Throwback Thursday: O’Donovan Rossa made history for club and county with All-Ireland run

Dylan O’Connell harks back to 30 years ago when O’Donovan Rossa became the first West Cork club to get to an All-Ireland Club Football final
Throwback Thursday: O’Donovan Rossa made history for club and county with All-Ireland run

Mick McCarthyproudly leading the great O'Donovan Rossa team in the parade when he captained the side to win their historic All-Ireland. Picture: Denis Minihane.

THIRTY years ago this week, O’Donovan Rossa overcame Lavey 2-10 to 0-04 and they became the first club from west Cork to qualify for the All-Ireland Senior Club Football Championship final.

It was a historic moment for a part of the county that has produced some of the best footballers but, up until that point, had never seen one of its own parishes represented on St Patrick’s Day.

The victory was long-awaited, especially with the only titles from the competition in Cork being held by Nemo Rangers and St Finbarr’s, who both come from the city.

1993 was O’Donovan Rossa’s time and they represented everyone from west Cork as they travelled up to Dean McGlinchey Park for the All-Ireland semi-final. 

They went north looking to go one better than the last club from their region to get that far in the competition, a talented Castlehaven outfit that lost out to Wicklow’s Baltinglass by just two points.

O’Donovan Rossa’s achievement was rooted in the communal nature of west Cork’s small towns and its unique sense of localism. 

The panel featured three of the Davis brothers; Tony, Pat, and Don. It also included goalkeeper Kevin O’Dwyer and corner forward Neville Murphy, two veterans of the St Fachtna's De La Salle team that won the Corn Uí Mhuirí and Hogan Cup 1991. 

The most high-profile player in the group was Michael McCarthy, who started at left corner-forward for Cork in the 1990 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship final against Meath.

McCarthy embodied everything about O’Donovan Rossa’s journey, as he joined the club as a child and graduated to their first team while they were still playing intermediate football. 

He experienced defeat in two successive finals at that grade in 1983 and 1984, and then success against Glanmire in 1985. 


McCarthy made sure O’Donovan Rossa established themselves amongst the senior ranks, and in 1992 they got to their first-ever final.

He almost single-handily drove their team bus from west Cork to Páirc Uí Chaoimh as he kicked over 3-21 during their run to the final. 

McCarthy tallied five points during their 2-09 to 0-10 victory over Nemo Rangers, and that delivered the Andy Scannell Cup to Skibbereen.

There was no relent from the panel as they went into the Munster championship and beat Newcastle West, Dr Crokes, and St Senan's. 

This gave them their second senior title of the year while putting the club into the All Ireland semi-finals.

To O’Donovan Rossa, it was an adventure that was taking a small parish across the country as they sought untold riches. 

The O'Donovan Rossa before their All-Ireland club football success against Éire Óg, Carlow, at Croke Park in 1993. Picture: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE
The O'Donovan Rossa before their All-Ireland club football success against Éire Óg, Carlow, at Croke Park in 1993. Picture: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE

As for Lavey, it was about getting back to Croke Park and adding more medals to an already glistening collection. 

The Derry side had won the All-Ireland championship in 1991 and those memories were still fresh in the panel’s head. 

There was also a feeling of unfinished business in the group as they relinquished their crown by failing to win 1991’s Derry Senior Football Championship.

What played out was a testing, and sometimes bruising, game in front of 6,000 spectators at Dean McGlinchey Park. 

Lavey went for force on the day and that ended up with two players sent off in the opening fourteen minutes. 

Their style led to a number of frees that McCarthy converted at each attempt and O’Donovan Rossa took a very early four-point lead.

As sometimes is the case when a team is reduced in numbers, the dismissals galvanised Lavey and they fought back, a comeback mission that cut the Cork club’s cushion to three at the break.

Everything changed at the start of the second half as left corner-back Frank McCarthy denied his Lavey counterpart, Colm McGurk, a goal. 

The suddenness of the stop marked a shift in momentum that settled O’Donovan Rossa’s nerves and knocked any growing sense of confidence that Lavey’s players had.

They used this period of the game to get two goals, and when a penalty was given against them, O’Dwyer put this over the bar for Lavey’s only point of the second half. 

O’Donovan Rossa ended that period of the game with 2-4 scored, a tally more than enough to win the game itself. 

McCarthy finished off with 1-9, and that made him the semi-final’s top scorer.

O’Donovan Rossa were through to the All-Ireland final, and the news led to celebrations all across Skibbereen and west Cork.

On St Patrick’s Day, they faced Carlow’s Éire Óg and the two teams drew 1-12 to 3-6 at Croke Park. 

O’Donovan Rossa won the replay 11 days later by two points at the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick. 

That completed a long campaign, one that began in May 1992 against Imokilly at Páirc Uí Chaoimh, and saw the Andy Merrigan Cup go to west Cork for the first, and to date, only time.

More in this section

Sponsored Content

Echo 130Echo 130


Read all about the monthly winner’s and more.
Click Here


Podcast: 1000 Cork songs 
Singer/songwriter Jimmy Crowley talks to John Dolan

Listen Here

Add to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more