Setanta Ó hAilpín v Alan Browne: Vote for Cork's best city hurlers

In the Battle of the Bridge, the Echo is asking you to pick your favourite players since 1972 north and south of the River Lee
Setanta Ó hAilpín v Alan Browne: Vote for Cork's best city hurlers

Have your say in The Battle of the Bridge.

WITH your help, we’re looking to pick the best hurler from either side of St Patrick's Bridge from the last 50 years of action.

The Echo has pitched some of Cork’s finest hurling stars from the northside and southside of Cork city together for a series of fun head-to-head battles. Your votes will decide who goes through and you can see the full list of 16 northside and 16 southside players here.

Today's match-up is Setanta Ó hAilpín v Alan Browne.

SETANTA Ó HAILPÍN (Na Piarsaigh):

SOME hurlers have long and distinguished careers, others not so long but whether long or short it’s their contribution that really matters.

Setanta Ó hAilpín was one player who achieved much in a career that was all too short when he decided to join Carlton in the Aussie Rules League. His loss to Na Piarsaigh and Cork was their gain but he certainly left his mark on Gaelic Games before he emigrated.

One of Cork’s stars in their march to the 2003 All-Ireland final which was lost to the old foe from Noreside. In all of Cork’s games that year he was hugely influential, against Clare and Waterford in Munster and Wexford in the All-Ireland semi-final.

In that year he was honoured as an All-Star and with the Young Hurler of the Year award. He was a star as Na Piarsaigh regained the Cork SHC title in 2004, alongside brothers Seán Óg and Aisake when Cloyne had to give best in the decider.

Setanta was described as the ‘complete package’, the potential to be the game’s next superstar. He was a man to get big goals, inspirational points and win frees.

As a forward, he was a huge handful for opposing defenders, his skill and mobility making him a huge threat. 

When Piarsaigh won the county in 2004 which led to his brother Seán Óg captaining Cork to glory a year later he was a huge presence as they swept to glory. He described lining out in that final as a huge personal honour, to be alongside his brothers on a great day for the club.

Na Piarsaigh Setanta Ó hAilpín gathers the ball from Castlelyons' William O'Riordan. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Na Piarsaigh Setanta Ó hAilpín gathers the ball from Castlelyons' William O'Riordan. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

He played minor, U21 with Cork, Fitzgibbon Cup with WIT, and excelled as a footballer too. He was seen as a massive loss to the game when his move to Australia was confirmed but that loss for the county was offset by the return of Brian Corcoran who so superbly filled the void left by Setanta.

In fact, Cork were All-Ireland winners a year later but what a nightmare it would have been for defenders if the two of them featured together in the red jersey. 

Setanta made a huge mark in a shortened hurling career and he certainly packed a lot into it in that time. Without doubt, he possessed all the attributes to be one of the game’s greats with his range of skills, athleticism and aerial ability.

ALAN BROWNE (Blackrock):

OVER a 20-year period, from 1992-2011, Alan Browne played 71 championship games for Blackrock. 

In those games, he accounted for a scoring output of 33-219 – and bear in mind that the Rockies didn’t reach a county final between 1986 and 1998, or again from 2003 until 2017.

There was a purple patch for the club in the late 1990s and early 2000s, as a 14-year wait for the Seán Óg Murphy Cup was ended and three titles were put together in a four-year period from 1999-2002. 

It’s not an exaggeration to say that that success might not have been achieved without Browne’s input.

Against UCC in the 1999 final, he scored 2-2, having notched 1-1 in the defeat to Imokilly the year before. In the 2001 final against Erin’s Own, he scored 3-8, a record; and when the title was retained against Newtownshandrum in 2002, he scored 1-4. 

Alan Browne scores against Imokilly in 2001. Picture: Gerard McCarthy 
Alan Browne scores against Imokilly in 2001. Picture: Gerard McCarthy 

The fact that Newtown held him scoreless a year later and turned the tables on Blackrock was hardly a coincidence.

We haven’t even mentioned his exploits for Cork yet: just 18 when he made his debut against Limerick in the league in 1994, he came into a Rebels side that was misfiring in the mid-1990s but he scored one of the goals as Waterford were beaten in the 1998 National League final, a key victory in terms of laying a foundation for the All-Ireland win the following year.

Cork played four championship matches in 1999 and Browne didn’t start any of them – however, he was introduced as a sub in each one of them and had such an impact that he was nominated for an All-Star Award along with Kevin Murray, also used solely from the bench.

By 2000, he had regained a place in the starting 15 and played a key role in the Munster final win over Tipperary.

When, at the end of 2002, the Cork panel felt the need to go on strike, it was notable that Browne was one of those involved in the initial press conference and also in securing a deal with Cork County Board. With the team back on the field in 2003, he was captain and lifted the Munster Cup after victory over Waterford, giving him a third provincial medal.

The All-Ireland final defeat to Kilkenny was to prove to be his last match for Cork, meaning he just missed out on the victories of the following two years – but he had done his county some service.

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