Farragher’s free-taking, which added two points to their first-half tally.

As Cork adjusted to deal with Galway’s resurgence, Joe Deane began to struggle against corner-back Damien Joyce.

The small problems manifested in just a two-point lead for the Rebels at half-time. John Allen’s team charged out and scored three points in a seven-minute period after the restart.

Galway continued to pick away at little openings and this paid off in the 48th minute when Damien Hayes put the sliotar into the path of a charging Richie Murray. 

The forward’s shot was saved by a charging Donal Óg Cusack and the ball went back to Murray, who tapped it in under Diarmuid O’Sullivan to make it 1-14 to 1-13.

It became a point game, with both sides going exchanging scores in the final 20 minutes of the All-Ireland final.

Tom Kenny ended this pattern of play by putting the sliotar over from open play and this gave Cork a two-point advantage with 16 minutes left.

Cork defender John Gardiner solos out of defence in 2005. Picture: Des Barry
Cork defender John Gardiner solos out of defence in 2005. Picture: Des Barry

The Rebels held a three-point lead in the final five minutes and Jerry O'Connor added to this with a long-range drive from just inside the Cork half.

Man of the Match Ben O’Connor’s final score of the game gave him a personal tally of 1-7 and it pushed his team five points in front of Galway.

The Tribesmen did nothing to reduce the gap in the two minutes of injury time, and with seventeen seconds added on, the referee blew his whistle and Cork were crowned All-Ireland champions.

Seán Óg lifted Liam MacCarthy for the Rebels, who had just won back-to-back titles for the first time since the 1970s.

Cork captain Seán Óg Ó hAilpín raises the Liam MacCarthy Cup after the 2005 All-Ireland final at Croke Park. Picture: Des Barry
Cork captain Seán Óg Ó hAilpín raises the Liam MacCarthy Cup after the 2005 All-Ireland final at Croke Park. Picture: Des Barry

In his speech, the Cork captain wrote his name into the GAA history books by talking about the game and his childhood on Leeside and Fiji.

The following night, thousands of people from all across Cork lined the streets of the city centre to see Liam McCarthy’s homecoming. 

The celebrations were short lived, as there were still two more All-Ireland finals to come for the people of Cork.

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