The Big Interview with Seán O’Gorman: How Cork's double-winning hurlers and footballers bonded over a notorious bleep test

Seán O'Gorman recalls highlights from a season 'that will never be seen again'
The Big Interview with Seán O’Gorman: How Cork's double-winning hurlers and footballers bonded over a notorious bleep test
Seán O'Gorman during the jubilee presentation for the Cork 1990 hurlers before the 2015 final between Kilkenny v Galway at Croke Park.  Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

For Seán O’Gorman the memory is vivid still. A training session for the 1990 All-Ireland. Unforgettable even now.

Not for the hurling final, though. A session the footballers did. We’ll come back to that.

That year O’Gorman starred at corner-back, having spent the 80s ranging from position to position: 1989 was a case in point.

“I wasn't on the panel the first day against Waterford that year but I was full-forward for the replay. Times were different, there wasn’t the massive organisation you have now — that kind of thing could happen.

“With Milford I’d always played in the backs but at a minor trial in 1977 in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, when I was full-back the first half, the Canon said at half-time: ‘Would you play up front?’.

“I played the second half of the trial full-forward, and came on against Limerick in the Munster final up front then after.

“But there was a change at the end of 1989 with the Canon (O’Brien) and Gerald (McCarthy), Denis Hurley, Martin Coleman and Liam Ó Tuama coming in.”

Cork enjoyed the benefit of experience, he points out.

“The big thing was an All-Ireland was won every four or five years, so you had a follow-on of lads, a core of players who had that experience.

“In 1982 the likes of Tomás (Mulcahy) was very young, but Tom Cashman and Johnny Crowley, Sean O’Leary, they were there ’til the mid-80s. That helped.”

So did some judicious recalls.

“A share of fellas were left out in 1989, Tomás (Mulcahy), Kevin (Hennessy), but Tomás went back and trained hard with the Glen.

“In 1989 we (Milford) played the Glen in the first round of the championship in Charleville, and he got a point in the last 20 seconds to win the game by a point.

“They went on to win the county, he captained Cork the following year, and Cork won the All-Ireland.”

The new management team meant business. O’Gorman says there was training in October, “which was fairly unusual”.

And fairly punishing.

“When you were pulling into Páirc Uí Chaoimh for training, if you heard the big gates being opened at the four corners under the stands, scraping the ground, you’d be thinking:  ‘We’re in for it tonight, we’ll be run around the place’.

“You’d have to stay away from certain groups, but the training was still good crack, Kevin Hennessy and Dr Con were lethal with the one-liners. That was one thing you’d learn, not to get involved there — no prisoners were taken.

“There was a great atmosphere. Frank Cogan and (John) Kid Cronin were the masseurs. Frank was very cool, he’d been through it all with the footballers and he was very good to advise fellas.

“The Kid was a great man for a quip. We’d fall in after Noel Collins (trainer) had killed us and the Kid would say:  ‘Lads, I’m sweating looking at ye’. Gerald (McCarthy) did a lot of the coaching, and he was first class. Absolutely first class.”

O’Gorman had a couple of outings at full-back in the league but by the time Cork got to the semi-final against Wexford he was full-forward and Brian Murphy from Bishopstown, who would play football for Kildare later, was full-back.

“I think Brian got injured and I moved back to full-back. The game ended in a draw and in the replay I thought I did quite well, all the backs played well, but we got one point from play that day — from the same six forwards who got 5-15 a few months later in the All-Ireland final.

“That threw us back a bit. It wasn’t a good performance.

“But you had a core of lads who were there a while. Ger Cunningham, Teddy McCarthy, Tony O’Sullivan, Ger Fitzgerald, Denis Walsh, Tomás, and they drove it.”

Seán O'Gorman in action for Cork in 1995. Picture: Tom Honan/Inpho
Seán O'Gorman in action for Cork in 1995. Picture: Tom Honan/Inpho

“Tomás had good authority, he was good to mix with the lads, with the board, with the Canon — that was vital, he led and others followed.

“He could take whatever pressure was involved and all the others drove on. And he put everything into it.

“But we all had bad days that year, himself included. We played the (Cork) U21s in a challenge not long before the Munster final and Tomas’s finger was badly broken. Teddy (McCarthy) was playing a challenge against Mayo in football and he went over on an ankle.

“Both out for the Munster final.”

For O’Gorman, the provincial decider was the game of the year.

“It’s true for Ray Cummins, I often heard him say that in Dublin you mightn’t even know there’s an All-Ireland final going on, depending on what part of the city you’re in. A Munster final in Thurles takes over the town.

“That year’s Munster final was huge, and what made the year entirely, I think, was the few weeks of training leading into it. That won it for us.”

There was a change of scenery which helped: O’Gorman recalls that whatever was going on in Páirc Uí Chaoimh — “some redevelopment work or something” — the hurlers had to go up to Ballinlough to train.

“And every night we were there the Canon played old-fashioned backs and forwards and it built up a huge spirit. The intensity was there, the competition, and you could tell we’d die for it anyway.”

It was authentic. O’Gorman says to this day that the dressing-room in Thurles before that Munster final was “the best dressing-room I was ever in”.

“No question. Just before we went out, Tomas and Teddy were inside in the middle of it and fellas were raring to go. Ready.

“You get that sense sometimes. That lads are ready, and lads were ready that day.”

O’Gorman’s too clear-eyed to romanticise the win over Tipperary: “We started well but things went against us for a good bit of the first half. We got back into it and finished very strong. And Mark Foley had a huge day, of course.”

Sean O'Gorman battles with Tipperary's Pat Fox. Picture: INPHO/Alan Betson
Sean O'Gorman battles with Tipperary's Pat Fox. Picture: INPHO/Alan Betson

Seán McCarthy said in these pages recently that it was a game he couldn’t enjoy because of the intensity. His fellow defender is inclined to agree: “To be honest, the match was nearly over and I hardly even realised we were winning. On the day I didn’t even keep track of the score.

“Half-time? I don’t even remember it. I know the famous one out of the Canon was ‘we have ten guys’ (playing) or ‘nine’ or ‘12’. But that was a line for every game!

“The minute a match like that’s over, it’s relief, really. I even heard Mick O’Dwyer say something along those lines once — the enjoyment comes afterwards. Not during the game or before it.

“After the match, up at the Burlington, I was so drained . . . I was going up the stairs at one stage and Teddy came down against me. We sat down there, the two of us, and he said, ‘If I get over the next few hours I’ll be doing well’.

“You’re wrecked. Totally. And that was when we won — when you lose there’s a pure anticlimax. It’s terrible.

“But it must be worse again when you draw an All-Ireland. The prospect of a replay? My God. You’re building up and building up but the one thing you think is ‘it’ll all be over at five o’clock anyway’.

“Getting yourself ready again for another day must be desperate.”

Looking back now the Milford man picks out the Monday the footballers came back with Sam Maguire as special — “It’ll never be seen again” — and says it sealed the bond between the panels.

“Nearly all of us were at the football final, but there was a great bond between the two panels because wherever we were going we we meeting each other.

“To this day I’d know a load of them, which wouldn’t always be the case, but it’s different with them. You’d know them.”

And respect them. O’Gorman goes back to that training session.

“One night the footballers were there before us, and they were finishing up as it was getting dark.

“Billy (Morgan) was running a bleep test and because they were near the dressing-room entrance we stopped to watch. It finished up with Larry Tompkins, Conor Counihan and Denis Walsh. Out and back. Out and back.

“Denis would nearly fall in with us after training with the footballers, while Teddy was inclined to play the ‘I’m with the footballers tonight’ card at times, and he could be caught if the two squads were in the one place.

“But the three of them — Denis, Larry and Conor — were at it, and by God did they put it in. It was savagery that night, the three of them going out and back. God knows what level of the bleep test they were at.

“I think Conor was the last one left. But if you saw it you were thinking: ‘These men are putting it in’.”

They all did.

More in this section

Price info
IE_180_logo
Price info

Subscribe to unlock unlimited digital access.
Cancel anytime.

Terms and conditions apply

Puzzles logo
IE-logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day. PS ... We would love to hear your feedback on the section right HERE.

GAATitleGAALogo

Sun, Oct 17

Nemo Rangers v Douglas

Páirc Uí Rinn
2pm

Sun, Sept 26

Clyda Rovers
v
Mallow

SAFC Round 2

Glantane
2pm

Sport
Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up
Puzzles logo
IE-logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day. PS ... We would love to hear your feedback on the section right HERE.