May 02, 1997
HE PLAYED FOR TIPP, HIS SON PLAYS FOR CORK-AND HIS BROTHER-IN-LAW IS MICK O'CONNELL FROM KERRY!!!
The Championship season is almost upon us again, and 1997 promises to be yet another bumper year for the Guinness-sponsored All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship series. Without doubt, the most eagerly anticipating of the provincial competitions is the Munster Hurling Championship, a contest which has five potential winners from a starting field of six (Am I doing a disservice to Kerry?). Limerick and Clare are the current favourites, with Waterford being mooted as very serious dark horses, but neither Tipp nor Cork will be far away either when the day of reckoning arrives, Or so hopes Michael McCormack, Secretary of Dairygold Cooperative Society Limited.
A Munster Championship win for either the Premier County (preferably!) or the rebels would do Michael nicely, thank you very much. His own Fergal is on the present Cork panel; and he himself is an Aherlow native and former Tipp representative. And - as his wife is a sister of none other than the legendary Mick O'Connell - he probably wouldn't be too upset if the Kingdom were to upset all and sundry. It all makes for intriguing stuff! The nerves are jangling in anticipation…. But Michael just can't wait for the action to commence.
Michael McCormack hails from within the shadows of the famous Glen of Aherlow. He began his hurling career with the Aherlow club which is close to Tipperary town and not far from the Limerick border. He started playing gaelic games with the club at underage level around 1958/59, having developed an interest in the national code through his days at Abbey CBS in Tipperary town.
Aherlow is a traditional football club and it was mostly football that Michael played with them in the early days. The first honour he won was a West Tipperary Juvenile Football Championship… a big achievement at the time. He was also part of the team that brought first ever hurling honours to the club in the form of a West Division Junior 'B' Championship. In those days, that was big deal to a club recognised for its football activities. Of course, things are different nowadays as Aherlow has developed very much into a hurling club.
Despite the apparent handicap of playing with a 'football' club, Michael was good enough to make the Tipperary Minor hurling team. Was he the first Aherlow man to wear the Tipperary colours? "I'm not sure. I don't know of any Aherlow clubmen who played for the county before me, but I remember Pat Coffey playing Intermediate for Tipp afterwards," he reflects.
Michael played for the Tipp Minors in 1959. It was an unusual year - one he remembers with mixed emotions. You see, he was also playing for the county Minor footballers in'59. On an extraordinary warm and dry day (during the heat wave that was the summer of 1959) the Tipperary Minor footballers took on Cork in Cork ….. He suffered sunstroke and was subsequently ruled out for the rest of the season. As fate would have it, the Tipperary Minor hurlers went on to All-Ireland glory. Michael had featured at corner back for their first round outing but, as he never played in the latter stage, missed out on to All-Ireland glory, Michael had featured at corner back for their first round outing but, as he never played in the latter stage, missed out on an All-Ireland medal. It was a case of what might have been…. "That's the way things go" a rueful Michael reflects.
Michael went on to represent Premier County at Intermediate level for one year and also made a few appearances on the Tipperary senior team in 1966, but never made the Championship starting fifteen. He was, however, on the Tipperary football team for a number of years (he won a Division Two National Football league medal with them in 1971), and won both Sigerson and Fitzgibbon cups with UCC. On those Fitzgibbon teams he played alongside the likes of Mick Mortell (current President of UCC), Donie Flynn (Limerick), Jimmy Byrne (Waterford) and Des Kiely ("a tremendous full back from Tipperary"). The Sigerson team included Mick Morris, Mick Fleming, Dave Geaney and Tipp hurling goalkeeper John O'Donoghue.
Michael more or less settled in Cork and played very little with his hometown club (Aherlow were junior at the time but now field senior football and intermediate hurling teams) from 1963 onwards; instead he played both codes in the Cork Championship with UCC and then St.Finbarr's. He had a very successful innings too, winning a total of four Cork Senior Championship - two in football and two more in hurling. An historic Senior Championship double was garnered with UCC in 1963 and this was added to by another Cork Senior Football Championship with UCC in 1964 and a blue riband hurling title with 'the Barrs' in '68.
"In those days UCC and 'the Barrs' were the premier dual clubs in Cork, along with 'the Rocks' (Blackrock) and 'the Glen' (Glen Rockies')," notes Michael who, upon marrying in 1970 settled in to Cork permanently.
He lived in Ballincollig for a while and was involved with the club there at administrative level. He has been based in Mallow since 1986, where he is Secretary of Dairygold… a co-operative which emerged as a result of two societies (Ballyclough and Michelstown) amalgamating in 1990. Michael had previously been Secretary of Ballyclough Co-Op.
Dairy gold (recently listed as Ireland's seventh most popular brand name in a survey carried out by Checkout Ireland) is a multi-purpose co-op. The emphasis is on dairying, but dairy gold is also active in beef, pig meat, and farm supplies. Its catchment area includes Cork, Tipp, Limerick and parts of Clare.
Michael's son Fergal hurls with Mallow and also with the divisional side Avondhu. And another son, Mick, has been a long time stalwart with mallow and Avondhu. Mick's career was rudely interrupted in recent years, by a serious knee injury …. But he has hopefully left that behind him now and appears to be back in full swing.
Meanwhile, Fergal starred at midfield for the Avondhu side which stormed to victory in last year's Cork Senior Hurling Championship and has, in the past, appeared on Cork Minor and U21 teams in both codes. Honours won by Fergal with the Rebels to date include a Munster Minor Football Championship, a Munster U21 Hurling Championship and an All-Ireland Junior Hurling Championship. Fergal is current captain of the Cork team and has been performing impressively in the present League campaign. However, he missed the last two matches with a chipped bone in his ankle.
So he can't be blamed for the shock defeat at the hands of Dublin! "In a way, that result was worrying," Michael admits. "However, I'd like to see them playing regularly against the more recognised teams before passing judgement. People had felt that Cork were coming along well before the Dublin game, and I presume there was an expectation to beat Dublin. Losing was set-back , but we don't know the full circumstances. This is a young Cork team and I don't know if they if they'll do it this year - but there's potential there,"
Despite his natural affinity to the Rebels, Michael McCormack will always be a Tipperary man, however, he is much more optimistic about the prospects of his native county: "If the likes of John Leahy and Michael Cleary can realise their full potential again then Tipp will be there or thereabouts, "he considers. "They lost a big half-time lead to Limerick again recently in the league, but Len Gaynor will add a lot of extra steel to the team. They're playing well and there's still room for improvement. By the time the championship comes around they should be ready. They could have won the Munster last year, but I expect them to show a bit more craft and determination this year. I'm really looking forward to the beginning of the Championship because I genuinely believe there's an All-Ireland in this Tipperary team," concluded an upbeat all-round G.A.A enthusiast.
Taken from Hogan Stand magazine
2nd May, 1997
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