Cork Mushrooms-All Ireland Final 1966
Whatever hope our minors had against Wexford in the ’66 All-Ireland final, there was simply no way our seniors were going to trouble Kilkenny. Cork hadn’t won a senior All-Ireland in twelve years – hadn’t even contested one in ten years. Still, I couldn’t let it be said that Cork were in the senior and minor All-Ireland finals and I never went, now could I? Anyway, with no fewer than seven Rockies lining out with the Cork minors that day, sure where else would I be?
I latched on to the bass drum, which was more awkward than heavy, and made for the entrance….
The morning of the game saw me outside the Hogan Stand good and early – but ticketless! I was hoping to meet someone from Cork with a spare ticket but, to be truthful, Cork supporters were in short supply and spare tickets were even scarcer. I was beginning to panic, when the bus carrying The Black Raven Pipe Band pulled in alongside me and began unloading their gear. They were to perform for the minor match. With their pipes and drums and flags and guns – well, they had no guns – but they sure had a lot of gear! What could I do only give them a hand? I latched on to the bass drum, which was more awkward than heavy, and made for the entrance. “One second now, lad, I’ll open the second door for youse.” An obliging steward held both doors open and, giddy with excitement and expecting to be rumbled any second, I backed my way under the Hogan Stand out on to the field where the bandsmen were sorting through their stuff. I carefully deposited the large drum on the grass with the other instruments and nonchalantly walked away down along the sideline. I was not only in – I was out on the pitch!
Cork minor captain that day, Paddy Geary, still talks of leading out the Cork team onto Croke Park only to be met by yours truly strolling across the field to greet him as if we were down Church Road for a parish league game! I stayed out on the field with the lads for the puck around and got some nice photographs of the pre-match parade and the captains tossing for sides. Nobody took a blind bit of notice of me and I chatted away with the Blackrock lads as they limbered up for the biggest game of their lives. You couldn’t imagine it happening today! Anyway, despite my intrusion, the minors gave a marvellous display and the game ended in a welter of excitement with both teams on level scores.
To our amazement they simply hurled and muscled Kilkenny off the field on the day….
But the seniors! O the seniors! To our amazement they simply hurled and muscled Kilkenny off the field on the day and Cork folk were dancing in the stands and on the terraces – oblivious to the rain – when the referee finally put Kilkenny out of their agony – and Cork into ecstasy – with the final whistle. We had won by 5 points. Unbelievable!
To my amazement, there before me was Joe Mac, legendary drummer with the The Dixies Showband….
I raced back out onto the field to get a few photographs but I was engulfed by the crowd, making camera work impossible, so I decided to head for the dressing rooms where I knew the team – and the cup – would eventually end up. To my amazement, there before me was Joe Mac, legendary drummer with the The Dixies Showband, who had played for the nurses in the Ierne Ballroom the night before. Eventually his namesake, Cork captain, Gerald McCarthy, arrived with the cup held aloft and the TV cameras and lights followed him and the rest of the team in until there wasn’t room to move or air to breath. I kept the camera clicking until I ran out of film. Legendary Cork trainer, Jim ‘Tough’ Barry, wasn’t going to let the victory be dismissed as a flash in the pan. Looking straight at the camera he gave a sound-bite that still resonates today: “In Cork”, he said, “ hurlers come up overnight like mushrooms”
O, Jim, Lord rest you wherever you are, maybe you were right after all!