The Avondhu - By The Fireside
This year marks the 31st anniversary of Cork’s historic double win in the All-Ireland senior hurling and football finals. 1990 is a year never to be forgotten in the Rebel County when both Liam MacCarthy and Sam Maguire cups were brought home by the boys in red and white. 2021 also 131 years since Cork’s first ever All-Ireland title.
It was November 16, 1890 and a Cork hurling team, Aghabullogue travelled to Dublin to take on Wexford side, Castlebridge.
This was a time in GAA history when clubs that won their county finals went on to represent their county at All-Ireland level and this was the case with Aghabullogue, who won the 1890 Cork County hurling championship. From there they went straight into the Munster hurling final where they beat Kerry side, Kilmoyley and then went on to the All-Ireland hurling final.
The All-Ireland hurling final took place at Clonturk Park on Dublin’s Northside where a crowd of up to 1,000 witnessed the Cork and Wexford clubs slog it out for All-Ireland glory.
BROKEN TOE OR NO
The Aghabullogue boys turned out in their club colours of green and white. Their jerseys were resplendent while their breeches were dazzling white and all twenty one players wore green caps. They surely looked the part except for their feet - they were bare!
Cork entered the field of play that cold afternoon tagged as underdogs, but as soon as Limerick referee John Sheehy threw in the sliotar, the lads from the Rebel County proved all the experts wrong.
Although they were in their bare feet the Cork side proved lightning quick. The Wexford side were a lot slower, but for their slowness they made up for in brutality. Both sides played 21-a-side, as were the rules in those days and as you can imagine, the pitch looked fairly crowded!
As the first half went into full swing Cork were dominant on the ball. Wexford were unable to keep up with Cork’s fast pace of ground hurling and when Cork were beginning to register scores the boys of Wexford decided to unleash unsporting tactics.
Jer Henchion tormented the Wexford backs so three of their players were assigned to mark him, but they failed to bring down the big man no matter how they swiped and slashed at him. Tim O’Connor was not as lucky as he suffered a broken toe when one Wexford player unmercifully brought his hurley down on his foot. O’Connor limped to the sideline where his banjaxed toe was tended to and, after applying some dressing to it, he was sprung onto the field of play again!
At half-time Cork were leading Wexford 1-3 to 0-1.
After a brief rest on the grass at the sideline the two sides went head to head for the second half, with Wexford instantly targeting their opponents with sheer and utter violence.
Only minutes into the game and Cork already had eight players injured. Through their brutal style of play Wexford scored two goals, but many of the Cork players pleaded with the referee to warn Wexford about their violent disorder. The referee ignored their calls until he was approached by captain Dan Lane, who informed him that he was taking his players off the pitch before any more harm could come to them. Sheehy agreed to call a halt to the game and blew the whistle as Cork were leading 1-6 to 2-2.
The referee awarded the game to Cork and asked the Central Council to ratify his decision, which they duly did a week later, thus securing Cork’s first ever AllIreland hurling title.
It was without doubt a match won on controversial terms but as noted in The Freemans Journal: “Wexford played a reckless game while Cork were a more faster and skilful set of players.”
Cork finished the game with 8 injured players, 4 of which were seriously injured and suffered for years after.
When the All-Ireland champions arrived back in Cork by train, there were no crowds to greet them, no pipe band, no fanfare at all. The players quietly disembarked and made their way back to Aghabullouge unaware of how historic their achievement was!
Cork’s first All-Ireland winning hurling team: Dan Lane (captain), Jer Henchion, Tom Twomey, John Buckley, Pat Buckley, Dan Sullivan, Dan Drew, John Linehan, Dan Linehan, Tom Goode, Denis Horgan, Michael Horgan, James O’Reilly, Tady O’Connor, Pat O’Riordan, Ger Sullivan, Dan Looney, John Kelleher, Pat O’Riordan, E. Reilly, Tim O’Connor.