Saturday’s Waterford Crystal Cup clash between Cork and UCC at the Mardyke takes on extra significance as it will also be the first staging of the Canon O’Brien Cup.
Canon Michael O’Brien, who is now an Archdeacon, led UCC to eight consecutive Fitzgibbon Cup titles from 1981-88, added two more in 1990 and ’91 alongside Willie Smyth and Dan Beechinor and led Cork to the 1990 All-Ireland senior title.
O’Brien, affectionately still known as ‘the Canon’, was at the helm as Farranferris won Dr Harty Cups in 1969, ’71, ’72, ’73 and ’74, adding All-Irelands in ’72 and ’74.
“There are certain people in Cork GAA, the likes of Jim ‘Tough’ Barry, Eamonn Young, Fr Bertie Troy, Billy Morgan, Johnny Clifford, who are real legends of the game for what they have done and the Canon falls into that bracket,” said UCC GAA development officer John Grainger.
“The cup has been donated by the O’Brien family, it’s actually a replica of the Fitzgibbon Cup and it was presented to the Canon in 1983 by the UCC hurling squad after he had helped them to win three Fitzes in a row. The family gave it to UCC and we have put it on a plinth, and it will be played for every year.”
To say O’Brien revolutionised third-level hurling is not an overstatement.
“Well he won 10 titles in 11 years, and I think he made the Fitz glamorous,” Grainger said,
“When he came in, UCC hadn’t won a title since 1976, but he totally transformed it and it got people talking. The kind of character he was, he took good individual players and moulded them into teams, and I’ve no doubt his work helped players get on to county teams when they otherwise might not have.
“My own experience is that I had him in Farna during lean times but then in UCC he took me as an average hurler and turned me into something that I was pleased with in terms of skill level.”
The game will be followed by a lunch while Nicky English, Donie Collins and Dr Con Murphy will hold a forum reminiscing and sharing anecdotes about the Canon.
* Anybody wishing to attend the lunch in the UCC Student Centre at 2.30pm on Saturday should contact Betty Young on 021 4904752
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