Sean O’Gorman on the men that defied the odds and the critics to win the All-Ireland senior hurling final in 1990.
GER CUNNINGHAM (St Finbarr’s)
“I think the best way to describe him would be to say that he was the top ‘professional’ player around in our time. His preparation and everything was first-class, he never switched off, I’d say. He worked fierce hard at his game. He had been captain in 1989 and got concussed in the replay against Waterford, which we lost, and he finished up that night in Cashel Hospital, so that year ended on a low, but he came back fierce strong in ’90. In the final against Galway, one turning point was when Martin Naughton broke through, with the goal at his mercy, and Ger came out to try to close the angle. The shot definitely hit him in the face and went out over the line for what should have been a 65 but the umpire waved it wide.
“He was more than a goalkeeper, he always controlled the backs, very good on advice and he read the game very well. There wasn’t much room for puckout strategy then, it was ‘go long’ all the time and he had the power for that, he was Poc Fada champion I don’t know how many times. He was just a brilliant keeper, always looking for that extra yard. Ger is self-employed now, some kind of consultancy,”
JOHN CONSIDINE (Sarsfields)
“He hadn’t played minor or U21 for Cork, as far as I know, and would have been spotted by the Canon in UCC, that’s how he came into the reckoning. He was on the panel in the late 80s but ’90 was his first year starting in the championship. He’d say himself that he mightn’t have been the most skilful fella but he was a very good marker, he’d stick tight to whoever he was on and stick to the role.
“He knew his strengths and his weaknesses and the proof of his consistency was that he finished up with an All Star in 1990. All year, he was solid and steady, I think he had marked Nicky English in the Munster final for example and then Éanna Ryan in the All-Ireland final I’d say, and nobody ever got anything off him very easily. He managed Cork at minor and U21 and was senior caretaker for two matches too after the 2008/09 strike. He lectures in economics in UCC.”
DENIS WALSH (St Catherine’s)
“I played full-back against Kerry the first day – we didn’t play well, we only won by six or eight points – but then I pulled a hamstring and missed the Waterford game and Damien Irwin played corner-back and Denis moved into full. He did very well on Shane Ahearne and then for the Munster final he stayed there and I came back in at corner-back. He got injured then in the All-Ireland semi-final against Antrim and it was Christy Connery of Na Piarsaigh who came in for him but Denis recovered well and was back for the final. Denis was one of the hardest fellas I’ve ever seen to train, he pushed his body to the limit. He mightn’t have been the fastest but he was a very good hurler, totally dedicated, he didn’t care what he was up against, it didn’t faze him. He was on the football panel in ’90 too but he missed out on a medal. He works for himself now too, he’s an insurance broker.”
SEÁN O’GORMAN (Milford)
“I played in 1989 against Waterford but as a full-forward. Even in the 1989-90 league I was full-forward a bit but against Wexford in the semi-final Brian Murphy of Bishopstown was full-back and he had to go off injured and I was moved back. I stayed in the full-back line for the rest of the year then. I never minded playing full-forward but I was more comfortable in the backs. I went to minor trials as a full-back but the canon tried me at full-forward and I played there on the intermediate team that won the All-Ireland in 1983 as well, another team he was involved in. One thing I remember about 1990 was that we weren’t given much of a chance at the start of the year but once we got going there was a fierce determination in the team. I don’t think I heard much talk about donkeys winning derbies before the Munster final — I’d say it was only afterwards — but it was a game that we were ready for, we knew that we’d give a good account. Tipp and ourselves had the two best sets of forwards at the time and we knew that whoever was on form would win. Nowadays, I’m a national school principal in Kilbrin.”
SEÁNIE McCARTHY (Ballinhassig)
“He mightn’t have been a big man but he was another very good hurler, 1990 was his first year starting, his Ballinhassig clubman Martin Coleman was a selector and that might have helped him. Something you’d say about the ’90 team was that we were never fully reliant on any one individual to win games for us, collectively we just seemed to blend and get going and Seánie was a perfect example of that, he would have been an under-rated player who performed very well that year.
“We had a lot of competition for places in the half-back line, David Quirke and Cathal Casey were both pushing hard and I think Davy actually played wing-forward in the Munster final when Tomás Mulcahy was out injured. Having that kind of strength in depth meant that you had to be on form to earn a jersey and Seánie did that. He owns SoHo Bar on Grand Parade now.”
JIM CASHMAN (Blackrock)
“He was still young in ’90, he had only just turned 25, but he had been there in ’86 and showed huge levels of maturity, so there were no fears about him.
“He had had a very good year coming up to the final but Joe Cooney was outstanding for Galway in the first half. He scored 1-6 and Jim was getting frustrated but he came out after half-time and turned things around and I suppose it was the difference between winning and losing. Even when it was going against him, you’d have had faith that he’d be able to come good, he was one of our top players and he always had the kind of temperament that you need for the big games. He was still youngish when he retired after the loss to Limerick 1996.
“I suppose he had a lot of miles on the clock by then but he was still one of Blackrock’s best players when they won the county in 1999. I think he’s still working with Heineken.
KIERAN McGUCKIN (Glen Rovers)
“He had stood out at minor and U21 – I think he won All-Ireland medals in both – and he was really good top-of-the-ground hurler, beautiful hands and good feet. Like John Considine and Seánie Mac, ’90 was his first year starting – Liam Ó Tuama was the Glen’s representative on the selection committee and I’d say it was his influence. Tomás Mulcahy was the captain after the Glen had won the county in 1989 but we played a challenge match against Cork U21s before the Munster final and he broke his finger badly. Kieran was the only other Glen man on the team and he was captain for the Munster final then.
“He was a quiet fella, didn’t say an awful lot but he had a lot of hurling. Mark Foley’s first goal in the Munster final came from a sideline cut by Kieran, he met it in the air and that really got us going.”
BRENDAN O’SULLIVAN (Valley Rovers)
“Brendy was a character, a very under-rated fella, he mightn’t necessarily give the impression that he was a top-class athlete.
“You could do a lap of the field with Brendy and you’d probably lap him but if you were going into battle then he was the man to bring with you. He had a massive heart and when you put a jersey on him you could be guaranteed that he’d fight for it. He was the anchorman at midfield really, he did a lot of grafting and hard work, took a lot of hits and gave them too. He came late to intercounty, he’d have been on the panel in 1989 but I think, again, ’90 was his first championship start. He was full-forward against Kerry, centre-forward against Waterford, midfield for the Munster final and then he stayed there. He brought what might be lacking now a small bit, a bit of heart and a bit of bite. He’s an electrician, as far as I know.”
TEDDY McCARTHY (Sarsfields)
“Teddy missed the Munster final with an ankle injury and then he only came on as a sub against Antrim in the All-Ireland semi-final, my own clubmate Pat Buckley had been at midfield with Brendy. Pat had played well and I’d say it was a close call, but one thing about Teddy was that he was a big-game player. His championship debut was in the 1986 final against Galway, he came in out of the blue and had a stormer. He had plenty of experience from having played in so many important football games and there was never any doubting his skill or ability. He was one of the best fielders of the ball around, in football or in hurling.
“He had his own pub for a while and he’s making hurleys now, he has managed a lot of club teams too as well as the Laois hurlers.”
GER FITZGERALD (Midleton)
“He was picked at number 10 for the final but he’d have done a lot of his hurling in the full-forward line and I’d have come up against him a lot in training. He was a hard fella to mark.
“He’d go through anything, he was hard worker, but he was able to finish as well. The forwards kept on rotating, they had a licence to keep moving and eventually something would come off. It was something which wouldn’t have been seen much back then, there were very little tactics. I can’t remember why but we weren’t training in Páirc Uí Chaoimh coming up to the Munster final, it was Ballinlough we were in and we’d be playing backs and forwards night after night. Fellas hit hard and, looking back, you’d pick that out as something which made the team, it created a very strong bond. Ger works with Pat O’Donnell, selling plant machinery.”
MARK FOLEY (Argideen Rangers)
“He had made his debut in 1989 in the replay against Waterford, he got two goals that day, but it was the Munster final in ’90 which made him, he got 2-7 from play. It was just one of those days where everything went right, it was an outstanding performance. He was a massive man but he was well able to hurl too. If there was one drawback about the Munster final was that people seemed to expect him to get 2-7 every day but his contribution in the final was crucial. After Tomás’s goal, he got a point almost straightaway and then it was his goal which put us ahead for the first time in the second half. Kevin had a chance but he picked Mark out and he was able to turn and shoot and we added two more goals then. He’s a dentist, based in Bantry.”
TONY O’SULLIVAN (Na Piarsaigh)
“He was a great athlete and put a hurley with it and you had a great package. He was strong too, deceptively strong, and he got a lot of goals in ’90, he was brilliant all year.
“The World Cup was on that summer, of course, and Toto Schillaci was getting all the goals for Italy so that was the nickname we came up with for John as well! He had played in 1986 and maybe in ’87 too but not much else in between that and ’90, they got him going again in ’90 though. He didn’t play against Kerry or Waterford, but against Tipp, Antrim and Galway he got a total of 6-1, two goals in each of the matches. You’d probably say that Cork haven’t had a pure goalscorer since him. If you look at the attack, a lot of them were big men but they could hurl too and they weren’t afraid to take you on. Six on six, it was a different game, but it was a great asset to have so many fellas like that. John emigrated to America in the mid-90s and he’s based in Boston full time.”
“Like I said, Davy Quirke and Pat Buckley were both unlucky not to start the final after they did well in the semi against Antrim. Davy and Cathal Casey both came on in the final when the game was in the fire and helped us to turn it around.
One fella who you’d regard as very unlucky was Kieran Kingston. The first league game in autumn 1989 was against Galway and something like 13 of the 15 who started the final started that match, Kieran played as well but he got a bad injury, his skull was fractured and he was out for about six months. His brother Tom was the sub goalkeeper to Ger, a tough task but he kept him on his toes and everyone in the squad did that. You had Christy Connery, Michael Mullins, Anthony O’Sullivan, John O’Mahony, Pat Kenneally and Billy Long there as well.
“You won’t win anything without a bench and the thing was that the fellas who weren’t on the team put in a huge effort and that pushed the rest of us on. Everybody put their shoulder to the wheel.”
“The Canon was a great man to motivate a team and he had a wealth of success behind him, with Farranferris, the Cork minors and UCC. Gerald McCarthy was the trainer then and he made a big difference too. The selectors were Denis Hurley of Sarsfields, who was involved with All-Ireland-winning teams in the 1960s, 70s, 80s and 90s, county secretary Frank Murphy from Blackrock, Martin Coleman of Ballinhassig and Liam Ó Tuama, representing the Glen after they won the county. ‘Kid’ Cronin was the masseur and Frank Cogan was there too. He had played on the football team in 1973 and he was very good in terms of giving advice to the players. Tommy Lynch was the kit man and he was another who was great for the craic. Obviously, it was a serious business but there was a huge amount of fun had too.”
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