Own points and unfinished matches: The story of hurling championship games in December

Own points and unfinished matches: The story of hurling championship games in December
Kilkenny's 1909 All-Ireland final hero Jack Rochford, and the only man to win two All-Ireland Senior Hurling medals in a calendar year, Mick Gill.

The 2020 All-Ireland Hurling final, scheduled for December 13, will be just the 13th Senior Hurling Championship game played in the final month of the year.

Amazingly, three of the previous 12 games took place on the same 1902 Sunday while three successive Sundays in 1907 accounted for another three.

Five Munster championship games (including one final) took place in December, three Leinster SHC matches were played in the final month of the year, two of those re-fixtures and the third the cause of a re-fixture as darkness stopped play with a quarter of an hour to go.

Three All-Ireland SHC fixtures have taken place in December including two finals, the 1924 decider; the only game of the 12-listed to be in the 15-a-side.

December 1, 1895, Mallow - 1895 Munster s-f: Limerick 1-2, Kerry 0-5 

December 17, 1899, Athenry - 1898 All-Ireland s-f: Tipperary 3-14, Galway 1-3 

December 7, 1902, Limerick - 1901 Munster s-f re-fix: Clare 2-10, Limerick 0-1 

December 7, 1902, Roscrea - 1901 Leinster s-f re-fix: Offaly 1-5, Laois 1-3 

December 7, 1902, Carlow - 1901 Leinster s-f: Wexford 4-8, Kilkenny 0-8 (unfinished, darkness) 

December 17, 1905, Dungarvan - 1904 Munster final: Cork 3-10, Tipperary 3-4 

December 1, 1907, Portarlington - 1907 Leinster s-f: Dublin 3-8, Laois 1-10 

December 8, 1907, Tipperary - 1907 Munster f-r: Cork 8-15, Limerick 1-6 

December 15, 1907, Carrick-on-Suir - 1907 Munster s-f: Tipperary 3-15, Waterford 3-5 

December 12, 1909, Cork - 1909 All-Ireland final: Kilkenny 4-6, Tipperary 0-12 

December 3, 1911, Portlaoise - 1911 All-Ireland s-f: Limerick 8-1, Galway 2-0 

December 14, 1924, Croke Park - 1924 All-Ireland final: Dublin 5-3, Galway 2-6 

Tipperary and Limerick share top December bill, each having played four championship games in the month while Galway (three), Cork, Kilkenny, Dublin, Laois (two each), Clare, Waterford, and Wexford (one each) complete the list for the 2020 Liam MacCarthy Cup contenders. Kerry (one) is the only other county to have sampled December SHC fare. 

3rd on the 13th 

There have been two previous All-Ireland hurling finals played in December and both produced interesting sideline stories. 

In the 1909 All-Ireland final at the old Cork Athletic Grounds, Kilkenny, with the December light dimming, were clinging on to a four-point lead when Tipperary made an all-out effort for a match-saving goal. Suddenly, the ball landed at Jack Rochford’s feet and thundering in after it came a host of Tipperary men, including Tom Semple, Hughie Shelly, Paddy Brolan, Tim Gleeson, and Tom Kerwick.

For once the Kilkenny full-back was in a dilemma – he knew if he hit out the ball it would be stopped and goal rushed, and if he tipped it outside a 50 (as it was back then) would follow and very probably a goal. But Jack reacted more quickly than it takes to tell the story and to save the situation he craftily scooped the ball and scored a point for Tipperary! He knew time was running out and from the puck-out, Kilkenny broke away to score another goal and win by 4-6 to 0-12.

Now, that is what you call a crafty cat.

That ’09 final delayed as a knock-on effect of many previous finals spilling over into the next year while the second final played in the lead-up to Christmas was that of 1924, again, as a knock-on effect of previous finals carrying over into the next calendar year but, this time, for the very good reason that hurling action had been suspended due to the War of Independence and subsequent Civil War.

The ’23 final was played in Croke Park on September 14, Galway winning their first title by beating Galway and three months later, on December 14, the Connacht men were back in headquarters for the ’24 final; 13 of the September starting 15 again lining out for the holders. 

A 14th, Mick Gill, a Garda, was lining out with their opponents, Dublin, and became the only man to win two All-Ireland Senior Hurling medals in a calendar year.

“Would Mick Gill play against his native county?” was the big question after Galway beat Tipperary in the November 23rd semi-final. “I trained hard and I can assure you that I had many restless nights thinking over what was the best thing to do,” wrote Gill himself many years later. 

“Finally, I took on a few side bets with Galway followers. I got on a total of £20 all told, which was a lot of money in 1924, and needless to say, I was going to do my very best not to lose it.” 

He didn’t!

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