By Lily Pauline Murphy
Cork’s first ever All Ireland hurling title came on a dreary winter’s day 125 years ago. It was November 16, 1890 and a Cork side represented by Aghabullogue travelled to Dublin to take on a Wexford side represented by Castlebridge.
This was a time in GAA history when clubs who won their county finals went on to represent their county at All Ireland level and this was the case with Aghabullogue, who had won the 1890 Cork County Hurling Championship.
The All Ireland Hurling Final took place at Clonturk Park on Dublin’s northside where a crowd of up to 1,000 witnessed Cork and Wexford slog it out for hurling glory.
The Aghabullogue boys turned out in their club colours of green and white. Their jerseys were resplendent while their breeches were dazzling white and all 21 players wore green caps. They surely looked the part except for their feet, which were bare!
Cork entered the field of play that cold afternoon tagged with an underdog status but as soon as Limerick referee John Sheehy threw in the sliotar, the boys from the Muskerry village proved all experts wrong.
Although they were in their bare feet, the Cork side proved lightening-quick. The Wexford side was a lot slower but they made up for it in brutality.
With the first half in full swing Cork was dominant on the ball; Wexford was unable to keep up with Cork’s fast pace of ground hurling. As Cork was beginning to register scores the boys of Wexford decided to unleash some unsporting tactics.
Jer Henchion tormented the Wexford backs, so three of their players were assigned to mark him. However they failed to bring down the big man no matter how much they swiped and slashed at him. Tim O’Connor was not so lucky as he suffered a broken toe when one Wexford player unmercifully brought his hurley down on his foot. O’Connor limped to the sideline where his banjaxed toe was tended to and after applying some dressing to it he sprang onto the field of play again.
At half time Cork was leading Wexford 1-03 to 0-01. After a brief rest on the grass at the sideline the two sides went head-to-head for the second half with Wexford instantly targeting their opponents with sheer and utter violence. Only minutes into the second-half Cork had eight players injured.
Through their brutal style of play Wexford scored two goals as many of the Cork players pleaded with the referee to warn Wexford about their violent disorder. The Ref ignored their calls until he was approached by captain Dan Lane who informed him that he was taking his players off the pitch before any more harm could come to them. Sheehy agreed to call a halt to the game and blew the whistle as Cork was leading 1-06 to 2-02.
The referee awarded the game to Cork and asked the Central Council to ratify his decision, which they duly did a week later, thus securing Cork’s first ever All Ireland Hurling title.
It was without doubt a match won on controversial terms but, as noted in The Freemans Journal, Wexford played a reckless game whilst Cork had a faster and most skillful set of players.
When the All Ireland champions arrived back in Cork by train there were no crowds to greet them – no pipe band, no fanfare at all. The players quietly disembarked and made their way back to Aghabullouge unaware of how historic their achievement was.
Cork’s First All Ireland Winning Hurling Team: Dan Lane (Capt.), Jer Henchion, Tom Twomey, John Buckley, Pat Buckley, Dan Sullivan, Dan Drew, John Linehan, Dan Linehan, Tom Goode, Denis Horgan, Michael Horgan, James O’Reilly, Tady O’Connor, Pat O’Riordan, Ger Sullivan, Dan Looney, John Kelleher, Pat O’Riordan, E. Reilly, Tim O’Connor