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Dublin: 7°C Tuesday 9 March 2021

After 40 barren years the Glen are back aiming for a Munster senior hurling crown

The Cork club take on Clare’s Ballyea in today’s Munster final.

Graham Callanan celebrates with Patrick Cronin Graham Callanan celebrates the Cork county final win with Patrick Horgan Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

TOMAS MULCAHY CAN remember Glen Rovers last Munster final outing from four decades ago.

That 1976 showdown was a continuation of the good times, Glen Rovers fourth provincial decider since the inception of the competition in 1964.

“I was 13 when ‘76 was around, it was against South Liberties in Limerick,” recalls Mulcahy.

“You look at the quality that they had at that stage, from the ‘73 Limerick (All-Ireland) team with Pat Hartigan and Eamonn Grimes and these guys as well.

“But the Glen had unbelievable guys that time as well back in ‘76. Great stalwarts of Glen Rovers and great guys that carried the flag and kept the spirit of the Glen alive at that time which was important as well.”

Glen Rovers swept to victory that day but the marquee Munster days became thin on the ground and today in Thurles against Ballyea represents the end of a 40-year barren spell.

Watching those days of glory as a youngster left a deep impression on Mulcahy yet in his own playing career, he only got to step into the Munster club arena on one occasion.

“In ‘89, having waited so long to win a county championship since ‘76, the Munster club came very quick for us.

“We got to the county final in ‘88, we won it in ‘89, we lost again in ‘91. That period of time we had a very, very strong group of players. The likes of Kieran Fitzgibbon, John Fitzgibbon, Kieran McGuckin, Johnny Buckley, Pat Horgan, all these kinds of guys had given unbelievable service over a 10-15 year period to Glen Rovers and they got their reward in 1989, which was fantastic.

Tweet by @Tomas Mulcahy Source: Tomas Mulcahy/Twitter

“The Munster club, look we probably didn’t take it seriously back then to be honest. We played Sixmilebridge from Clare. We played in the Glen Rovers field actually and there was one man Gerry McInerney who played with Clare for long periods, he’d a very good day against us.”

Leaving their own pitch that day, they thought that more glory days for the Glen were in the offing.

The reality was harsher to embrace. They lost the 1991 Cork county final and had to wait 19 years to get back to that stage.

Defeat was Glen Rovers lot in 2010 against Sarsfields and it arrived again in a harsher, more shocking manner when walloped by the same opponents in 2014.

The revival since then has been remarkable, stitching together two consecutive Cork titles and now an hour away from reigning in the province. The club’s intermediate and U21 sides reached county semi-finals this year, their U14′s lifted the Féile title in Cork.

“This has all come from the senior team and the management with how they’ve turned things around from three years ago.

“For the older generation, last year was just a relief. The likes of Jimmy Lynam, who’s 90 years of age plus, guys felt they might never see the Glen win a county title again. It was fantastic for these guys.

Tweet by @Tomas Mulcahy Source: Tomas Mulcahy/Twitter

“There was a lot of satisfaction this year. The key for us has been we’ve had a serious balance of players. Okay you depend on your county stars, Patrick Horgan and Stephen McDonnell are great ambassadors for us.

“But our goalkeeper Cathal Hickey really has come of age as has Gavin Moylan at corner-back. There’s the young guys there – Dave Dooling and Dave Noonan.

“Paddy Cunningham is  a great warrior as well, after so many cruciate ligament operations, this guy is still going and that’s a testament to what the club means to him.

“Then Conor Dorris and David Busteed in the corners got big points the last day. Dean Brosnan for me has been having a fantastic season as well.”

Craig Leahy and David Cunningham celebrate Stephen McDonnell and David Cunningham savour Glen Rovers 2015 Cork senior final victory Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

A couple of players have spearheaded their challenge. There’s been a former Cork defender.

“What a couple of years Graham Callanan has had for Glen Rovers since he finished up being on the panel or playing with Cork,” says Mulcahy.

“He was probably the unluckiest man to be involved with Cork, trying to get into that half-back line of Curran, Gardiner and Sean Óg. Then you’d the midfield of Jerry O’Connor and Tom Kenny.

“He’s been powerful for the Glen. He’s played football as well for years with St Nick’s, he’s given fierce loyalty to that.

“Graham played for years with Glen Rovers without having massive success. He’s never let the club down and he’s getting his just rewards.”

And when it has come to posting match-winning scores for the Glen, a current Cork forward has obliged.

“You’re going to have one or two guys that you’re going to be depending on to actually in the heat of battle come out and shine and turn the game in your favour.

“Patrick turned the game on its’ head in the county final. The last day he was centre-forward and we probably needed a bit of a presence in the inside line. Suddenly when he went in to the full-forward line, he started creating havoc again.

“That’s the beauty of Patrick, he’s very flexible. His ability no one will ever question and his hurling skill. He’s now delivering on the biggest stage which is important because he eats, sleeps and drinks the game.”

AIB GAA Munster Senior Hurling Club Final Media Day Glen Rovers forward Patrick Horgan Source: Stephen McCarthy/SPORTSFILE

By pipping Patrickswell in that nail-biting semi-final, Glen Rovers delivered Cork’s first Munster senior club championship win since 2009.

Since 1987 only Newtownshandrum (2003, 2005 and 2009) have inscribed a Cork club’s name on the roll of honour.

There is the matter of county representation today but the desire to succeed stems from a more parochial view.

“I know people are saying it’s great for Cork hurling and it is probably a boost but it was only one match, beating Patrickswell,” reasons Mulcahy.

“The test is Sunday. If you’d said at start of the year, we’d win a county championship we’d have been delighted. Would we have said, we’d compete in the Munster club?

“We’d probably have to get a favourable draw. That’s not to take from Patrickswell but we got a bye number one and then if you’d got Ballygunner or Thurles Sarsfields, you mightn’t have been as fancied.

“You’re now in November and the guys are 60 minutes away from being Munster title winners, which is huge for the club and the players themselves but it’s the same for Ballyea.

“That’s the beauty of the club championship. People in my own club were talking about backing Thurles Sarsfields for the All-Ireland. Nothing is certain in sport and Ballyea have shown that.”

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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