September 04, 1992
Cork's Denis Mulcahy
Cork's elder hurling statesman Denis Mulcahy just goes on and on
There was neither discussion or debate here in Cork after Midleton's triumph in the county final. Denis Mulcahy was the man for the full back spot, despite his age and the threat from a few other notable individuals. Now he stands on the threshold of another historic achievement if Cork can successfully dent Kilkenny's chances in the 17th final meeting between the counties at Croke Park next Sunday.
There is a prize of rare quality at stake here because Cork will be aiming to put those defeats of 1982 and 1983 in the back of their minds as they prepare for the showdown. Over the decades, games between those great traditional rivals have stood the test of time and the old glamour will be as strong as ever when the black and amber face up to the red. Kilkenny have some excellent players in the O'Connors, Liam Walsh, Pat O'Neill, Michael Phelan, Bill Hennessy, DJ Carey, Eamonn Morrissey and Liam Fennelly - the last man to bring the McCarthy Cup to Kilkenny in 1983 - but Cork are well insured against that talent and will be looking to the likes of Ger Cunningham, Denis Mulcahy, Cathal Casey, Teddy McCarthy, Ger Fitzgerald, Kevin Hennesy and a number of others for success.
Denis Mulcahy's lofty reputation and eye catching style have been in the limelight now for some time, despite the heavy demand on stamina and injuries picked up from time to time. He is admired for his skill and determination on the field and no doubt will be working and planning hard to be in the right frame of mind for what should be another bruising encounter. Great defenders are invariably an underrated breed. Very often though they are the statesmen of the team and "Muller", as he is affectionately known, is not very far away from joining an elite group of Leesiders that include Con Murphy, who went on to become President of the GAA, John Lyons, Denis O'Riordan, Tom O'Donoghue, Pat McDonnell and Martin O'Doherty.
Undoubtedly, his most arduous undertaking was taking over the right corner back berth on the Cork team following Midleton's historic win in the county final of 1983 and in many ways typified the traditional Leeside hurler by perhaps denying Tipperary a long awaited Munster crown in the summer of '84. Picture the scene! Tipp were four points in front with six minutes left and many were questioning Cork's ability to make a game of it. John Fenton got a point back and not too long after Tony O'Sullivan was on hand to knock home the equaliser.
The blue and gold warriers held their heads in disbelief, but worse was to follow. They had a chance of a point but lost it, but so too had Cork. Then it looked as if the challengers were going to get the vital score when Michael Doyle was in an ideal position to pick his spot but he crossed to a colleague and simultaneously Denis Mulcahy made, perhaps one of the most important saves of his career by grabbing and belting the ball out the field. One or two Tipp men seemed to be under it but it was Tony O'Sullivan who sent in a speculative shot that the unfortunate goalkeeper John Sheehy could only bat out to the in rushing Seanie O'Leary and the Youghalman quickly put the finishing touches to one of the most sensational Munster Finals in a long time. In retrospect and more than anything it was Mulcahy's timely clearance that turned the tide.
At the start of the 1992 season, many devoted Cork fans were almost accepting that Tipperary would again emerge as provincial champions and they were basing it on the lack of new defensive talent following last year's games, when the Reds lost a seven point lead twice at Pairc Ui Chaoimh and nine in Thurles. Over the subsequent six months the Cork selectors experimented with numerous players in the full back line and they were rightly worried about the number three position, which prompted them to persuade Midleton's Denis Mulcahy to make a comeback following a two year break. In retrospect, it constituted a remarkable transformation with the Erins Own newcomer Brian Corcoran slotting in the right corner and Sean O'Gorman, whose only appearance since the Munster Final replay was against Wexford in the Oireachtas semi final, recalled to the other berth.
No doubt all three faced a difficult schedule following the announcement of the team to face Tipperary but they were fiercely determined and confident from the word go. It now seems a remarkably long time since Denis Mulcahy originally wore a cork jersey but he never allowed himself to become detached from Midleton's phenomenal run that yielded a fourth county title in the autumn of 1991. Indeed, most observers agreed that he had to be recalled after holding Cormac Bonner scoreless in the Munster club final against Cashel at Mitchelstown, although all his hurling activities since the 1989 championship against Waterford had been confined to the club arena.
Now after games against Kerry, Tipperary, Limerick and Down the temperature has changed for "Muller" and his colleagues and he will be back in Croke Park for the second time since St. Patricks Day 1988 when Midleton scored a well merited 3-8 to 0-9 win over Athenry in the final of the All-Ireland club championship. Before the Kerry match back in May, Denis played a total of 19 senior hurling championship games for Cork after making his debut against Limerick in 1984.
Most players have an off-season. A time to reflect on battles gone by and to re-charge the batteries for the challenges ahead. But not Denis Mulcahy. Hurling takes up just about every spare moment he has and this year alone, apart from playing senior for Cork and Midleton, coached Dungourney in the East Cork junior hurling championship and is captain of the Midleton junior football team already through to the Division final. On top of that he lined out with the Imokilly footballers that went under to O'Donovan Rossa's last May. Not bad going for a man who was 36 in August and has been at it hammer and tongs since the mid seventies.
"Muller" is now the older statesman of the team, five years ahead of Ger Cunningham and Kevin Hennessy and the winner of every honour since originally winning a League medal as a sub against Offaly at Thurles in 1981. It all began for him in his home town when he won an East Cork minor hurling medal in the company of Des Hurley, John Fenton, John Hurley, John Cleary and Pat Horgan in 1972. In the county final, however, Glen Rovers put an end to their gallop when they won a rousing game by 5-7 to 2-6 at Cobh.
The late seventies was a rewarding period for Cork at senior level but "Muller" had to wait until the 1980/81 season for overdue recognition and then after that great league triumph over Offaly, the Reds were sensationally beaten by Clare in the opening round of the championship.
Although his credentials were very good he failed to take the team until after the Magpies won the 1983 county final. A fella by the name of John Fenton captained the team and by the end of 1984, a definite buzz went through the county when Cork regained the All-Ireland with victory over Offaly after suffering two successive defeats at the hands of Kilkenny. Altogether four Midleton players - "Muller", Fenton, Kevin Hennesy and Pat Hartnett - played while goalkeeper Ger Power and Hartnett's brother John were substitutes.
From there on Mulcahy's name became synonymous with Cork and he amassed another couple of Munster medals in 1985 and 1986 and filled the customary right corner back position when the Leesiders, under Tom Cashman's leadership, lifted the Liam McCarthy trophy from under Galway's noses. Following Midleton's third county final triumph in 1987, he was elected captain of his county in 1988 but in one of the big disappointments of his career, Tipperary retained the provincial crown by 2-19 to 1-13 at Limerick.
Confidence in abundance is very much an essential aspect of Denis Mulcahy's game. He has a sense of radar as far as location the sliotar from far out and is impossible to dispossess when in possession. Interestingly, most of his games have been at right corner back between 1984 and 1989 but his first big outing was at midfield alongside club colleague John Fenton, when Cork defeated Waterford in the 1981 League semi final. He has also been rewarded with an Oireachtas medal in 1985, an All Star award the following year and has played for Munster in the Railway Cup competitions.
Taken from Hogan Stand magazine
4th September 1992
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