St Finbarr's GAA Club 1966 - 2010

‌Words and images courtesy of Plunkett Carter.

St Nick 's were definitely a bogey team to the Blues as, twelvemonths later, they repeated the dose when scraping home by a single point. Even though Barr’s failed to retain their hurling crown it turned out to be an amazing year with wild scenes being witnessed in the Lough Parish watering holes. The cause of the celebration was a victory for Cork hurlers, captained by Gerald Mac, who in 1966 bridged a 12 year gap when surprisingly defeating Kilkenny in the All-Ireland final. Peter Doolan and Denis Murphy got the medals they craved and youngsters Tony Connolly and Charlie Mac were others who dazzled in Croker. Rochie who gained his first Celtic Cross as a sub against the Noresiders was, along with Gerald (capt) and Charlie on the Cork team which triumphed over Galway in the u21 decider. Brian McKeon  and Tony Maher who played in defeat of Limerick in the Munster final were subs.

 Barr’s were on course to retain their crown when dismissing the Glen’s challenge in the second round. However, they came up against a Seanie Barry inspired UCC in the semi-final and were beaten by seven points. In 1967 they experienced the agony and the ecstasy. The ecstasy when they brought the 1966 Munster Club Championship home for the first time with a resounding win over Mount Sion (Waterford). The agony being their failure to prevent the Glen’s coming of age – a 21st Senior County. Inspired by Gerald Mac and Peter Doolan  Barr’s  contributed  greatly to a wonderful final played in atrocious conditions. In contrast the following year’s final was played in brilliant sunshine and the Blues, captained by Jim Power, regained their title with a two point win 5-9 to 1-19 over gallant Imokilly. Barr’s were knocked out  by UCC in 1969. Seamus Looney who won his first county with the  Blues in ’68 was one of the College stars.

Senior County Hurling Champions 1968

St Finbarr's: Senior County Hurling Champions 1968

 J Power, M Bohane, M McCormack, D Murphy, T Connolly, A Maher, C Roche, G McCarthy, S Looney, T Kirby, B Scully, C McCarthy, C Cullinane, M Archer, B Kenneally. Sub: P  Freeney.

 Surprisingly, there was no championship joy for the Barr’s  in 1970 as both hurlers and footballs departed early. A surprise because the Blues hurlers were laden with inter-county stars,  having contributed six – Tony Maher, Con Roche, Gerald Mac, Seamus Looney, Charlie Cullinane and Charlie Mac - to the side which helped Cork defeat Wexford in the All-Ireland final. Tony Maher was named Munster Hurler of the Year emulating Denis Murphy who received the accolade in ’69. 1971 was a momentous year as all but two counties voted to delete rule 27 (the Ban). At the Cork convention a motion to delete the Ban was proposed (not for the first time) by the Barr’s.  Mick Archer contributed 3-1 of the  tally when the Glen were defeated in the county semi earning qualification to meet the Rockies, for the first time  in 42 years, in the final. It was to be a first championship final for minor player Jimmy Barry Murphy who went on to become one of the greatest dual players in the Association’s history. It was a final with too much tension resulting in unruly episodes and a very acrimonious battle ended with the title going down to the fishing village. A subsequent County Board enquiry resulted in Charlie Cullinane, Bertie O’Brien and  Denis McCarthy of the Barr’s  along with  Simon Murphy and John Horgan (Blackrock) receiving suspensions. Charlie Mac, Tony Maher, Pat Geary, and Brendan Cummins were cautioned. However, a decision to suspend Gerald McCarthy (a player who had  never been sent off in an illustrious career) for one year was widely condemned. At a banquet later in the year Tony Maher became the first from the club to receive a GAA All-Star award.

The Annual GAA Congress was held in the St Finbarr’s Pavilion in 1972 – the first time it was held outside Dublin. The ladies of the Parish, no doubt imbued with a new pride in their club and the association,  reformed the camogie section and this time they were determined to stay the distance. Barr’s had more than a point to prove when they met Blackrock in round two of the ’72 county. The bitter fires of the previous meeting were still smouldering and the Barr’s gained sweet revenge when banishing the champions from the title race with a resounding 6-11 to 1-14 victory. Unfortunately, they left that form behind when decisively defeated by Glen Rovers in the semi-final. Jimmy Barry Murphy, a promising soccer player in his school days, experimented with the garrison game for a few months and as a consequence was omitted by the  selectors until restating his first allegiance to the club. He was back for key clashes with respective county champions Nemo and Glen. Nemo were defeated in a close low scoring encounter while the hurling clash will be remembered for Con Roche’s amazing equalising point - ref Frank Murphy informed Rochie that his 100 yard free was to be the last puck of the hour. His shot sailed between the posts and into the Atlantic Pond. Many unsavoury incidents resulted in the teams finishing the game with 13 players. Even though the Ban was gone players were ordered by clubs to refrain from playing other games. Not all concurred and  Barr’s lined out for the replay without the talismanic Rochie who had ignored orders when helping Flannery’s in a Pub League soccer match. The fundamentalists had their supporters but liberals (mainly supporters) felt they were cutting off their nose to spite their face.  Glen won 4-13 to 3-10.Cork won their first All-Ireland Senior Football since 1945 when they defeated Galway and a key figure was Jimmy Barry Murphy who netted twice for the rebels.

All Ireland, Munster and Cork Hurling Champions 1974 and 1975

St Finbarr's: All Ireland, Munster and Cork Hurling Champions 1974 and 1975

Front: C McCarthy, T Butler, S Gillen, M Murphy (chairman0, J Power (capt), C Neenan (pres),  M Archer, G McCarthy, J O’Shea, C Myers. Middle: B Scully, T Maher, J Barry Murphy, D O’Grady, M O’Mahony, C Cullinane,  S Canty, B Wylie, B O’Brien, C Barrett, E Fitzpatrick, C Roche. Back: john Barry Murphy, J Twomey, M Kennefick (coach), J Murphy, J Mehegan, P Canton (sec), M Finn (treas), D O’Driscoll, V O’Riordan, D Cremin, T Mullane, P Doolan. Insets: J McCarthy, S Looney, D Burns.

 Barr’s met Blackrock at the Mardyke in the 1974 County final and the men from the fishing village were installed as favourites, mainly as a result of  the doubts surrounding the fitness of many of the  Barr’s stars. One  supporter, a super optimist, had no fears; “Barr’s men would rise from their graves to play the Rockies”, he said.  Not unexpectedly Barr’s  lined out almost at full-strength and Michael Ellard of the Cork Examiner summed it all up, “the golden day at last dawned for the wounded warriors of St Finbarr’s  when they confounded the critics, tore the form book to shreds and sent pre-match verdicts haywire with a sweeter than sweet victory over champions Blackrock in a stirring County Senior Hurling Championship Final. And who could blame them as they trooped from the scene of their magnificent triumph with the Sean Óg Cup firmly in their grasp for the first time since 1968.” Rochie was back in favour again and Ellard, nominating him as Man of the Match, said, “for over 40 mins Roche with a heavily strapped knee was immobile. He amazed the spectators with his sudden revival – a Lazarus of Sport. But it was human not divine intervention that led to the metamorphosis (what a word) of Con Roche. After being taunted by a Rockies man the injured Roche, who was lying on the ground, sprung up and “bate” ball after ball into the opposing half to inspire a famous victory.  Barr’s had stars in every sector, the big names being inspired by the non stop aggression of lads like Eamon Fitzpatrick, Barry Wiley, Bertie O’Brien, Denis Burns, Sean Canty and Jerry O’Shea. Barr’s went on to win the Munster Club title defeating Newmarket on Fergus. Played in mid January the game was more a test of stamina and endurance than of skill. Nearly everyone remembers that day mainly because of the horrific shin bone injury suffered by Bernard Scully which brought his career to an end. They went on to claim their first All-Ireland Club title defeating a star-studded Fenians (Kilkenny) which included Nicky Orr, Pat Henderson, Pat Delaney and Billy Fitzpatrick in their side. There were four Fitzpatricks on the field the best of whom was the lone Barr’s star Eamon. JBM stole the show and the so called “lesser lights” like Charlie Barrett and Tony Butler outshone most others. JBM stayed in Dublin and netted a record breaking four goals as Munster defeated Ulster in the Inter-pro and was later (too late) introduced as a sub for the hurlers beaten by Leinster. Could you imagine an All-Ireland Club Championship winning side being defeated by Seandún?  Of course not! But Seandún had previously knocked the  county holders off their perch and nothing was impossible. They caused the greatest upset in the history of the Cork Senior Hurling championship when ushering the famous Blues out the door. Could the footballers save the year? They were quietly fancied to do so but, despite being the better team for 57 minutes, they lost out to Nemo in a semi-final replay. There definitely was a county in that squad and twelve months later they celebrated when defeating gallant St Michael’s to bring the cup back to Togher for the first time since 1959. The year had an unhappy ending as with the Munster Club title, seemingly, in the bag they were mugged by Austin Stacks in Tralee. Leading by a point with seconds remaining they conceded a penalty deep in injury time which Mikey Sheehy scored.

Senior County Football Champion 1976

St Finbarr's: Senior County Football Champion 1976
Back: T Veale, S O’Sullivan, J Spillane, T O’Sullivan, M O’Sullivan, L Hodnett,  A Sheehy, T Redmond, D Hurley. Inset: P Lougheed. Middle: F Twomey, D Burns, O McCarthy, D Brosnan, J McCarthy, B O’Brien, T Goulding, B  Collins, J Cremin, R Kenny, C Ryan. Front; T Butler, Des O’Grady, C Myers, Donal O’Grady, C Neenan, J Barry Murphy, J O’Driscoll, N Aherne, E Fitzpatrick, G McCarthy, J O’Callaghan.

“The McCarthys,  Charlie and Gerald, and JBM shooting rays of brilliance to dazzle Blackrock acted as beacons in the fading  light which enveloped the Park to guide the Blues to the final of the 1977 Championship” (Mick Ellard, who else!).  This set the scene for another Barrs/Glen final for which an estimated 45,000 thronged the Park. “Down the corridors of time, glorious triumphs have been achieved by St Finbarr’s, but yesterday’s victory over Glen Rovers in the final  will always hold an extra special place of affection in the hearts of those staunch and most loyal supporters of the Lee”, wrote Ellard. Glen (holders) and All-Ireland champions were decisively beaten by the rampant Blues who held their illustrious adversaries scoreless in the second half. (full report in Sean Beecher’s ‘The Blues’). Barr’s added the Munster title to the trophy room when they defeated Sixmilebridge (Clare) comfortably at the second attempt. They were lucky as it was a last gasp equaliser in the first match at fog bound Tulla which earned them the replay. They went on to record their second All-Ireland triumph when seeing off  the brave challenge of Rathnure in an entertaining final at Thurles.

Senior County Hurling Champions 1977

St Finbarr's: Senior County Hurling Champions 1977

Back; Brendan O’Shaughnessy, Bertie O’Brien, John Foster, Jerry O’Shea, Jim Power, Christy Ryan, Brendan Manley, Malachy Kennedy, Charlie Barrett, Donal O’Grady, Con Roche. Front: Seamus Gillen, Tony Butler, Jimmy Barry Murphy, John Allen, Denis Burns, Gerald McCarthy, Charlie McCarthy, Eamon Fitzpatrick, Gerry Murphy, Barry Wiley, John Cremin, Tony Maher.

 There was little time for Barr’s to savour their coronation as, within ten days, they faced Glen Rovers in the opening round of the ’78 championship. It was a miserable outing for the Blues who only managed to register 1-2 over the hour. Fortunately they remained in with a chance of retaining the title as the County Board experimented with a league system in an effort to provide more games for the weaker rural teams. They lost again when beaten by Blackrock  but still  qualified for the semi with wins over UCC and Sars. Their surprising inconsistency was hard to fathom and they paid dearly when defeated by the Glen in a controversial semi-final. The football final was contested by Nemo and St Michael’s, two teams defeated by the  Barr’s in the league stage of the championship. Michael’s availed of a second opportunity to blow the Blues out of the competition. One ‘Barr’s player, Marie O’Sullivan, created her little bit of history by becoming the first (since they were reformed)  lady to bring a Senior Camogie All-Ireland medal to the club; she was a member of the Cork team which defeated Dublin in the 1978 decider. Both sides qualified for their county finals in 1979. First in action were the hurlers who, despite a magnificent performance from custodian Ger Cunningham, couldn’t prevent Blackrock from winning its record breaking 28th title. Two weeks later five of the defeated hurling side were back in Pairc Ui Chaoimh for the football decider. There was to be no further disappointment as they rarely put a foot wrong in overwhelming up-and-coming Castlehaven. Such was their accomplished performance that the elders out in Togher rated them ahead of the lads who brought three titles to the club in the late fifties. The game was a personal triumph for dual star Christy Ryan whose midfield supremacy paved the way for the success.

Senior Football County Champions 1979 and 1980 and All Ireland Club Champions 1980 
 St Finbarr's: Senior Football County Champions 1979 and 1980

Front: J Cremin, D Brosnan, E Fitzpatrick, J O’Brien (chairman), C Ryan (capt 1980), J Twomey (pres), N Aherne (capt 1979), M Keating (ch ’80), J Callaghan, C Myers, D Barry, J McCarthy. Middle: G Desmond, B Kelleher, J Barry, R Kenny, Donal O’Grady, B O’Brien, B Driscoll, M Lynch, F O’Mahony, D Philpott, M Healy, D Burns, J Barry Murphy, J Allen. Back: T Mulcahy, D Hurley, C Mohally, L Hodnett, J Driscoll, M O’Mahony, P Lougheed, T O’Sullivan, D O’Keeffe, T Veale. Insets: F Twomey, M Carey, J Spillane, D O’Grady, A Sheehy.

On the first day of December the decade came to a successful conclusion when Kilrush were defeated in the Munster Club Football final. The inspirational Gerald McCarthy, one of the greatest hurlers of all time, brought the curtain down on his glorious career when he announced his retirement from the game. During the seventies there was a resurgence in the prominence of football and the future of the code looked bright as three u21 and three minor county championship wins were celebrated in the club. The All-Ireland Feile Na nGael Championship inaugurated in 1971 was won by the Barr’s in 1978. Gerald and Charlie McCarthy and JBM were on the Cork team which won three in a row hurling titles. That trio along with Tony Maher and Con Roche, all gained All – Star recognition. JBM was honoured in hurling and football. The eighties was a time of  ongoing celebrations in St Finbarr’s  beginning with an All-Ireland Club Football victory when inspired by the devastating Jimmy Barry Murphy they put St Grillain’s (Ballinasloe) to the sword in Tipperary Town. They were not flattered by the 3-9 to 0-8 verdict which saw them become the first club in the land to win All-Ireland Club titles in both codes.

They were brought back to earth with a bang when defeated by Nemo in the championship (league system). It wasn’t then a back door but a revolving door and they came through it in some style when reversing the Nemo result in the semi-final. Then, before one the smallest crowds (4,500) to watch a county footfall final, they saw off the brave challenge of UCC in the final.

Hopes of the 1980 double  were enhanced when Barr’s arrived with a late surge to overtake unlucky Midleton in the hurling-semi.  Barr’s supporters feared that the Glen who, since their first in 1934, had never gone more than three years without a title would rise to the occasion again. They played well in a good contest which, because of the closeness of the score, produced great excitement. In the end Barr’s did enough to record the first double since UCC’s feat in 1963. Now the Blues supporters started to dream of an All-Ireland Club double. The first step was completed when Roscrea (hurling) and Stradbally (football) were defeated in the Munster finals. Ballyhale Shamrock’s (Kilkenny) ended the dream when defeating the hurlers  by 1-15 to 1-11 in the decider. Two weeks later the footballers created their own history, winning back-to- back titles, by defeating Walterstown (Meath) at Croke Park.

There would be no three-in-a-row as a few months later, playing poorly, they were knocked out of the 1981 championship by Nemo at the penultimate stage. It was now up to the hurlers who were anxious to make up for their All-Ireland final defeat by first of all regaining the county.  Midleton who must have been sick to death of  semi-final meetings with the Blues again barred the way. And, once more,  the classy east Cork side  just came up short. This time it was the brilliance of Barry Murphy and Ger Cunningham which proved to be their downfall in a thriller. Hurling supporters who had an abundance of classics to savour were delivered another when Barr’s put their title on the line for a meeting with the Glen. Retribution was on the Glen’s mind and they hurled with traditional fire and courage but at the end of a mighty struggle class triumphed over north side passion. There was to be no atonement for the previous years’ All-Ireland defeat as Clare champions Newmarket on Fergus had a surprisingly comfortable ten point margin over the Cork team in the provincial semi-final.

Senior County Hurling Champions 1980, 1981 and 1982 

St Finbarr's: Senior County Hurling Champions 1980, 1981 and 1982 

Front: J Cremin, J Hodgins, n Kennifick, B O’Brien, M Murphy, E Fitzpatrick, J Twomey, J Blake, T Maher, K O’Driscoll, J O’Shea, C McCarthy, T Finn. Second row: C Ryan, J Barry Murphy, J Meyler, D O’Grady, D Forde, J Kelly, G Cunningham, F Scannell, G Murphy, P Goggin, P Barry, W Cashman, M Kennedy, J Kerins, J Allen, V Twomey, T Maher. Third: J Russell, J O’Grady, D O’Driscoll, M Bracken, T Mullane, P Canton, C Barrett, F Ramsey, J Burns, J Mehigan, G McCarthy, S Looney, C Roche, D Cremin. Back: S Beecher, M Finn, D Harrington, T Kirby, S Gillen, J Casey, P Finn, T Goulding.

The following year, 1982, the draw was once more unkind to Midleton who again drew the short straw when paired with the Barr’s in the semi. The result didn’t change either - another narrow win for the Blues . This hard earned victory stood to their advantage as a few weeks later they outhurled and outclassed Blackrock, who depended too much on hat trick scorer Ray Cummins, in an exemplary final. Mick Ellard, writing in the Examiner, described the performance as, “the finest he had ever seen in a county final”. Much was made of the fact that the three-in-a-row completed by the Blue was their first since 1906.  Barr’s were on a hiding to nothing when they faced rank outsiders Duhallow in the football decider. They must have believed the hype because, even though they won, performed poorly and were glad to hear the final whistle.

Senior Munster and County Football Champions 1982

St Finbarr's: Senior Munster and County Football Champions 1982

Back: D Hurley, T Mulcahy, P Lougheed, D Murray, T Murray, J Casey, S Looney, J Corcoran, G O’Neill, J Sweeney, D O’Keeffe, J Spillane, T O’Sullivan. Middle: V Twomey, J barry Murphy, J O’Callaghan, G Desmond, G Moran, T O’Reilly, J Kerins, C Ryan, R Kenny, M Lynch, J Allen, T Holland, M Carey, D Brosnan. Front: F O’Mahony, T Leahy, F Scannell, J Kelly, F Ramsey, M Keating (chairman), B O’Brien (capt), J Twomey (pres), D Barry, J Meyler, D Philpott, J Cremin, N Kennifick.

A third All-Ireland Club title eluded that squad as they were beaten by Portlaoise in the semi-final. The attention switched to the county series and progress was disrupted in the semi final when they went under to arch rivals Nemo Rangers. Meanwhile the hurlers were installed as favourites to win their first four-in-a-row. Midleton, for the first time, managed to avoid the Barr’s in the semi and instead faced them  in the decider. Few could begrudge the Magpies their first title. But the timing of their belated arrival was not to the Blues liking. However, to Midleton went the honour of laying the bogey with a deserving two goal victory. Midleton’s reign was briefly interrupted and the following year Barr’s regained their crown. They began by knocking out Glen Rovers in the first round and finished the campaign in style with an 8 point win over Ballyhea in the Centenary decider. “Akin to the atmospheric gloom that shrouded Pairc Uí Chaoimh  Ballyhea were enveloped in a mantle of despair as St Finbarr’s  achieved their glittering goal of winning the Cork County Senior Hurling Championship title in the Centenary Year.”

Later in 1984 the crowning touch was put to 100 years of success, both on and off the field,  when they  were adjudged to be the best GAA club in the land. It was a marvellous honour for the club to win the award, from over 500 entries, in the Centenary Year.

A Centenary Year double was on the cards especially with Nemo out of the way. However, East Cork divisional team Imokilly created a huge surprise when ending the star studded Blues dream in the final. The Blues were plunged into mourning when Imokilly dealt their pride a savage blow.

At  “kindergarten” level the babes made it a centenary to remember when defeating St Brigid’s (Dublin) in the All-Ireland Féile Peil. And, for good measure, the reformed Camogie team which won their first junior championship in 1981 repeated the feat again. They were captained by the illustrious Claire Cronin the former Old All’s player who won four All-Ireland Senior medals with Cork and who just twelve months earlier (‘83) was named as the “B & I Camogie Player of the Year”- surely the transfer of the decade. Margaret Farrell, the former UCD and Kilkenny star, was another high profile Inter County player to choose the Barr’s when she arrived in Cork. She won her third  All-Ireland Senior Medal when starring on the Kilkenny team which defeated Dublin in 1985. She provided the experience, along with Claire Cronin, on the talented Barr’s squad, containing several all-Ireland minor and junior medallists, which won three Intermediate League titles on their march to senior ranks.

Barr’s footballers were becoming a real yo-yo team and sprung back in great style to regain their crown when overcoming Clonakilty, conquerors of Nemo, in the 1985 county final.” Early Blitz Decides It” – “Clons Courageous Comeback Fails”, was the ‘Examiner’s’ banner headline. And it continued,  “Barr’s  mission of atonement was successfully completed at Pairc Ui Chaoimh yesterday after they withstood a gallant comeback from Clonakilty to win their Eighth County”. The shock and horror of the previous years defeat vanished in the full glow of the joyous triumph. The final score was 1-10 to 0-9.

Senior Football County Champions 1985

St FInbarr's: Senior Football County Champs 1985
Front: P Hayes, J Cremin, G Desmond, D Barry, J Meyler, K McCarthy. Back: M Slocum, C Ryan, J Barry Murphy, J Kerins, K Scanlon, D O’Mahony, M Carey, D Philpott, T Leahy.

The pendulum swung the other way in 1986 and this time Imokilly proved their win in 1984 was no fluke when again ambushing the Barr’s  in the final, this time by the slenderest of margins. With divisional teams not allowed compete the All-Ireland Club  Barr’s were the Cork standard bearers and ultimate victory at Croke Park would just about compensate for the loss of the county title. A magnificent semi-final replay victory over Castlblaney Faughs earned them the right to play for the jackpot against Clan na Gael. A splendid back-line paved the way for their subsequent 0-10 to 0-7 victory at Croker. A performance rich in character propelled them to their third All-Ireland title. It took courage to win because of the horrendous conditions that prevailed but the Blues rose above the challenge of the elements and broke the hearts of Clan na Gael in the process. Gifted dual star Dave Barry was omitted from the Barr’s team after he had opted to play for Cork City against Derry instead of the semi with Castleblaney. As All-Ireland champions much was expected in 1987 but they disappointed in the county championship. Every campaign commenced with Barr’s slightly behind favourites Nemo on the bookmakers lists. An enigmatic period followed between 1989-’91 when they contested three finals in a row; a defeat by Castlehaven in ’89 wasn’t totally unexpected but the back-to-back losses to Duhallow were hard to accept. Opportunities to erase the memories of  unpalatable county final  losses weren’t availed of in the Munster Club series when exiting early on in both campaigns.

The hurlers copper fastened their entitlement to be tagged the team of the decade when they claimed their fifth title in 8 years when defeating the Glen, 3-18 to 2-14, in the 1988 Championship final. “Blue Heaven” , was the Cork Examiner’s banner headline and in a tribute Michael Ellard wrote, “St Finbarr’s  returned to the pinnacle  of Cork  senior hurling at Pairc Uí Chaoimh yesterday, while once again Glen Rover’s hearts were broken after a marvellously entertaining and exciting final”. All season they had been much maligned and only qualified for the final after being left off the hook in the drawn semi-final by Blackrock who were left to rue the consequences. However, when the great day dawned they showed what they were capable of. They produced a performance full of heroics, endeavour and superior artistry to sweep to a scintillating triumph. Brian Cunningham, a lad of 18 years, was a revelation; showing maturity beyond his years he emerged as one of the greatest thorns in the Glen’s armour hitting over a dozen sweetly struck points (7 frees) in a mesmeric display of  hurling skill.

Senior County Hurling Champions 1988

St Finbarr's: Senior County Hurling Champions 1988
Back: C Roche, T McCarthy, P Canton, J McCarthy, B Scully, S Looney, T O’Shaughnessy, J O’Shea, D Harrington, J Mehigan, C McCarthy. Middle: M Finn, F O’Brien, K Kiely, C O’Mahony, C Finn, J Linehan, J Tobin, J  Griffen, C Buckley, B Cunningham, J Meyler, P O’Leary, C Ryan, N Kennefick, T finn, S McCarthy. Front: J Hodgins, E Fitzpatrick, J Cremin, W Cashman, P O’Shea, T maher, G Cunningham, D Cremin, F Ramsey, B O’Connell, J Blake, M Barry, S O’Leary.

New kids on the block began to emerge as the eighties wound to a close and the future looked distinctly rosie. The under age committee were ecstatic as their colts grew up to claim four minor hurling counties in a row between 1990 and ’93 and for good measure two u-21 championship trophies 1990-’91 were also brought to the club.

“A sporting achievement of immense proportions was savoured to the full by St Finbarr’s  at Pairc Ui Chaoimh yesterday (Oct ‘93), when the quest of a heroic pride of young lions for their famous clubs 25th Cork County title was accomplished with great joy”, wrote Mick Ellard under the Examiner banner headline “ Barr’s are Kings”. It was the second helping of  a feast of hurling delivered because Carbery and St Finbarr’s  couldn’t be separated when they both tallied 1-17 in the first encounter which left the frenzied fans begging for more. And, it was only by the slenderest of margins that two great teams were separated in the classic replay.  Barr’s coach the legendary Charlie McCarthy, who had in his day experienced mighty triumphs, described it as one of the best wins in our history. Skipper Micky Barry said,  “the tension and excitement of the last few minutes will live forever in the memory”.   Barr’s who played without the injured Brian Cunningham lined out as follows: G Cunningham, T Doolan, C Ryan, J Kennedy, J Griffen, S O’Leary, N Leonard, F Ramsey, B O’Shea (0-7), I O’Mahony (0-1), M Quaid (1-1), E Griffen (0-2),  M Ryan (0-1), M Barry (0-2),  P Forde. Subs: C Duffy, P O’Leary. J O’Connor played in the drawn game and T Finn was a sub. The success meant that the Blues maintained their proud record of winning at least one County Senior Hurling title every decade since 1890. And the Examiner scribe, on the evidence of the brilliant performance, said, “there is every reason to suggest that the remaining years of the century will be very fruitful for them”. Instead that historic date, 17-10-1993, continues to be one that every Barr’s person wishes to be wiped from the memory.

Senior County Hurling Champions 1993

St Finbarr's: Senior County Hurling Champions 1993

Back Row: Jim McCarthy, Stephen Murphy, Sean McCarthy, Jimmy Murphy, Seamus Looney, Bertie O’Brien, Frank Atkins, Michael Bracken, John Meghan. Third Row: Denis Harrington, Peter O’Donovan, Joe Kennedy, John Griffin, Finbarr Lehane, Billy O’Shea, Fergal O’Mahony, Michael Quaid, Niall Hosford, Paul Forde, Ivan O’Mahony, Ray Kellegher. Second Row: Eamon Fitzpatrick, Anthony O’Regan, Noel Leonard, Conor Ryan, Brian Cunningham, Ger Cunningham, Tony Doolan, Seamus O’Leary, Eoin Griffin, Michael Ryan, Tony Shaughnessy. Front Row: Charlie McCarthy, Colm Duffy, John O’Connor, Frank Ramsey, Dinny McCarthy, Michael Barry capt.), Tony Maher, Paul O’Leary, Michael Burke, Tim Finn, Michael Murphy.

Two weeks after the 25th title hurling milestone was achieved Barrs footballers had the opportunity of embellishing the year by adding another County double to their history. Nemo provided what proved an insurmountable obstacle and coasted to a nine-point victory in an uncompromising final that failed to sparkle.

Before departing from a record-breaking decade it would be remiss of me not to pay tribute to the vibrant camogie section led by the inspiring Marian McCarthy whose teams from u-14 Féile up to Intermediate grade won 27 trophies. Added to that, 12 Barrs  ladies won Camogie All-Irelands.

A trend developed in the eighties when high profile inter-county GAA manager/coaching appointees began stealing the limelight from players. Former Barrs inter-county players were in great demand and, as one resigned or retired from top posts, were replaced by other Blue bloods. And, despite the apparent decline in the standard of hurling in their own abode during the nineties, an illuminating CV from the University of Hurling in Togher was the equivalent in GAA circles as a degree from Trinity, UCC, Harvard, or Cambridge would be for business.

The glorious eighties ended when Barrs players John Kerins, Mick Slocum, and Dave Barry — three All-Star recipients — brought the Sam Maguire Cup to Togher after they had helped Cork defeat Mayo in the All-Ireland Football final. The trio were on the side which retained the title the following season, 1990, the year of the double, when they were joined on the team by Paddy Hayes. Ger Cunningham picked up his third Celtic Cross when Cork defeated Galway to win their 27th All-Ireland Senior title. 

In 1992 Colette O’Mahony, the  original camogie queen, won the first of her three Duffy Cup (All-Senior Camogie) medals when finishing leading scorer with 10 points as Cork defeated Wexford in the final. She was as accurate in ’93 when Kilkenny and Wexford were put to the sword. For Colette it was golden compensation for the disappointment of Barrs senior county final defeats by Glen Rovers.

In the last year of the millennium an eight-year barren period for Cork hurlers ended when Jimmy Barry Murphy, the new Messiah, coached Cork to an unexpected victory over mighty Kilkenny. Missing from the line-up for the first time in 18 years was four-time All-Star Ger Cunningham, Cork’s longest-serving goalkeeper, who retired at the end of the previous season.

Barrs supporters accustomed to county triumphs endured a very lean period throughout the final decade of the millennium. Sixteen underage County Championship trophies provided huge consolation and the ultimate reward for the valiant efforts of the various committees but the fact that those victories were no longer translating into senior successes was and still is a cause of major concern.

During the early part  of the first decade of the new millennium county titles, and all sporting achievements for that matter, were put into perspective as a gloom descended over St Finbarr’s  and the whole country when the untimely death of the great John Kerins, aged  just 39, was announced on 21 August 2001.

When Jimmy Barry Murphy retired as Cork hurling manager in 2003 he was replaced by Donal O’Grady who, in his second season in charge, brought the McCarthy Cup back to Cork. John Allen took over the reigns from his former playing colleague and, under his stewardship, the All Ireland title was retained in 2005; so, three times in six years, Barrs managers guided Cork to All-Ireland glory. All-Star Ronan Curran, rated the finest centre-back in the country, was on the winning teams 2004-5.

A county senior championship victory was celebrated in the  Barrs Club for the first time in 13 years and it was to the ladies section that the honour fell.  Coached by the legendary Gerald Mac and trained by Billa O’Connell, no not the comedian, they won the title for the first time in their history when, captained by Cork star Lynda O’Connell, they defeated Imokilly in the final at Pairc Uí Rinn. Leading scorer in the campaign was the indefatigable Colette O’Mahony and the supporting cast included three-times All-Star and Vodafone Camogie Player of the Year Gemma O’Connor, All-Ireland Senior medalists Ellen Clifford, Jenny Duffy and Viv Harris. There was further glory for Gemma when, in 2007-9, she made it six consecutive All-Star Awards.  Barrs were back in the finals again in the succeeding years (1908-09) when they were defeated by Muskerry and Douglas respectively. Cork went on to win All-Ireland Senior Camogie titles in 2008 and ’09 and Gemma was joined on the honours list by Lynda O’Connell, Jenny Duffy and  Orla O’Sullivan.

Senior County Camoige Champions 2006

St Finbarr's: Senior County Camoige Champions 2006
Back: Gerald McCarthy, Caitriona Myers, Niamh McKenzie, Val Hosford, Catherine Barrett, Susan O’Connell, Claire Spellman, Gemma O’Connor, Jenny Duffy, Niamh Cooke, Rachel O’Regan, Viv Harris, Barbara Ann Corcoran, Bill O’Connell, Jerry Murphy. Front: Claire Kirby, Claire Harrington, Rachel Myers, Ber Maher, Orla O’Sullivan, Lynda O’Connell (capt.), Maria McCarthy, Ellen Clifford, Susan Kennefick, Aoife McCarthy, Mary Collins, Colette O’Mahony, Colette Kirby.

Barr’s footballers were in the doldrums in 2008 being relegated for the first time since upgrading to senior in 1946 when defeated by Douglas on a miserable Saturday afternoon in Shanbally. In that time of adversity the Blues regrouped and, displaying great resilience and determination, dug themselves from the black hole to again reach the summit when they defeated St Vincent’s in the Intermediate Championship final. The club has won Cork County Senior Championships in every decade bar the first decade of this century. This proud record was almost upheld in 2009 when they reached the final in the Cork County Senior Football Championship only to lose out by a point to Clonakilty. They were back in the final again in 2010 but after a fantastic opening twenty minutes they succumbed to the might of Nemo. At least one ‘Barr’s star, Michael Shields, ended the decade on a high when gaining his second consecutive All-Star Award; due recognition for outstanding performances which yielded an All-Ireland Senior medal in 2010 when Cork defeated Down.

The long wait for a senior championship continues but it is no harm to remember that plight is shared by the famous. The most honoured team in history Blackrock (32 titles) went 25 years without success and arch rivals Glen Rovers have yet to bridge a 22 year gap. Compare those to the fact that Manchester United survived for 26 years (1967-’93) without a Championship win and mighty Liverpool are still awaiting their first Premiership and they’ve been waiting longer the Barrs — 21 years — for their luck to change.

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