Kilkenny aim to replicate Cork's four-in-a-row

02 September 2009
Reigning hurling kingpins Kilkenny are bidding to do something which was achieved only once before in the long history of the All-Ireland SHC. Cork, between 1941 and '44, was the only team to gain four title triumphs in succession.

While the Rebel County holds the best sequence record, many would be quick to point out that they did not beat Kilkenny in any of the finals. They got the better of Dublin in three McCarthy Cup deciders during that period and proved too strong for Antrim in the other title tie.

Also they were nominated to represent the southern province in 1941 after an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Kilkenny and Tipperary caused complications in the running of the hurling championships. It was decided that Cork and Limerick, would meet for the right to represent Munster in the All-Ireland with the winners to later meet Tipperary in the provincial decider.

Limerick, McCarthy Cup winners in 1940 when captained by Mick Mackey, were without Mick and John Mackey, because of the death of younger brother, Paddy, as well as Paddy Clohessy and Cork cracked in three early goals, netted by Micka Brennan, Jack Lynch and John Quirke, to set up the victory.

After Dublin defeated Galway by two points in an All-Ireland semi-final in Roscrea, they were no match for Cork who ran out emphatic 5-11 to 0-6 victors before an attendance of 26,150.

The scores were 2-8 to 0-3 at the break, John Quirke and Ted Sullivan netting the goals and Christy Ring, playing in his first All-Ireland final, sent over three points. Quirke and Sullivan also shot goals in the second half as also did Micka Brennan.

The 1941 Munster SHC final was staged in Limerick four weeks after the All-Ireland decider, on October 26. Cork were hot favourites, having defeated the Premier men by 11 points in the previous year's championship. However, Tipperary turned the tables on a 5-4 to 2-5 scoreline.

Perhaps Cork did not take the game as seriously as they should have and there were reports of some of their players stopping for alcoholic refreshments on the way to the Gaelic Grounds! Following the embarrassing defeat, there were suggestions that Cork should send the McCarthy Cup to Tipperary and another that the 1941 All-Ireland hurling championship be declared void.

But despite a lot of comment, the situation remained unchanged and there was extra interest in the Thomond Shield final in Limerick in which Cork defeated the Munster champions by 4-7 to 3-3 a few weeks later.

Cork's 1941 winning captain Connie 'Sonny' Buckley emigrated to England and with a few of the older players, some of whom had been on the team in 1931 when the title was previously won, deciding to retire, Cork had no fewer than seven changes in personnel when retaining the All-Ireland title in '42.

After taking the title for the 11th time in 1931, Cork hurling went into the doldrums foe most of that decade. They lost to Clare by four points (4-1 to 5-2) in the 1932 Munster final, but then failed to reach the provincial decider in each of the next seven years as Limerick, spearheaded by the great Mick Mackey became the southern stars, Glen Rovers won the Cork SHC for the first time in 1934 and they went on to take the title eight consecutive times. One of the famous club's most renowned players, Jack Lynch, was the county hurling captain in 1942.

Lynch is the only player to win six All-Ireland medals in six successive years, hurling from 1941 to '44, football in '45 and hurling again in '46. The future Taoiseach made his inter-county debut in a league game against Limerick in 1935 when his direct opponent was none other than Mick Mackey.

The dual star won all of his five All-Ireland hurling medals as a midfielder and was selected in that position on the Hurling Team of the Centenary in 1984 with Christy Ring at right half forward.

In 1942 Limerick provided the strongest opposition in Munster but Cork finished strongly to snatch a two-point win on a 4-8 to 5-3 scoreline. Then they defeated Tipperary by 4-15 to 4-1 in the provincial final.

That was followed by a 6-8 to 2-4 All-Ireland semi-final success over Galway in Limerick before Dublin again provided the final opposition. There were traffic restrictions in those emergency years and 27, 313 paid £1,878 to witness Cork defeat Dublin by 2-14 to 3-4 to retain the McCarthy Cup in 1942.

It was 1-7 to 2-1 at the interval with John Quirke netting Cork's first goal towards the end of the first half. Christy Ring, Jack Lynch, Mick Kenefick and Derry Beckett raised the white flag for Rebel County and they could have had more scores but for brilliant goalkeeping by Seamus Donegan.

The first indication that Christy Ring would become a great hurler came in the 1943 Munster final against Waterford at the Athletic Grounds, Cork when scoring a goal and three points in the 2-13 to 3-8 victory.

Although Antrim and Galway both played in the 1943 All-Ireland SHC, Cork did not have to play a quarter-final or semi-final. Antrim defeated Galway on the rather odd scoreline of 7-0 to 6-2 before scoring a sensational 3-3 to 1-6 victory over Kilkenny at the same venue.

Antrim brought huge support to Croke Park for the final and the attendance of 48.843 was the largest to see Cork in an All-Ireland final up to then and the third highest after the Limerick-Kilkenny deciders in 1936 and '40. Before the throw-in Antrim captain Jimmy Walsh handed over a gift of butter to Cork skipper Mick Kenefick, who was only 19 at the time and gave his counterpart a quantity of tea, However, there was to be no shock outcome to the 1943 All-Ireland SHC final as Cork romped to a 5-16 to 0-4 success to being off a championship treble for only the second time, the previous three-in-a-row being won between 1892 and '94.

John Quirke took the individual scoring honours with 2-2 and Ted O'Sullivan, Micka Brennan and Mick Kenefick also found the net. Christy Ring was the top point-scorer with four.

After the high of being presented with the McCarthy Cup in 1942, Mick Kenefick played only one more championship game for Cork. That was against Tipperary in the first defence of the title when a six-point success was marred by a wrist injury which ended his career before reaching his 20th birthday.

Cork were involved in two exciting Munster final clashes with Limerick at Thurles. The first tie ended all square with Cork scoring 6-7 to their opponents' 4-13. John Quirke netted three goals for the defending champions.

The replay generated enormous interest and although war clouds hovered over Europe, the main concern for many people was how to get to Thurles. Hundreds of supporters travelled by bicycle and some walked long distances.

Cork won by 4-6 to 3-6 with Christy Ring shooting a brilliant winning goal and Jim Morrison earlier finding the net twice. The side captained by the youthful Sean Condon then had a close All-Ireland semi-final against Galway in Ennis which they won by the smallest possible margin, 1-10 to 3-3.

Cork were without the injured pair of Jack Lynch and John Quirke in the penultimate round. Joe Kelly scored their goal and Sean Condon (eight) and Christy Ring (two) put over the points.

After three close contests, Cork's history-making All-Ireland final of 1944 was a bit of anti-climax as they ran out emphatic 2-13 to 1-2 winners in front of 26,896 paying spectators on a damp day.

After being held scoreless in the opening 10 minutes, Cork opened up and with Jack Lynch and Sean Condon contributing three points each, they led by 0-8 to 0-2 at the break.

Joe Kelly, an Irish sprint champion who was on an All-Ireland minor winning team in 1941, was in brilliant form in the Cork attack and a goal from him early in the second half was a nail in Dublin's coffin. Kelly also put his name on his team's second goal as the four-in-a-row was comfortably completed.

Nine players, Jack Lynch, Willie Murphy, Batt Thornhill, Alan Lotty, John Quirke, Christy Ring, Din Joe Buckley, Jim Young and Paddy O'Donovan, all picked up four All-Ireland medals and there were four different captains in the four years.