22 YEARS AGO when Midleton won the Cork senior hurling title, Peter Smith was on the team and rubbing shoulders with household names like John Fenton, Kevin Hennessy and Ger Fitzgerald.
That victory in 1991 was Midleton’s fourth title in nine seasons – with an All-Ireland crown also lifted in 1988 – but it turned out to be the end of their run of glory.
A drought ensued but in memorable fashion against Sarsfields in Páirc Uí Chaoimh yesterday, they claimed the Sean Og Murphy Cup with Smith the manager who steered them to success.
“It seemed like ages and ages. I just had a picture there with the cup with Paddy Fitzgerald, who was in charge of us when we won it last.
“Little did I realise at that stage that when we won it again I’d be in charge.
“These lads are full of character. If you take the hurling out of it, they’re proper guys, proper men. That counts for something as well.”
There was little debate over who was the star of the show for Midleton. Weighing in with 2-10 – 2-7 from play – out of Midleton’s overall tally of 2-15, highlighted the contribution of attacker Conor Lehane.
“Conor came back from the All-Ireland finals, and I think he realised that that’s where he belongs.
“He showed it again today. I said to him with 10 minutes to go, ‘It’s there now for you, boy,’ and he took it on.
“As did Luke (O’Farrell), he really showed up in the last 10 or 15 minutes too, when you want guys to be doing that.”
“I said it to a good friend of mine, Pat Hartnett, that today the boys would have to become men. I think they have become men after that, and they deserve every credit for doing so.”
Now Midleton’s attention turns to the Munster club scene. In a fortnight’s time they will enter a semi-final tie against the winners of next weekend’s Clare county final between Sixmilebridge and Newmarket-on-Fergus.
“You have to take it seriously when you get there,” Smith said.
“It’s a long time since we’ve been there, 1994 was the last time [Midleton lost the county final to division side Carbery, who could not enter].
“We’ll definitely enjoy the celebrations, but we’ll come back again next week or the week after and focus on that.”