After Echo readers voted in their thousands, Tom Cashman came out on top in the Battle of The Bridge.
The online competition featured 32 city hurlers – 16 northside and 16 southside – with Cashman overcoming Gerald McCarthy in the final.
A winner of four All-Ireland hurling medals, there was an added dimension to the Blackrock man’s haul in that he appeared in three different positions in his successful final appearances. Initially, he was midfield for the second and third legs of the 1976-78 three-in-a-row; then, in 1984 he was right half-back and in 1986 he captained the Rebels to glory from centre-back. Throw in a late 1970s stint at number 12 and his versatility is further underlined.
Prior to that, Cashman had won a minor All-Ireland double with Cork in 1974 as well as helping the county to U21 hurling glory in 1976 and winning the county SHC with Blackrock in 1975.
Despite his tender years, he displayed real maturity in the senior team – in 1977 and 1978, he was the Munster final man of the match and he ended both years with All-Star Awards. While Cork lost the 1982 and 1983 finals, he won a third All-Star in ’83 and was integral for the 1984 centenary win.
With the Rockies, further county senior titles were added in 1978, 1979 and 1985, the latter victory earning him the Cork captaincy for 1986. After an eighth Munster medal was secured, Cork made it to the All-Ireland final against Galway, whom they had lost to in the 1985 semi-final, but the tables were turned in the decider as Cashman won his fourth Celtic Cross.
Later, he would serve as a selector as Jimmy Barry-Murphy led Cork to win the 1999 All-Ireland and then he became manager after JBM’s departure. As a player, his legacy was secured with selection on the Cork hurling Team of the Millennium.
Blackrock club secretary Fergal Coakley certainly believes Cashman is worthy of the praise.
“You’d hesitate to call someone a living legend,” he says, “but he is one of that 1970s team that won it all.
“Obviously, time catches up with us all but he’s held in the highest regard. He’s considered a huge star in the GAA in terms of what he’s won – I think there’s only one competition he never won, a league title underage or something like that.
“He played in 1971 when the Féile was held for the first time and Blackrock won it. It was U15 then, as it’s gone back to now, but they were all 14-year-olds and they won it.
“He’s a very quiet, unassuming kind of fella. If he walked into the club, you wouldn’t have any idea that he’s one of the club’s greatest-ever players.”
Cashman’s longevity underlined his class.
“He was one of the best players of his generation,” Coakley says.
“Himself and Dermot McCurtain came on to that Cork team in 1977 when they were only 20 or 21. They both slotted in there and I’d say they never lost their places again.
“Bearing in mind the company he was keeping, Tom was part of the backbone of a really strong Blackrock team and an iconic player from that era.
“If you start thinking of that team, it’s the two Ray Cummins, it’s Frank Cummins, it’s John Horgan, it’s Tom Cashman. They’re the four that would spring to mind immediately and that’s doing a disservice to the rest of the team, who were all great players.
“He’s definitely one of the all-time club icons."
By 1999, Cashman was one of the selectors under Jimmy Barry-Murphy as Cork ended a nine-year wait for the All-Ireland SHC title. The following year, Cork retained Munster with Fergal Ryan as captain, Blackrock having ended a 14-year drought in 1999.
Ryan was someone who admired Cashman as a player when he was growing up.
“In that era, when I was growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, Blackrock had a lot of big names and big players,” he says.
“I wouldn’t say he was before his team but he had an abundance of skill and reading of the game. He was definitely one of my idols as a kid.
“He was definitely someone to look up to, given that I played in the half-back line but I certainly didn’t have the skill he had! Later on then, he was involved in teams I played on, for Blackrock and Cork.”
Having played under Cashman when he was a selector, and later Cork manager, Ryan knew that there wouldn’t be talking for the sake of it. However, the words that came carried some heft.
“By his nature, he’s a bit quieter,” he says, “but, when he speaks then, you know he’s getting a point across and you listen.
“Brian Corcoran was similar – he never said a huge amount but when he did say something, you listened, and Tom was the same.
“He wasn’t talking for the sake of it, he doesn’t have a big ego that he needs to hear himself shouting – or you need to hear him shouting.
“He’s got something to say when he talks, that’s the way Tom is. He doesn’t feel he has to command a situation or a room in front of a few players, he’s not that type to shout or roar.
“Jim is kind of similar, another fella who doesn’t need to be shouting and roaring or looking to be in the limelight. You’ve the nephews involved too – Jim’s sons Niall and John Cashman and Carol Cashman is the mother of Alan and Gavin Connolly – and they’re the same, maybe apart from Gavin, but goalkeepers are different!”
Ultimately, those qualities are what resonated with the voters.
“Tom came out on top because that’s the way lots of people see him,” Ryan says.
“Loads of class, loads of hurling, well able to read the game and went about his job grand and quietly, without any fuss.”