Throw Back Thursday: The Canon O’Brien Cup was a success from the start 

Game remembers all that the great man contributed to hurling in Cork, writes Dylan O’Connell
Throw Back Thursday: The Canon O’Brien Cup was a success from the start 

Blackrock coach Canon Michael O'Brien during training for the Cork County S.H.C. final. Picture Denis Minihane.

TEN years ago this week, Cork defeated UCC 3-20 to 1-16 in the inaugural Canon O’Brien Cup game at the Mardyke.

The fixture was also part of the preliminary round of that year’s Waterford Crystal Cup and the victory qualified Jimmy Barry Murphy’s team for the quarter finals, where Waterford Institute of Technology awaited.

That prize was secondary as people from all across Cork gathered at the Mardyke to celebrate the achievements and legacy of Canon O’Brien, a mammoth figure in the sporting story of the county and college.

It was him who masterminded Cork’s 1990 All-Ireland triumph over Galway, which was part of the historic hurling and football double. 

It was Canon O’Brien who led UCC who eight consecutive Fitzgibbon Cup titles from 1981-88, and two more in 1990 and 1991. 

Waterford Crystal Cup Preliminary Round, The Mardyke, Cork 19/1/2013
Waterford Crystal Cup Preliminary Round, The Mardyke, Cork 19/1/2013

The Canon also delivered five Harty Cups to Farranferris and three All-Irelands to the school, with the final piece of national glory arriving in 1974.

His medal collection was finished off with a sprinkling of county titles that were won with Blackrock, Argideen Rangers, and Ballinhassig.

If this wasn’t enough for the priest, he even beat Republic of Ireland manager Jack Charlton to the title of Philips Sports Manager of the Year in 1990. 

That award was shared with football manager Billy Morgan, who completed the historic double that September with a two point win over Meath.

The Canon closed out the 1990s by winning another Cork Senior Hurling Championship with Blackrock. 

He had a marathon life from a GAA perspective and his namesake cup was cited as the perfect way to commemorate his long and all-encompassing legacy.

The game took on extra significance for Patrick Cronin as it was the first one he was set to captain Cork in. 

The centre forward was fresh from leading Bishopstown to the final of the Cork Senior Hurling Championship and he was starting his seventh year with his county’s senior team. 

The pressure was on Cronin that January as he took over leadership duties after tallying 1-44 for Bishopstown and 1-15 for Cork in 2012.

It was future inter-county star Seamus Harnedy who took control of the game as he hit over three points in the opening half, and this gave UCC a 0-9 to 0-8 lead. 

Corner-forwards Patrick Horgan and Paudie O’Sullivan then combined to raise successive green flags for Cork and that gave the inter-county side a cushion that they never looked like relinquishing.

The half-time whistle resulted in a 2-9 to 0-10 score-line in favour of Cork and Rob O’Shea added to this just after the restart. 

UCC edged back into it thanks to Harnedy, who put over his fourth point, and Willie Griffin’s one goal and two points. 

This reduced Cork’s lead to just two points with eighteen minutes left on the clock at the Mardyke.

The Rebels held their nerve and held out to win the first Canon O’Brien Cup by ten points on a grey Saturday afternoon at the Mardyke. 

Cork manager Jimmy Barry Murphy immediately praised the result as morale boosting for his team as they got ready for the league opener against Tipperary at Páirc Uí Rinn.

 Alan Cadogan (Douglas) in action for Cork against UCC defender Killian O'Dwyer (Killenaule). Pic: Larry Cummins 
Alan Cadogan (Douglas) in action for Cork against UCC defender Killian O'Dwyer (Killenaule). Pic: Larry Cummins 

He said: “I thought some of them were excellent. We’re trying to build the panel and it’s reviewed on an on-going basis; we’ll keep doing that. 

"We don’t get everything right, it’s obviously a work-in-progress. It’s going to be a hard year. I’ve already said I don’t think we made massive progress last year. 

"We took small steps, that’s how I look at it, we’re not patting ourselves on the back or anything. 

"There’s great morale in the camp, lads are working very well together and training well.” 

If Cork’s goal was improving on 2012; when they lost the opening game of the Munster championship by a point to Tipperary and the All-Ireland semi-final to Galway, they totally flipped the script in 2013.

The Rebels started the year by reaching the semi-finals of the Waterford Crystal Cup and they qualified for their first Munster final since 2010. Even though Limerick beat them to the Mick Mackey Cup at the Gaelic Grounds, Cork came through the back door by beating Dublin and Kilkenny and this qualified them for their first All-Ireland final since 2006.

If a dominant early season win to set the tone for the year is what Jimmy Barry Murphy wanted against UCC, that is exactly what he got in the inaugural edition of the Canon O’Brien Cup.

As for UCC, they picked themselves up and went on to retain the Fitzgibbon Cup by beating Mary Immaculate College 2-17 to 2-12 in the final, an achievement not done by the college since 1997/98.

The first ever Canon O’Brien Cup was an instant success as everyone benefited from the game at the Mardyke.

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