History - County IHC Final 2003

Sunday 26th October 2003



Intermediate Hurling County Champions 2003

Occasionally something happens that is hard to describe in words, because joy,emotion, pride and happiness are all so hard to write about. Sunday October 26th 2003 was such a happening. A fairytale come true, a dream, an illusion? No ‘tisall true - Bride Rovers are Cork County Intermediate Hurling Champions for the year of our Lord 2003.
We hoped, we prayed, we imagined what it might be like and when it happened it was better, so good that we couldn't have imagined. Where can I start to describe last weekend? Before I look at the game I want to mention the great out pouring of good wishes which we received in the days before the game from all over East Cork, Cork County and further a field. All these messages were really appreciated.
Last Tuesday October 21st seems an age away now. At 5.45 the lads gathered on the pitch for the last really serious training session with Jack Russell. In this day of high-pressure jobs, mortgages and long distance travel isn't it mighty to see 34 men out on the pitch before 6 o'clock on an autumn evening, all for the glory of the parish. The lads had a great hurling session in the fading autumn sunlight. This was the 99th time this group had been together since February. The mood was relaxed and confident without being cocky.There was a steely determination allied to the knowledge that County Final appearances don't come easily. Wednesday and Thursdays were frantic, frantic days not for the players but for those behind the scenes, what with buntings and banners, meetings and meals, sponsorship and the 101 other things that had to be done before the big day.
On to Friday night then for a last puck around, team meeting and presentation of match gear to the players. A mighty atmosphere around the grounds on Friday night and after the presentations no one was in any hurry away after the grub. The players who Bride Rovers have playing for them are a lovely bunch, some outgoing and exuberant, some shy and quiet, but a real group of friends, friends for each other and friends for everyone in the parish.As the lights were switched off and the doors locked on Friday night, we hoped we were heading for history.
Later that night Fr Seanie Barry arrived in Cork airport from Nairobi. I spoke to him on the phone after the JHL win over Fr O'Neills the previous Sunday but he hadn't his mind make up whether to come home for the game or not. ‘Twas the wish of everyone in the club and parish that he would and we were delighted when we heard on Tuesday that he was coming. He had missed the '98 final as he was on missionary duty in Africa. For one man that meant so much to Bride Rovers it was indeed fitting that he could be home for this great day in the clubs history.
On Saturday morning Liam and Anna Marie were swamped selling club gear in the club shop. This has really been one of the success stories of the club in recent times. On Saturday afternoon our U-15 hurlers gave everyone a timely boost with a good championship semi-final win of Kiltha Óg. There was a buzz around the parish by the weekend. Everywhere and I mean everywhere the flags, the buntings,the signs and the posters, all bearing the green, white and gold were evident.
Sunday October 26th dawned cold but gloriously bright and dry. The extra hour in bed on Saturday night did little to calm down the nerves. Before mass and after mass there was only one topic for conversation - the game. The day turned out just lovely, autumnal sunshine with the bitter cold of previous days gone.As has been their practice all year the team panel came together in the pitch at one o'clock for a puck around and a cuppa before boarding the team bus for the journey to Pairc Ui Chaoimh. It really was a Deserted Village and a Deserted Parish by early afternoon. With Lisgoold taking part in the Co JBHC final against St Colums at 1.30 there was a huge local presence in the Park long before our lads arrived on the bus after a Garda escort just after 2.30. Hopes of a possible East Cork double were dashed when the West Cork side St Colums over came Lisgoold.
After the final words were spoken it was a calm and confident Bride Rovers team that emerged onto sunny Pairc Ui Chaoimh to take on Inniscarra for the County Title. Memories of '98, only this time the pitch was in perfect condition. This was only our 3rd time back here since the Junior Final five years ago. In 2001 we were beaten by a late Aghabullogue goal and then in September this year we defeated Milford in the quarter-final. Proud captain Sean Ryan led the team behind the Castlelyons Pipe Band with team mascots Conleth Ryan and D.J. Cahill. The combined voices of the people of Bartlemy, Rathcormac and Kildinan joined proudly in the singing of the National Anthem and soon Willie Horgan had the game underway.
Inniscarra were the first to score with Cork Intermediate player Diarmaid O'Riordan pointing in the fifth minute. Jerome had us level 2 minutes later before Terry Broderick gave us the lead with a sweet point in the seventh minute. Denny Fitzgerald and Kevin Murphy had huge puckouts, which landed in the opposing half forward lines. In fairness our half back trio of Brendan, Barry and James returned most of what was sent to them on the double. Brian Murphy was fouled close to midfield and Barry Hazelwood sent over a terrific free in the 11th minute to put us 0-3 to 0-1 up. Diarmaid O'Riordan had one from play for the Mid Cork side a minute later; 0-3 to 0-2. A foul on Padraig Murphy saw along free tapped into the net by Sean Ryan for a goal. The green flag went up but the referee disallowed the score for a square infringement. A dangerous looking Inniscarra attack was saved by Niall and cleared by Aidan to Padraig who hit over a great score from way out on the wing. Pat O'Riordan got one back for Inniscarra in the 17th minute. Then came a crucial score.
After a couple of attempts to get a goal, it came in the form of a great shot from close range by Pat Walsh. Walsh's goal electrified the place, 1-4 to 0-3 ahead. Jerome made it 1-5 to 0-3 and we were flying. Donal Ryan and Barry were wide with two efforts and there was no score for over 8 minutes as we headed to the break. Then disaster or so it seemed. A long ball from sub Jonathan Olden was connected by wing forward Mark O'Sullivan for a goal. New we were just 2 points to the good 1-5 to 1-3. Into injury time, Barry Hazelwood added a point from a close in free to leave it 1-6 to 1-3 at half time. We struck just 3 wides in the half. The goal was a sickener but we were ahead and hurling well.
As the teams headed for the dressing rooms the general concensus was that we were well up for it but the first 10 minutes after the break would be vital. The selectors brought on Mike Hogan for Niall Fitzgerald with Brendan Walsh going in full back. Before the team left the dressing room Niall Fitzgerald said a few words, which everyone who heard it described it as "inspirational". Out then to face a dropping slanting sun, 3 points ahead, half an hour from victory. Inniscarra started the onslaught but our backline was just brilliant, hooking, blocking, and harassing hunting in packs as if their lives depended on it. Barry Hazelwood from a freeput us 4 points up and Padraig Murphy snapped up a Pat Barry clearance for his second point - another beauty, 1-8 to 1-3 up. Darragh Holland reduced the gap with a point to leave us 4 points up.
By now Padraig and Brian were lording it at midfield and Barry was controlling the heart of the defence. Inniscarra began to panic and instead of going for points they started to drop the sliotar into the square. Our mean defence put up the "Thou Shalt Not Pass" sign and we were on our way. Three in a row from Donal, Terry and Sean saw us 1-11 to 1-4 up before Mark O'Sullivan made it 1-5 for Inniscarra. Walshie sent over a point, as did super-sub Pat Cotter. On the line we could sense victory. But remembered Inniscarra in '91 - up 8 points with 10 minutes to go and beaten by one! Then Sean Ryan put us 9 points up. Inniscarra kept coming but Mike Hogan and Brendan Walsh made vital clearances.Then as we entered the final minute, Jerome O'Driscoll hit over a free and we were 10 points ahead, 1-15 to 1-5. It was simply unbelievable. Shortly afterwards Willie Horgan sounded the final whistle. We were champions!
It seemed like the whole parish was out on the field within seconds as a wave of emotion and joy swept over the pitch. Tears flowed freely as the players, subs and mentors were hugged and embraced. Eventually Sean Ryan went and following in his brother's footsteps of 1998, got to the presentation area, followed by his overjoyed team mates. County Board Chairman, Jim Forbes praised two great teams for a grand clean, sporting game of hurling. He said Bride Rovers had come along way in a short few years and then he presented the Seamus Long Cup to Sean Ryan. When Sean punched the air and held the Intermediate Trophy aloft, we knew it wasn't a dream anymore - it was reality.
In an emotional speech Sean thanked the players, selectors Liam, Anthony and Georgie and team coach Jack Russell in a special way. He thanked the club officers and backroom team, our main sponsors Barry's Bar, all our other sponsors and finally the best supporters in Ireland.He then asked for 3 cheers for a gallant Inniscarra side.
Next Tomas Mulcahy announced Barry Murphy as the TSB Man of the Match. This was indeed fully deserved, Barry was majestic at centre back. Sean and the team came back out onto the pitch for photos, interviews and most of all to be with our own very special supporters - the people of Bartlemy, Rathcormac and Kildinan.
In 1930 in Powers Hotel in Midleton Billy Barry first recited his composition "Bride RoversAbu. Little did he or anyone think that 73 years later it would be sung before thousands in Pairc Ui Chaoimh. Seventy years after our first appearance in the final, the Intermediate title had been won. The atmosphere on the field afterwards was just magic, supporters, families and players mingled with well wishers from all over the county. What a proud day for the club. Many players from other Rovers teams were there too to savour an unforgettable occasion. Former club secretaries Tony Walsh, John Meade and Joe Barry were there with hundreds of others. It seemed as if no one wanted to leave the field where history had just been made. This is what the GAA is all about, this is what hurling is all about and for us in Bride Rovers this is the day when Senior Status was achieved, Senior! Yes Senior. There is a song called "Crazy Dreams" and less than 10 years ago the idea of Bride Rovers Senior Hurling Club would indeed have been a crazy dream. Not anymore. To each and every player we say a sincere word of thanks.The 34 players are all our heroes, our superstars, our idols. Whatever the future holds this day cannot be taken away from us. After what seemed like an age, the players got to the dressingrooms to shower and change and celebrate again. Club Chairman Tom Mulcahy and Jack Russell said a few words but there was no need for long speeches - the joy on everyone's facetold its own story.
The team that created history for us was Denny Fitzgerald,Aidan Collins, Niall Fitzgerald, Pat Barry, Brendan Walsh, Barry Murphy, JamesMurphy, Padraig Murphy (0-2), Brian Murphy, Donal Ryan (0-1), Terry Broderick(0-2), Pat Walsh (1-1), Jerome O'Driscoll (0-3), Sean Ryan (0-2), BarryHazelwood (0-3). Subs: Mike Hogan, Pat Cotter (0-1), Barry Johnson.
Back to the tunnel in Pairc Ui Chaoimh to be greeted by our supporters and onto the team bus for the short joyous return to the Banks of the Bride. The welcome in Rathcormac was brilliant. We had a beautiful meal in Barry's Bar Marquee,kindly sponsored by Pat Pyne. Tom Mulcahy, club chairman, welcomed all on a historic night for the Club. He said he was so proud to be chairman of this great club, which had brought so much glory to the parish. County Board Vice-Chairman Mick Dolan, Fr O'Donnell PP, Fr Seanie Barry, team captain Sean Ryan and coach Jack Russell also spoke. Club President Pat O'Connor said he was the proudest man in the club and reflected on the juvenile club, the nursery of this great team over the years. Out onto the thronged street then for the victory parade to the Green. It was overwhelming to see people from practically every club in East and North Cork there and from West Waterford and South Tipperary too. A little over 12 months after his death, how proud Jack Fitzgerald would be to see the happy crowd on his lorry with the County Intermediate Cup.
Tom Mulcahy introduced all the players to the crowd and thanked each and everyone who made this victory possible, those who gave sponsorship, put up flags, make the tea, left players off work early and many many more.The huge gathering were treated to American Pie, Bride Rovers Abu and then ended with a spine-tingling National Anthem. Back to the marquee then until the wee small hours.
Monday was magic. A warm spring-like day, perfect for celebrations. All day long the party went on with many people content to just to stand around and talk and marvel at what had happened. On Monday night we saw a video of the game. The Rathcormac Coursing Club had a Man Of the Match Award ceremony in the marquee. A huge crowd from Home and Away were addressed by Rovers Club Chairman Tom Mulcahy, Coursing ClubChairman Tom Barry and Fr Seanie Barry. The award and a week-end away sponsored by Richie Regan was won by Padraig Murphy. Another great night of celebrating and reminiscing.
Much more will be written about this win in the days to come but I'll finish it for now by saying that the players, subs, selectors, trainer,- Thanks for making History.
Bride Rovers Intermediate Hurling Panel & Mentors:
Denny Fitzgerald, Aidan Collins, Niall Fitzgerald, Pat Barry, Brendan Walsh, Barry Murphy, James Murphy, Padraig Murphy, Brian Murphy, Donal Ryan, Terry Broderick, Pat Walsh, Jerome O'Driscoll, Sean Ryan, Barry Hazelwood, Mike Hogan, Pat Cotter, Barry Johnson, Patrick O'Driscoll, Colm O'Keeffe, Brendan O'Driscoll, Cormac Collins, Tomas Kearney, Shane Murphy, John O'Dowd, Batt O'Connell, Nevin O'Regan, Mark O'Connell, Michael Carey, James Bermingham, Hugh Kelleher, Alan Fitzgerald, Trevor Maloney, Declan Quinlan Selectors: Liam Barry, George Johnson & Anthony Cahill
Coach: Jack Russell


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