Sunday sees the renewed rivalry of the two most successful sides in hurling when Cork and Kilkenny battle it out in Croke Park for a place in the All-Ireland semi-finals.
It’s a rivalry as long as time. Their first All-Ireland final meeting came all the way back in 1893 and to date, no two teams have met in more All-Ireland finals. Cork and Kilkenny have clashed on hurling’s biggest stage on 24 occasions with Kilkenny winning 13, Cork winning 9 and the sides drawing twice.
Between them, they hold 66 All-Ireland senior titles, however, both teams have gone through somewhat of a dry spell in recent years. Kilkenny haven’t collected the Liam MacCarthy since 2015, which doesn’t seem all that long but when you consider they won eight of the ten All-Ireland’s before then, it’s definitely a drought.
For Cork, it has been even longer with 2005 being the last time a Rebel hurling side got over the line in an All-Ireland final. The rivalry has simmered over the past number of years with the pair’s last meeting coming at this same stage in 2013.
In honour of their first meeting in five years, this week’s ‘Forgotten Friday’ focuses on the Cork v Kilkenny All-Ireland final of 1999 and how that sparked one of the great rivalries between these two brilliant sides.
Twenty years ago, Cork legend, Jimmy Barry-Murphy led a band of Rebel men to the All-Ireland final where they would come up against the aristocrats of hurling in Kilkenny.
Both teams had a great blend of youth and experience. DJ Carey was wildly viewed as the country’s greatest hurler at that point and would link-up with a young man who would come to be known as King Henry (Henry Shefflin) by the time he finished up.
On the Cork side, Brian Corcoran manned the ship from centre-back where he was flanked by fellow dual star, Seán Óg Ó hAilpín with the goals being protected by a couple of Cloyne men (Donal Óg Cusack and Diarmuid O’Sullivan) who would go on to etch their names into GAA folklore over the course of the next decade.
On the day, Cork played the better hurling, however, they trailed by 0-5 to 0-4 at the halfway point. Kilkenny would stretch that lead to three (0-11 to 0-8) in the second half, but it was to be a red day in Dublin. The Rebel County finished strongly with five unanswered points to come away with a one-point win (0-13 to 0-12) and their first All-Ireland title since 1990.
After their second All-Ireland defeat in a row, Kilkenny were down but most certainly not out. Brian Cody’s first year in charge may not have brought an All-Ireland title but it would prove to be the making of many a man in this side. They would go on to lift three of the next four All-Ireland’s with their win over Cork in 2003 sparking a run of three finals in a row between the sides that would define a generation of hurling.
The 2003 final came at the end of a difficult year for Cork hurling that saw the first players’ strike occur over the winter period. Kilkenny were much the better side in the opening half as Cork were left to rue some horrendous finishing up front. Setanta Ó hAilpín’s 53rd-minute goal dragged Cork back into the game but Kilkenny held firm in the face of adversity before Martin Comerford netted with five minutes remaining to ensure they held onto the Liam MacCarthy Cup for another year.
Brian Corcoran would return to the Rebel fold in 2004 as they attempted to stop Kilkenny completing a trilogy of All-Ireland titles. Playing in the unfamiliar role of full-forward, Corcoran became the fulcrum of a Cork attack that would finally come of age following their somewhat surprising win in 1999.
The pair clashed on final day once again and they traded points for much of the game before Cork rallied in the final twenty minutes to score nine unanswered points and deny Cody’s men the three-in-a-row. The pair were expected to meet yet again in the 2005 All-Ireland decider, however, Galway shocked Kilkenny in the semi-final in one of the all-time classic encounters before Cork went on to collect their second win in two seasons.
They renewed their rivalry in 2006 as they met in the final for the third time in four years. Cork were attempting to become the first county to complete the three-in-a-row since 1978 while Kilkenny had revenge on their minds after Cork denied them the same feat two years prior.
On the day it was Kilkenny who got their revenge on a scoreline of 1-16 to 1-13. The game will be remembered for Aidan Fogarty’s contribution. A late replacement to the starting XV, Fogarty would finish his first All-Ireland final with 1-3 and the man of the match award.
The two counties took differing paths following the 2006 decider. Cork began to go into decline and wouldn’t reach another final until 2013 whilst in that time period, Kilkenny won seven out of the next eight All-Ireland titles.
This weekend sees the two sides clash for the 28th time in Championship hurling. Here’s hoping we have another cracker in store.