“Hill 16 is Rebels only…”
The excitement is steadily building and anticipation is growing by the minute on Leeside for the massive All-Ireland SHC semi-final clash between Cork and Waterford on Sunday in Croke Park.
The Rebels come into the tie as Munster champions, having dispatched of Sunday’s opposition at the semi-final stage of that competition. Since then, Derek McGrath’s side have gone on to record qualifier wins over Offaly and Kilkenny and brush aside the challenge of Davy Fitzgerald’s Wexford in the quarter-final. Meanwhile, the Rebels have not hurled competitively since their provincial final victory over Clare on July 9.
Cork, widely and traditionally regarded as a hurling superpower, have not played a championship fixture in Croker since their drastic shortcoming against Tipperary at the penultimate stage of the All-Ireland in 2014. That was a game which they, similarly to this weekend, came into having ruled the roost in Munster.
Kieran Kingston’s side will be aiming to stamp their authority on the game on Sunday as they have done throughout this championship campaign so far. An important factor to consider in previewing Sunday’s encounter is that the youthful members of the panel, who have thus far been the catalyst to the Rebels renaissance this summer, will all be making their Croker debuts.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at three times when the hurlers of Cork made the trip up to the big smoke and left GAA HQ having produced the goods, just as they intend to do this weekend.
2005 All-Ireland SHC Final, Cork 1-21 Galway 1-16
The last time Cork have won the All-Ireland SHC.
It has been a long 12-year spell on the banks of the Lee since Liam MacCarthy has returned home. Between the jigs and the reels of fallouts with the County Board, player strikes and plain and simple underachieving, the Rebels are still waiting for the day they claim back the All-Ireland they last saw Séan Óg O’hAilpín lift after a comfortable win over a pre-Joe Canning era Galway.
Ben O’Connor did most of the damage, the Newtownshandrum star notching 1-07 for himself en route to collecting the man of the match award. Under the guidance of John Allen, Jerry O’Connor scooped the Hurler of The Year gong that year for dominating the midfield for the entire summer with the assistance of the legendary half-back line consisting of O’hAilpín, Ronan Curran and John Gardiner, while up front there was the iconic duo of Brain Corcoran and Joe Deane.
2013 All-Ireland SHC Semi-Final, Cork 1-24 Dublin 1-19
Cork’s most recent fruitful visit to Croker dates all the way back to the All-Ireland semi-final of four years ago.
The Jimmy Barry-Murphy led Rebels were on the crest of a wave having cut the reigning All-Ireland champions and fiercest rivals Kilkenny’s summer short after a Semple Stadium showdown at the quarter-final stage of the championship.
Had it not been for a Ryan O’Dwyer red card, picked up for two yellow card offences, this tie would have undoubtedly been a lot closer than it played out.
Patrick Horgan netted the crucial Cork goal along with seven points, with the likes of Anthony Nash, Conor Lehane and Séamus Harnedy performing impeccably. That quartet will have to be at their best yet again come this Sunday on Jones’ Road if Kingston’s side are to progress to the championship decider with the Tribesmen.
Unfortunately for the Leeside faithful, Cork went on to lose to Clare in the final after a replay and haven’t registered a championship win in the capital since.
2006 All-Ireland SHC Semi-Final, Cork 1-16 Waterford 1-15
This list wouldn’t be complete without the epic encounter of 2006 between Sunday’s pair of competitors, which will go down as ‘The Cathal Naughton Game’.
With the game in the balance, Naughton was sprung from the bench in the dying moments as an unheard of teenager. By the time the Newtown corner-forward headed for home that Sunday evening he had put himself in a position where was safely regarded as a Cork hurling hero.
His yellow helmet and scrawny build put the Rebel followers under the illusion that he was the second coming of ‘Deano’ as he swung a white flag over his shoulder with his first touch and buried the timely and significant net rattler to break Waterford hearts and get Cork out of jail, sending them to the All-Ireland final, still on course for three-in-a-row.
If Sunday’s meeting between these two sides is half as good a clash as the equivalent fixture from eleven years ago, we are in for a rip roaring contest in Croker.
Be sure to check out the latest episode of our weekly GAA podcast, The 16th Man, ss we review all of weekend’s action, while looking ahead to the big clash between Cork and Waterford on Sunday.