The Decade Of East Cork Dominance in Cork Hurling

23 October, 2019

The curtains have drawn on another decade of Senior Hurling in Cork and it’s safe to say what a decade it has been. During the 2010’s, five different sides have gotten their hands on the Sean Og Murphy Cup, with four of which hailing from East Cork. Imokilly, Sarsfields, Carrigtwohill and Midleton are the sides in question with the East Cork Divisional finishing the decade out in style racking up the three titles on the bounce, the first side to manage this feat since St Finbarrs from 1980-1982. 

The Senior Hurling Championship has only left the Barney twice this decade, with the Glen claiming their 26th and 27th titles respectively. In both years, they lifted the crown after beating an East Cork side in the final. Erins Own fell short in 2015 while Sars failed to dethrone the Seandun side a year later. The warning signs were undoubtedly there for all to see. The 2000’s drew to a close with an East Cork side lifting three of the last four Seán Og Murphy Cup. The latter stages of the 00’s was just a taster of what was to come for hurling in East Cork.

One stat that sums up the dominance perfectly is the fact that in every final this decade their has been at least one East Cork side competing while we have also seen two all East Cork finals. First in 2013 when Midleton claimed their seventh title, beating Sars in the final on a score of 2-15-2-13 and then again in 2018 when the magpies were yet again involved this time on the wrong end of the score line, losing to Imokilly by ten points. 

When dissecting the 2010 campaign, straight away the amount of East Cork derbies sticks out immediately. A total of seven derbies between East Cork sides took place producing many close affairs. On top of this, five of the eight quarter finalists hailed from the Barney, with the eventual winners being Sars. Coming into the decade there was much attention on the side from Riverstown. Sars had reached the previous two SHC finals, winning the first final in 2008 against fellow East Cork side Bride Rovers by a solidarity point however they were toppled twelve months later by Newtownshandrum. In 2010, they climbed the mountain yet again, going through the back door and four derbies on the way to regaining their crown. 

The side who play in blue and white weren’t done for the decade reaching a further four finals, winning two. In the 2012 season, Sars were in fine form defeating Cloyne, CIT, Carrigtwohill and Blackrock en route to the final. They were clinical in front of the goal scoring eleven goals. They overcame Bishopstown in a really close final on a score of 1-15-1-13. Sadly from an East Cork perspective Cloyne were relegated following a 2-13-2-12 loss to Bride Rovers in the relegation playoff final. 

2014 was a relatively poor year for the Barney as Youghal and Sarsfields were the only East Cork representatives in the quarter finals. Youghal were dumped out by Douglas however the side from Riverstown stormed into the semi finals after a nine point win against the Barrs. They went on to defeat Na Piarsaigh in the semis, using their experience to pull them through a tight affair. The score board didn’t do Na Piarsaigh justice as Sars claimed a 1-18-0-14 victory. They faced a very familiar foe in the final. The Glen went into the fixture looking for redemption after the 2010 final however Sars were just too good for them. The side in blue and white were nothing short of unbelievable as they thrashed the side from Blackpool 2-18-0-8. Kieran Murphy and Tadhg Og Murphy netted the two goals in a truly brilliant performance to cap off a run of four titles in seven years! 

Glen Rovers recovered brilliantly from the defeat, going on to win two titles on the bounce, ending a twenty six year drought in the process! As many know they defeated an East Cork side in both finals, however the involvement of clubs from the Barney in the latter phases of the championship goes unnoticed despite the great representation. In 2015, 5/8 quarter finalists and 3/4 semi finalists were East Cork clubs! While in a year later, the semi finals played host to a stunning East Cork derby with Erins Own just coming out on top against Midleton. 

Rewinding back to 2011 when we saw one of the greatest underdog stories of the century as Carrigtwohill won their second SHC title to add to their 1918 win. A last minute point in the final from substitute Seán O’Farrell sealed the victory for Carrig as they overcame CIT on a score of 0-15-1-11. This win bridged an incredible 93 year gap between their two SHC crowns! They defeated neighbours Midleton, Cloyne, Muskerry and Ballinhassig en route to an iconic victory, led by captain Brian Lordan and senior players such as Michael Fitzgerald and Niall McCarthy. Interestingly, defending champions Sars were knocked out in the quarters by Newtownshandrum however of course they would go on to regain their crown a year later. 

In the lead up to the 2013 season the question was could Sars do two in a row following their 2012 win after failing the same feat in 2009 and 2011. They did manage to reach the final again however they were pipped at the line by a young midleton side with Cork star Conor Lehane at the fore front. Pádraig O’Shea got the honour of lifting the Sean Og Murphy Cup for the magpies following a 2-15-2-13 win in the final, in the first of two all East Cork finals of the decade. It was their first title since all the way back in 1991 when they defeated the Glen in the Finale. Lehane stole the show scoring 2-10 as he finished as the top scorer in the championship with 5-48. 

Rounding the decade, we have the record setting Imokilly team who became the first side since St Finbarrs in the 1980’s to complete the fabled three in a row. The East Cork Divisional side sealed their place in history following final wins against Blackrock, Midleton and Glen Rovers. In 2016, Imokilly had exited the championship in the fourth round  after losing out in an absolute classic against Erins Own. Eoghan Murphy  notched thirteen points for the East Cork club on the way to a 2-21-2-20 win against the East Cork Divisional side. The game marks the last time Imokilly were defeated in Senior Championship! Since then they’ve went eighteen games unbeaten with only two ending in a draw. Those two draws were all the way back in 2017 in the quarter and semi stage respectively. In the quarters they overcame Erins Own in the replay after a stunning 3-16-2-19 draw in the first game.  Dalton and Mulcahy found the back of the net for Imokilly while for the East Cork club  Murphy was yet again an absolute menace notching 1-8. In the replay, Erins Own were yet again clinical in front of goal with Horgan and O’Carroll both scoring 2-1! However, it wasn’t enough as the saying take your points rang true as Imokilly scrapped past their East Cork rivals by a single point! Paudie O’Sullivan 0-6, Cian Fleming 0-5, Will Leahy 0-4 and Ian Cahill 1-0 were all in tip top form for the side in red and white as they ran out 1-22-4-12 winners. In the semi finals, they were in for an rollercoaster of a derby this time against Sarsfields. The initial tie ended 1-24-2-21. Jack O’Connor and Tadhg Og Murphy both contributed 1-2 each for Sars. For Imokilly, Aghada starlet Cian Fleming was superb, scoring 1-5. In the second affair, Paudie and Harnedy were the stars of the show scoring 2-3 each! It finished in the replay 4-17-4-10 as Imokilly reached their first SHC Final since 2001! They dispatched of the Rockies in the final on a score of 3-13-0-18. Harnedy, Fleming and Mulcahy got the goals as Imokilly sealed their third Seán Og Murphy Cup. 

A year later, the Divisional powerhouse were triumphant yet again. They defeated Muskerry, CIT, Bishopstown, Newcestown and UCC to book their place in the SHC for the second year in row. This time around they faced Midleton in an East Cork derby. Imokilly’s exploits in front of goal turned out to be the difference as they ran out 4-19-1-18 winners. Cloyne man Paudie O’Sullivan and St Itas’ Seamus Harnedy were the standout players scoring 1-6 and 2-1 respectively. Incredibly, Imokilly ended the championship with three players in the top ten scorers !(Paudie O’Sullivan 7-9, Will Leahy 0-30, Séamus Harnedy 3-18)

The East Cork Divisional side came into the 2019 championship as red hot favourites to complete the three in a row. They defeated Carrigdhoun, Carbery, Midleton, Sars and St Finbarrs en route to the final where they met Glen Rovers. They defeated the city side on a score of 2-17-1-16. Seamus Harnedys goal in injury time proved crucial for Imokilly. Incredibly, the sides they defeated to obtain three in a row have a combined Sean Og Murphy Cup haul of 66!

As I mentioned earlier, the dominance goes much deeper then the eight SHC crowns. The East Cork region have had thirty five representatives in the quarter final phase. The remainder of the Cork has had forty five! The semi finals have seen twenty one sides from outside the Barney compete. Whereas the Barney themselves have had nineteen teams involved. However, the most stunning stat is that East Cork have had twelve Senior Hurling Championship finalists this decade. This is four more then rest of the county combined.

Moving down the competitions, in Premier Intermediate, two of the winners this decade have hailed from the Barney. Youghal defeated Castlelyons in an all East Cork Final in 2013 while this year Fr O’Neills were successful against Kilworth in the Final_. Unbelievably, East Cork boasted six Premier Intermediate clubs this season. Fr O’Neills who won the tournament outright, Watergrasshill and Castlelyons who reached the quarters, while Youghal, Cloyne and Aghada bowed out before the final eight. 

Moving down further to Intermediate, two of the last four winners have been from East Cork. 2019 Premier Intermediate champions Fr O’Neills lifted the Paddy Walsh Cup in 2016. A year later, Aghada won their first county title after defeating Éire Og in the final on a score of 0-16-0-9.

As for the Junior Hurling Championship, four of the last six winners have been East Cork sides. Also, all of the last six finals have featured a team from the Barney with Russell Rovers losing out to Cloughduv last season while Sarsfields fell just short against Mayfield in 2016.  In 2014, Castlemartyr bridged a fifty year gap between Junior Championship victories by defeating Ballinhassig in the final on a score of 0-18-0-10. Twelve months later, Dungourney were crowned Junior Hurling Champions for the first time in their history after defeating Cloughduv by eleven points in the finale. In 2017, St Catherine’s got it done after a replay. The initial game against Brian Dillion’s ended 1-13-2-10. Second time around, Catherine’s were successful winning by a solidarity point, 0-13-0-12. While, this season we are guaranteed an East Cork winner as Carrig Na BhFear take on Russell Rovers in an a repeat of the Jamesy Kelleher Cup Final. Rovers got the better of Newmarket in the semis while Carraig Na BhFear defeated Ballinascarthy. 

This success adds up to sixteen trophies this decade for Imokilly clubs. The next best you ask? Avondhu and Carrigdhoun both with five!

As for the u21 championships, Premier 1 has seen four East Cork winners this decade thus far. Of course, this seasons campaign is just after commencing with Midleton considered the favorites after just being pipped at the line last year by East Cork counterparts Fr O’Neills. While the magpies have retained much of genie team, the Ladysbridge outfit will be without much of their winning squad from last season. Despite this, they will still have a very competitive squad with the likes of Ger Millerick and Jason Hankard still eligible from selection. Switching back to last years triumph, Fr O’Neills and Midleton put on an absolute classic in the finale. It ended 3-24-4-18 after extra time, Deccie Dalton was the standout player as he put on an exhibition from placed balls! A year before hand, it was another all East Cork Final as Sars overcame Killeagh/Itas on a scoreline of 0-20-1-9. Earlier in the decade, the magpies were victorious twice, in 2011 and 2013. They defeated Duhallow and Blackrock in respective finals. In the u21 A Hurling Championship,  two of the last three champions have been East Cork teams in the form of Bride Rovers and Erins Own. Finally on the topic of u21, since it’s inception in 2010, there has been six East Cork winners of the u21 B Hurling Championship. Castlelyons, Watergrasshill, Sarsfields, Killeagh/Itas, Dungourney and St Catherine’s have all gotten they’re hands on the Gene Fitzgerald Cup. 

Shifting to the minor scene, this season has reflected perfectly the abundance of talent sprouting up in East Cork. Both the Premier 1 and 2 championships were won by sides hailing from the Barney. In the Premier 2 Final, Kiltha Og defeated Blackrock on a score of 3-13-0-17, Niall McGrath grabbed himself two goals while Niall Flynn netted the other. While in the Premier 1 Final, defending champions Midleton conquered the Glen in the final. Sam Quirke, Paul Connaughton and Aaron Mulcahy got the goals as the magpies ran out 3-15-1-18 winners. 

However the question is how does this translate on to the inter county scene. A total of twenty five different players from the Barney have been selected on the Cork panel. That’s eight more then next best Seandun. Amazingly, third on the list is Duhallow with just six! The twenty five players aren’t just from the established clubs such as Sars and Midleton. The players come from a total of twelve clubs. In comparison, Seandun’s seventeen players is spread across five clubs. Going down the age groups with Cork, the performances of Midleton CBS in recent years in the Harty Cup have came as breathe of fresh air. A total of six players from the CBS side this season have had involvement with Cork throughout various ages. Whereas with the 2018 squad, eight players have been selected by the county at one stage or another. Sean O’Sullivan, Aaron Walsh Barry and Ger Millerick is a just a taster of players who have made an impact on the intercounty stage. Its much of the same this season with three players from the Cork minors also apart of the Midleton CBS Harty squad. Sean Walsh of Carrigtwohill, Brion Saunderson from Midleton and Isaac Walsh of Lisgoold all had starring roles for Cork minors this season.

In the last two seasons, a further eight players from the East Cork district that have not played for CBS Midleton have made an appearance for Cork minors. Players include Bride Rovers’ Paddy O’Flynn, Midleton’s Aaron Mulcahy and Daire O’Leary of Watergrasshill. In comparison, for Cork u20’s six starters this season were from East Cork sides. Liam O’Shea(Lisgoold), Sean O’Leary Hayes(Midleton), Shane O’Regan (Watergrasshill), Ger Millerick (Fr O’Neills) Eoin and Brian Roche(Bride Rovers) are the six men who have featured. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg, as there’s an abundance of young talent coming through from East Cork, many that didn’t even get a mention such as Ross O’Regan who played for Cork in the Munster League and is a regular starter with the Midleton seniors. 

Twenty five intercounty players, eight Senior Hurling Championships, Two Premier Intermediate Hurling titles, two Intermediate triumphs and four Junior Hurling Championships pretty much sums up what has been a decade of dominance for East Cork!

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