'I followed the Clare team of the 90s' - Cork star on his Banner County links

The mother of Cork centre-back Mark Ellis hails from Tulla in Clare.

Cork star Mark Ellis had an early love for Clare hurling.
Cork star Mark Ellis had an early love for Clare hurling.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

MARK ELLIS IS preparing to begin his second full championship season as a senior intercounty hurler with Cork.

He was a member of the 2013 panel that reached the All-Ireland final but made his debut against Sunday’s opponents Waterford in Thurles last year.

The 24-year-old Millstreet centre back grew up in an era of great Cork-Waterford clashes but it was the groundbreaking Clare teams of the 1990s who had a massive impact on Ellis in his formative years.

His mother hails from Tulla in the Banner County and Ellis was reared on a staple diet of Ger Loughnane’s All-Ireland winning crops of 1995 and 1997.

Ellis said: “My mother is from Clare and I would have followed the Clare team of the 1990s, in 1997 when they won the All-Ireland, and I followed them in all their games in 1998.”

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The noughties were pockmarked by some magnificent Cork-Waterford clashes, with the 2004 Munster final remembered as arguably one of the finest games of all time.

And Ellis was enthralled by what he saw as two magnificent teams battled it out on an almost annual basis.

“I went to the games and just remember the heroes on the field.

“Seán Óg (Ó’hAilpín), Ronan Curran on the Cork team were just heroes and it was hard not to love Dan Shanahan and Ken McGrath and these fellas too.

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“You had equal admiration for them. For a lot of the lads on the panel my age, they are the games where they fell in love with the game.

“Every game was excellent, every game had its own story. (It’s) up to the next generation to live up to those games.

“I loved the way Ronan Curran could block any ball, the way Dan Shanahan had no fear and (John) Mullane the same, taking anyone on and going for goals.

“That fearlessness on the field was something you aspired to be like.”

Cork won last year’s Munster quarter-final replay against Waterford by 14 points but the Déise struck a huge psychological blow last month with a ten-point victory in the Allianz Hurling League final.

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And Ellis understands the threat posed by Derek McGrath’s side in Thurles on Sunday, even if they are without injured talisman Pauric Mahony.

“Waterford were the most impressive team in the league all along, the only unbeaten team and looking back, we all knew how they were going to play but just struggled to adapt on the field.

“They are very fit, very young and very eager and they fight for every ball.

“Maybe we just didn’t match their intensity.

“Before we knew it we were three points down and the game started to run away from us.

“You can’t switch off for any minute against these fellas – they will tear you apart.”

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About the author:

Jackie Cahill

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