History: Remember '98

REMEMBER ‘98

1998 was a year of commemoration and celebration in Ireland. It marked the 200th anniversary of the 1798 Rebellion. On June the 18th a commemoration ceremony took place in Rathcormac in remembrance of John Dahill, who was executed in 1798. Relatives of Dahills were present when the restored family headstone in the local cemetery, was unveiled. Later an, evergreen oak tree - the tree of liberty - was planted at the top of the Green. Before 1998 was over that same Green would be the scene of much celebrations.

For the 1998 season Pat Hoskins joined Tom Mulcahy and Denis Ahem as junior hurling selector. Tom made the difficult decision to retire from the ‘A’ grade hurling team and concentrate on his duties as selector and trainer while still playing with the ‘B’ grade team. This was a major personal sacrifice for Tom as he had been a playing member of Bride Rovers teams for many years. Tom put the good of the team and the club before any opportunity of personal glory and deserved great credit for his unselfish attitude. Fr. Seanie Barry indicated early in the year that while he might be unable to travel down to training sessions as often as in 1997, he would help whenever he could. The ‘A’ grade championship draws saw the footballers paired with Castlemartyr while the hurling team drew Cloyne’s second team. In the Under-21 ‘A’ football Cobh were the opposition and they proved too strong in the first championship game of the year. The Under-21 hurling team were drawn against Dungourney but due to a mix-up over the date of players going abroad on holiday, Dungourney received a walk over.

Junior Football
On Saturday May 2nd the junior footballers were in championship action against Castlemartyr in Lisgoold. This was expected to be an extremely tough tie as Castlemartyr had competed for several years at Intermediate level. On the night however, the Rovers displayed great tenacity and with a high level of fitness and skill won the game by 0-14 to 2-5, Castlemartyr’s second goal coming from a penalty on the stroke of time. Jerome O’Driscoll received a serious jaw injury which kept him out of the team for the next round. The team against Castlemartyr was: T. Mulcahy, J.J. Barry, A. Broderick, N. Fitzgerald, M. Hogan, B. Murphy, J. Murphy, D. Ryan, R Barry, T. Broderick, P. Murphy, B. O’Connell, P. Walsh, A. Cahill, J. O’Driscoll. Subs: J. O’Dowd, H. Kelleher, S. Hogan.

Three weeks later in the second round at Ballynoe, Youghal proved too strong winning by 1-13 to 0-9. The seasiders led by 0-8 to 0-2 at half time and an early second half goal put them ahead 1-8 to 0-2. A great Rovers comeback with the forwards kicking six points in a row to leave just a goal separating the sides but Youghal kicked five further points near the end to win by a margin of seven points. Jerome O’Driscoll was a big loss to the team which lined out as follows: T. Mulcahy, J.J. Barry, A. Broderick, N. Fitzgerald, P. Barry, B. Murphy, M. Hogan, J. Murphy, D. Ryan, H. Kelleher, P. Murphy, T. Broderick, B. O’Connell, A. Cahill, P. Walsh. Subs: S. Hogan, D. Johnson.

The ‘B’ grade football team went out in the first round to Aghada.

Junior Hurling
In the ‘B’ grade hurling a last minute point from John O’Dowd earned a draw against Fr. O’Neills but in the replay O’Neills won, the Rovers team having lost Mike Hogan and Batt McHugh to the ‘A’ grade side in the meantime. There was no second gold watch for any of the Bride Rovers players in 1998 as Midleton defeated the junior team in the first round of the Gaelic Week Tournament by 3-11 to 0-13. just seven of the 1997 winning team lined out. The first round of the junior ‘A’ hurling championship was later than usual as Cloyne had to play in the Senior championship before their junior team competed. On Sunday July 19th Imokilly defeated Cloyne in the first round of the senior hurling championship at wet and windy Midleton. The following Saturday night in perfect conditions the Cloyne junior hurlers lined out against Bride Rovers in the first round of the ‘A’ grade championship. Cloyne started very well and had the first two points. After twenty minutes they led by 0-5 to 0-2. Then the Rovers forwards finally started to score. Five points in a row left it Bride Rovers 0-7 Cloyne 0-5 at half time. The second half was complete one way traffic with the Rovers adding a further fourteen points and Cloyne failing to score, leaving the final score 0-21 to 0-5. After a slow start the first hurdle had been overcome. The team could only James Murphy in action improve from here on. The team against Cloyne was: A. O’Flynn, A. Cahill, N. Fitzgerald, A. Broderick, P. Barry, B. Murphy, P. Walsh, D. Ryan, B. O’Connell, J. O’Driscoll, J. Murphy, P. Murphy, R. Cahill, T. Broderick, S. Ryan.

Wearing the Red Jersey
Barry Murphy was on the Cork Intermediate panel for the Munster Championship game against Limerick in which the Leesiders were beaten. Others to wear the red jersey during the year were Brian Murphy at Under-16 level and Donal Arnold at Primary Game level.

Second Round Against Carrignavar
The second round game against Carrignavar was played in Riverstown on Sunday August 16th at 2 o’clock to enable patrons at view the Waterford v Kilkenny All Ireland Hurling semi final game. With the breeze Carrignavar started well and a point from an Alan O’Brien free after two minutes opened the scoring. Three minutes later they added a second point and it was obvious that Carrig were on top. Their game plan of crowding in under the dropping ball and keeping the play very tight was working well. Then in the 6th minute Donal Ryan had a point before Carrignavar had their third, direct from a sideline. Terry Broderick had the Rovers second point in the 12th minute. Seconds later Carrignavar were through for a goal when a ball that was only half cleared was sent to the net. Carrig were now ahead by 1-3 to 0-2. Jerome O’Driscoll pointed a free and Donal Ryan had a similar score from play to leave it 1-3 to 0-4 as half time approached. Just on the stroke of half time Carrig pointed a ‘70 to put them 1-4 to 0-4 ahead. True the Rovers had played against a strong breeze but the overall play of the team was disjointed. Most alarmingly was that, unlike the Cloyne game, the team hadn’t finished the first half on a high note. In fairness though, the team came out in the second half with a very positive attitude. James Murphy had to be replaced after a hand injury. Mike Hogan came on and scored a point immediately. Further points from Padraig Murphy and Terry Broderick left the scores level at 1-4 to 0-7 within five minutes of the resumption. Padraig Murphy put the Rovers ahead for the first time in the sixth minute. The team now sensed victory and really tore into the game. Batt McHugh came on at midfield and with Donal Ryan in total control of this section the points came in quick succession. Eight points in a row followed from Sean Ryan, Mike Hogan (2), Jerome O’Driscoll (3), Richard Cahill and Donal Ryan before Carrignavar got their only score of the half. Carrig had a player sent off and the Rovers finished the game strongly with two goals from Richard Cahill and Terry Broderick to leave the final score Bride Rovers 2- 16, Carrignavar 1-5.

The team was: A. O’Flynn, A. Cahill, N. Fitzgerald, A.Broderick, P. Barry, B. Murphy, P. Walsh, D. Ryan, B. O’Connell, T. Broderick, J. Murphy, P. Murphy, R. Cahill, J. O’Driscoll, S. Ryan. Subs: M. Hogan, B. McHugh.

James Murphy’s injury was worse than thought at first. His wrist was broken and this resulted in the insertion of pins and the hand ended up in plaster and medical opinion was that James would not play again in 1998. It was a great win after a bad start and saw the team through to a semi final against Watergrasshill or Castlemartyr who were playing in Castlelyons later on that Sunday evening. The crowd at the match in Castlelyons was huge with a large Bride Rovers contingent. Castlemartyr were well on top but in the end Watergrasshill earned a draw. The winners had been due to play the semi final against the Rovers on Friday August 21st. Instead on that night the ‘Hill and Castlemartyr replayed but this game again ended on level scores. The third meeting of the teams resulted in a good win for Watergrasshill thus setting up a glamour semi final pairing.

The Semi Final
There is always something special about a’local derby’ meeting and Bride Rovers v Watergrasshill matches were no different. Many of the players had played together on St. Bartholomew’s teams and Glenville Minor Football teams over the years. The Rovers last championship win over ‘Hill was the ‘B’ grade championship first round in 1992 when the ‘Hill’s second team nearly brought off a shock result. The Rovers were lucky to win that game in Carrignavar and then of course there followed the two games at ‘A’ level in 1994 and 1995. The Rovers had 9 of the 1995 team playing and the majority of the Watergrasshill side were also still playing. It was the first meeting of the sides at semi final level since 1938 and most neutrals felt that the three games against Castlemartyr would give Watergrasshill the edge. This, allied to the loss of James Murphy, meant there was no over confidence in the run up to the game. The first Sunday of September was traditionally All Ireland hurling final Sunday but the game on Sunday September 6th 1998 was far more important than an All Ireland final for the Bride Rovers team. The pride had been badly dented in ‘94 and ‘95 and judging by the fantastic response to training, everyone was determined to restore it in ‘98. Hurricane Danielle swept over the South of Ireland on Saturday 5th and Sunday 6th of September. The rain had cleared off by the Sunday but the wind remained. On the Sunday morning the Rovers Under-16 team had a great 3-4 to 2-6 win over Cloyne in the Under-16 hurling championship semi final at Carrigtwohill - thanks to a late goal from Brian Murphy. On then to Caherlag in the afternoon.. The high wind was blowing across the pitch which made conditions difficult for hurling but at least it was better than a gale blowing straight down the field. Once the game started two things became evident immediately, firstly the Rovers were not going to start sluggishly as they had in the Cloyne and Carrig games, and secondly there was not going to be a repeat of what happened in Carrignavar in ‘94. After four minutes Richard Cahill had the first score for the Rovers, a point. Donal Ryan, with his now characteristic high catching, and Batt O’Connell established a grip at midfield and the ‘Hill full back line were constantly troubled by Richie, Sean and Jerome. With eight minutes gone Sean Ryan drifted in behind the ‘Hill defence and lashed the sliotar to the net. Jerome O’Driscoll added a point from the puck out and it was 1-2 to 0-0. Two pointed frees from Paudie Cahill opened the Watergrasshill account. Padraig Murphy was fouled in the 27th minute and Jerome O’Driscoll made no mistake to leave it 1-3 to 0-2 at the break. In their exuberance to resume both teams had a ‘schemozzle’ when getting onto the pitch after half time! Soon the game was underway again and the ‘Hill were first to score with a point from a free by Paudie Cahill. Then from 65 yards out Pat Barry pointed a huge free. Both teams had a point apiece and after fifteen minutes the score stood at 1-5 to 0-4. Seeing that they were still in the game with a great chance the ‘Hill attacked and had their first score from play, a point from Cathal Collins. The huge crowd were really on their feet three minutes later when Paudie Cahill’s goal levelled the scores at 1-5 each with twelve minutes left. The ‘Hill were now hurling well but Andrew O’Flynn and the six backs all in turn made saves and interceptions as the play went from end to end. For six minutes no score was registered. Substitute Batt McHugh sent over a lovely point and this gave the Rovers great heart. Jerome O’Driscoll was fouled in possession and he pointed the resultant free to put the Rovers up by two - a dangerous lead in hurling. As time ticked away and excitement mounted the ‘Hill sought a winning goal but the defence stood firm. Donal Ryan soared in the air and caught a great ball. Donal passed to Mike Hogan and the Garda trainee hit a marvellous point from way out the wing to put three points between the sides 1-8 to 1-5. The final whistle went within a minute and the Rovers pride had been restored. The final had been reached for the second year in a row and how the players and supporters rejoiced. For team trainer Tom Mulcahy it was indeed a sweet victory.

Over two decades Tom had starred on the field and now his training skills were showing. Having started well there was always a danger that the Rovers might fade in the last quarter but on the day the Rovers were all fired up and hurled with passion and courage to record a famous win. The team was: A. O’Flynn, A. Cahill, N. Fitzgerald, A. Broderick, P. Walsh, B. Murphy, P. Barry (0-1), D. Ryan, B. O’Connell, T. Broderick, P. Murphy, M. Hogan (0-1), R. Cahill (0-1), S. Ryan (1-0), J. O’Driscoll (0-4). Sub: B. McHugh (0-1).

The team was now through to play Dungourney in the East Cork final. Dungourney, by virtue of their win over Fr. O’Neills in the semi final were the favourites in many peoples eyes. Their lively corner forwards Liam Ahern and David Leahy had ripped apart the Fr. O’Neills back line and got the bulk of their scores. While the Rovers were a young team, Dungourney were even younger and like the Rovers, hungry for success having won their only title in 1972.

Under-16 Final
The under-16 hurlers played the championship final against St. Catherine’s in Castlemartyr. With time up, the Rovers had a four point lead, but in a very extended period of injury time, St. Catherine’s got on level terms. The replay was in Lisgoold and the Rovers never really got into the game and St. Catherine’s emerged as winners. Kieran Hogan had got injured in the semi final against Cloyne and he was a huge loss to the team. The panel of players for the two games against St. Catherine’s was: Denis Fitzgerald, Brendan O’Driscoll, Michael Carey, Barry Dorgan, Cormac Collins, Patrick O’Driscoll, Gavin O’Flynn, Kieran Manley, Brian Murphy, Paul Brickley, David Brophy, Pat Cotter, James Bermingham, Oisin Casey, Barry Johnson, Donal Arnold, Maurice O’Driscoll, Darragh Casey, Daniel Noonan. The team selectors were: Paudie Murphy, Paudie Collins, Jim Manley, John Joe Carey and Brendan O’Driscoll.

East Cork Junior Final
Unlike 1997 there was a short lead up to the final - just three weeks. Donal Ryan, Alan Broderick and Alan Fitzgerald and Donal’s sister Caitriona had plans to spend a year in Australia. Originally they had hoped to go in the summer but as the hurling team progressed, the departure date was put back again and again. The final was fixed for Cobh on Sunday September 27th. Tom Mulcahy put the team through a tough training programme. On the Tuesday night after the Watergrasshill game there was a gruelling two hour session in a continuous downpour of rain. In fairness, there were no complaints from the players. Having lost the 1997 final each and every panel member was determined that the two in a row of 1972 and 1973 would not be repeated. Fr. Seanie Barry was down from Kiltegan most weekends for Friday, Saturday and Sunday sessions. The Saturday before the game was a particularly busy one for trainer Tom Mulcahy and selector Denis Ahern. They played with the Division three hurling team in the league against Ballinacurra in the afternoon - a game the Rovers won and then travelled on with the junior ‘A’ panel for a training session in the Cobh pitch at 6pm. Apart from a few league games, mainly in football, the Rovers had played very little in the spacious Pairc Ui Chonaill. There was a marvellous build up to the final once again but it was different from the previous year. Perhaps it was because Castlelyons were ‘next door’ neighbours that put more pressure on the team. The last few training sessions before the East Cork Final were so relaxed. Every player knew what was expected. Fr. Seanie, Tom, Denis and Pat had put in a lot of hours with the team and the players had responded well. Team captain, Donal Ryan was everybody’s friend. His light-hearted attitude to life and to hurling made him the perfect captain. Always smiling and joking Donal played a captains part in every game with wonderful hurling. When the team gathered in Aras de Barra for a final meeting before the big game, one felt the attitude was of confidence - not over-confidence, but a solid belief that in this year of ‘98 the Rovers could win the title last held in 1969.

On to The Holy Ground
From early afternoon the procession of cars left the parish all proudly flying the green, white and gold colours. Though not as large as that in Midleton 1997 there was still a fine attendance in Cobh. As the Rovers players, mentors and supporters arrived, the day had brightened up. It was quite humid with a slight breeze blowing away from the pavilion. In the curtain-raiser the County ‘B’ hurling championship final, Ballinacurra overcame Russell Rovers. In the Rovers dressing-room the tension mounted. A few words from Pat Hoskins and from Fr. Seanie and then it was out onto the pitch to a might reception. For the second time in twelve months the Castlelyons Pipe Band led a Rovers team in the parade with Donal Ryan to the front.

The Game
The sliotar was in play barely ten seconds when young Liam Ahern had a point for Dungourney. Midfield player Brian Ronayne hit a wide from a side line ballrbefore Terry Broderick levelled after three minutes with a lovely point. Two minutes later a good shot from James Murphy - the man who wasn’t to play until 1999 - was saved by Aidan Flynn and Mike Hogan kicked the sliotar over the bar. Then Donal Ryan made one of his spectacular catches at midfield, turned and put the ball over the bar. The Rovers were now ahead 0-3 to 0-land hurling confidently. Then in the eleventh minute Liam Ahern crashed the ball to the Rovers net and 30 seconds later had the white flag waving to leave his side ahead 1-2 to 0-3. Jerome O’Driscoll and Pat Barry both struck wider before Ahern put a goal between the sides with 15 minutes gone. There was no panic in the Rovers team however, wing back Pat Walsh sent the ball to Sean Ryan who passed to James Murphy and James sent an inch-perfect ball to Jerome O’Driscoll behind the Dungourney cover and Jerome made no mistake from close range and the sides were level at 1-3 apiece. The breeze seemed to strengthen which meant Aidan Flynn’s puckouts were going beyond midfield to the Rovers half back line but the two Pats and Barry Murphy were well over the half forwards now and the sliotar was repeatedly returned to the Rovers forward line. Two points from Padraig Murphy and one from Terry Broderick left it 1-7 to 1-3 at the break. It was a good position to be in especially after falling behind and then scoring 1-4 without reply. Fr. Seanie Barry spoke to the team at half time and told them to keep hurling as confidently as they had been and that the title was just 30 minutes away. Though playing against the breeze the young Dungourney team started the second half in great style. Two pointed frees from Liam Ahern in the 4th and 7th minutes reduced the Rovers lead to just 2 points. The Dungourney full forward line began to use the ploy of pulling away out from goal but Anthony, Niall and Alan stayed with them where-ever they went. The defence saved three attacks from Dungourney before the Rovers had 2 bad wides which should have been points. Then in the twelfth minute sub Batt McHugh notched a point to increase the lead to 1-8 to 1-5. Terry Broderick who was having an outstanding game sent over two points in the space of a minute and it was 1-10 to 1-5. With a marvellous piece of skill Donal Ryan cut a sideline over the bar. It was now 1-11 to 1-5 with twelve minutes left and the Rovers crowd dreaming of celebrations. A long ball found Terry Broderick and he lashed in the teams second goal. Then came Padraig Murphy’s third point and it was 2-12 to 1-5 with six minutes left. The last few minutes seemed like an eternity. Dungourney had a goal and a point before Jerome O’Driscoll put over another point to make it 2-13 to 2-6. At last referee John Motherway sounded the final whistle: The dream had come true. After 29 long, frustrating years Bride Rovers were East Cork Champions again.

A few Sundays previously in Croke Park Offaly had won the All Ireland after ‘coming in the back door’. For the Rovers there was no back door. The title was won by sheer skill, determination and spirit. How the faithful Bride Rovers supporters savoured the moment. The players, subs and mentors were congratulated by the crowd as tears flowed freely. The men of the 1930’s and the men of the 1960’s and now the men of the 1990’s had brought honour to their parish. It was a long time before proud chairman of the East Cork Board, Gerard Lane was able to present the newly refurbished Jamesy Kelleher Cup to Donal Ryan. In an emotional address Gerard recalled the last time the Cup had come to the Bride in 1969 and also the disappointment of 1997. It was a great honour he said in his first year as East Cork chairman to have the privilege of presenting the cup to a clubman of his own. Then at last Donal Ryan held high the silver symbol of East Cork hurling. It was an unforgettable moment that will long live in the memory. Donal made a great acceptance speech, singling out the selectors and especially Tom Mulcahy and Fr. Seanie Barry who got special praise. Then when Fr. Seanie held the cup with Donal what memories came crowding back. Memories of the Master purchasing the cup back in the forties and of the Rovers winning it in 1968 and 1969. All the defeats, all the heartbreak, all the years when the Rovers nearly won were forgotten. The sheer joy on the faces of the supporters was only bettered by the appearance of the players.

What a difference a year can make, that was so evident in the dressing-rooms afterwards. Joy unbounded and verses of “Bride Rovers forever, Bride Rovers Abu”. The Cobh GAA Club who had made all the arrangements to perfection laid on refreshments for all in the pavilion after the game. Tom Mulcahy the greatest Bride Rovers player not to have won an ‘A’ grade championship medal was beaming. “It’s what we have worked for all year”, he said, “After the setback of a year ago we set our minds on going one better this time around.” When the players had all togged out the last few minutes of the All Ireland Football Final were seen on the television where Galway defeated Kildare for the Tribesmen’s first title since 1966. For Galway the famine was over and for Bride Rovers the famine was over. The team who won the East Cork’A` grade hurling championship for the fifth time in the club’s history was: A. O’Flynn, A. Cahill, N. Fitzgerald, A. Broderick, P. Barry, B. Murphy, P. Walsh, D. Ryan (Capt.), B. O’Connell, P. Murphy, J. Murphy, M. Hogan, T. Broderick, J. O’Driscoll, S. Ryan. Subs: B. McHugh, R. Cahill.

The Celebrations
The cavalcade of cars for the return to the parish commenced outside Fota and then home via the Dunkettle Roundabout, Glanmire, Sallybrook and Watergrasshill. It was a long and happy journey with the joy of victory sweeping over everyone. Eventually the parish boundary was reached, the street in Rathcormac was packed with supporters, when, after 29 years the Jamesy Kelleher Cup was brought back to the Banks of the Bride. There was no happier man on earth that evening than Fr. Seanie Barry as he stood outside his own door as the happy throng arrived. The scenes in the village were unbelievable. It was like a Rathcormac version of the Carnival in Rio. A lovely meal in O’Driscoll’s was served to the team and mentors. The feeling of having at last captured the title was sinking in. The speeches were short but so emotional. Pat Hoskins the club chairman; with his voice nearly gone, thanked everyone who had made this win a reality. Fr. Seanie spoke of his joy and of 1968 and 1969 when the team had won an East Cork before but perhaps had been content with so doing. He said that whatCastlelyons had done in 1997, the Rovers , could do in 1998, a county was within the reach of the team and he urged everyone to go for it because the chance might not come again. Donal Ryan in his exuberant fashion said the trip to Australia would wait a few weeks longer.

After the meal the Castlelyons Pipe Band led a victory parade to the Green. The street was packed not alone with the people of Bartlemy, Rathcormac and Kildinan, but also with people from neighbouring parishes and from all over East and North Cork and from West Waterford. Everyone was so happy for the club. Speeches were made and songs were sung from the lorry at the green and as Pat Hoskins introduced each team member to the huge crowd the applause and cheering rang out across the night sky. Terry Broderick who had been awarded “Man of the Match” award gave his unique version of “American Pie” as the celebrations started in earnest.
The celebrations went on until the early hours of the morning and were absolutely unforgettable. Players and supporters and their families and friends celebrated the way a victory should be celebrated - with song and happiness and craic. It was brilliant to see so many of the team of ‘68 and ‘69 at the match and at the festivities in Rathcormac that night. By twelve o’clock next day the team and supporters were taking the Kelleher Cup to the happy children in Bartlemy N.S. and later to the school in Rathcormac and then the celebrations started again for the afternoon and night. On that Monday night it was great to see a group of the Dungourney players and mentors come to join in the Carnival atmosphere. The Bride Rovers Song, ‘The Banks’, ‘American Pie’ and ‘Slievnamon’ and many many others were sung again and again. The Lotto was on Tuesday night and again the vocal chords - or what was left of them at this stage, were exercised. Tuesday night also saw the first training session for the county.

What the papers said:
The Examiner:
“Bride Rovers back in the big time after 29 years”
“Twenty-nine years in the wilderness ended for the hurlers of Bride Rovers yesterday when they regained the East Cork junior ‘A’ hurling championship at Cobh. This was a thoroughly deserved win for the Fr. Seanie Barry-coached Rovers who were making amends for the heartbreak of 12 months ago when they were beaten in the final by the eventual county champions Castlelyons. Dungourney could have little argument about the outcome yesterday, for on the day they were bettered by a superior outfit.”

The Avondhu:
“Great scenes of jubilation as Bride Rovers crowned in glory”
“After a lapse of almost 3 decades, Bride Rovers have finally come in from the championship cold and are once again proud and undisputed champions of East Cork ‘A’ grade junior hurling, when on Sunday last they gave a solid all round team performance to claim their 5th championship title in this grade, defeating old rivals Dungourney by a margin of 7 points, after a very entertaining final at Cobh.”

The Imokilly People:
“The wait is over for Bride Rovers as they take their place in the sun”
“The West’s awake and so is the Bride after Sunday last. In Croke Park, Galway powered their way to a tremendous All Ireland football final victory over Kildare to bring Sam Maguire across the River Shannon to the city of the tribes for the first time in thirty two years. In Pdirc Ui Chonaill in Cobh, Bride Rovers powered their way impressively to victory in the East Cork Junior ‘A’ hurling championship over Dungourney to bring the Jamsey Kelleher Cup to the banks of the Bride for the first time since 1969”.

The County
The Inter-Divisional Draw for the 1998 County Junior ‘A’ Championship was:
A. Ballinhassig v Nemo Rangers
B. Freemount v Aghabullogue
C. Dromina v Ballinascarthy

A v B
C v Bride Rovers

On the day before the East Cork Final Dromina had met Ballinascarthy, a game in which two late frees had earned the West Cork men a replay. The replay took place on Sunday October 4th with Ballinascarthy winning. On that Sunday afternoon there was further celebrations when the St. Bartholomew’s (Bride Rovers and Watergrasshill) Ladies Football team won the East Cork Minor championship final at Lisgoold defeating Inch by 1-4 to 0-5. Foreign travel was now very much to the fore in the Bride Rovers Club as the county campaign was embarked upon. As well as the impending departures to Australia, team coach Fr. Seanie Barry also had to return to Africa fora 10 week period on duty with the St. Patrick’s Missionary Society. When the County semi final against Ballinascarthy was fixed for Pdirc Ui Rinn on Saturday October 10th there was general satisfaction and the hope was that if successful the County Final would go ahead either 2 or 3 weeks later which would enable Fr. Seanie to be present. With just two weeks to prepare for the County semi final training sessions were now arranged for 6 o’clock in order to get some hurling done in the fading daylight. The mood in training before the East Cork Final was great, but in the run up to the semi final there was a realisation that a county final spot was beckoning and now training sessions were very serious. Afterwards though in the ‘catering room’ the spirit and camaraderie between the players was just brilliant. The menu became more extensive and varied. A huge effort was put in by the players and the backroom team to have everything in readiness for Saturday October 10th. Oii the previous four occasions when the club had captured the East Cork title, no game had ever been won in the county series, so as all roads led to Pairc Ui Rinn there was the prospect of history in the making.

County Semi Final
Two minutes into the second half of the game against Ballinascarthy there seemed to be little prospect of a county final appearance. The score stood at Ballinascarthy 1-9 Bride Rovers 0-4 and the Carbery side looked likely winners. It had been so different at the start of the game. In the first three minutes Jerome O’Driscoll, Terry Broderick and Padraig Murphy all scored points. What a start and with the team hurling well all over the field, though playing against the breeze, confidence soared. Ballinascarthy opened their account with a point from Colman Murphy in the sixth minute and then quickly added two more points to level. Their goalies huge puck outs were landing almost 30 yards out from the Rovers goal and their half forwards soon began to dominate. They went 3 points ahead before Sean Ryan had a point from play. Two further points from Colman Murphy saw the team from the South West 0-8 to 0-4 ahead. Then Andrew O’Flynn was off his line to save a ball, as he attempted to clear he was tackled and in a flash Ballinascarthy had a goal. It was now 1-8 to 0- 4. In the remaining 5 minutes before the break the Rovers had three chances but failed to score. The mood in the dressing-room at the break was sombre. The team were clearly worried. The team had started well and then faded away. The only consolation was that the wind would be of help in the second half. Fr. Seanie Barry asked for a display of total effort for the second half and said that victory was still possible. When Ballinascarthy added a further point from a free to put them eight points ahead the outlook was bleak. Then the team began to hurl as if their lives depended on the outcome. The entire defence tightened up. Team Captain, Donal Ryan thundered into the game and inspired all his team- mates. Sub Batt McHugh hit over a good point to start the great comeback. Further points from Jerome O’Driscoll, Mike Hogan and James Murphy left the deficit at just 4 points. Pat Walsh’s clearance our of defence came to James Murphy and as in the East Cork Final he sent a lovely pass to Jerome O’Driscoll who billowed the net. Now there was just one point in it. Ballinascarthy regained the initiative and Murphy restored their 3 point lead with 2 frees. The last ten minutes of the game were hectic. The lead changed hands several times and as the game entered its last minutes a Murphy free put Ballinascarthy ahead 1-13 to 1-12. Padraig Murphy on the wing struck over a great equaliser. From the puck out Barry Murphy cleared upfield again. Batt McHugh gathered the shotar and sent it between the posts. The Rovers were ahead by 1-14 to 1-13. Ballinascarthy forced two sideline balls in the closing seconds but both were cleared. Then the whistle went. It was unbelievable. To come from eight points down to win the game was almost unreal. The scenes after the East Cork. Final in Cobh paled into insignificance in comparison to what followed as the team and followers rejoiced. Eventually the players got to the dressing-rooms where the joyous scenes were repeated. Each and every player was given a standing ovation on leaving the dressing- room. A place in the County ‘A’ Junior Hurling Championship Final had been reached at last.
The team was: A. O’Flynn, A. Cahill, N. Fitzgerald, A. Broderick, P. Barry, B. Murphy, P. Walsh, B. O’Connell, D. Ryan, P. Murphy, J. Murphy, M. Hogan, J. O’Driscoll, S. Ryan, T. Broderick. Subs: B. McHugh, R. Cahill.

Immediately after the game Barry Murphy and Niall Fitzgerald were asked to travel to Belfast with the Cork Senior Hurling team for the official opening on Sunday of St. Theresa’s Grounds. After an eventful journey they made it to Belfast on the Sunday morning and both played with Cork who defeated an Ulster selection by 3 points. Dermot ‘Georgie’ Johnson had his 30th birthday party at ‘The Pound’ on that Saturday night and it turned into a victory celebration as much as a birthday party.

On the Sunday week after the Rovers and Ballinascarthy game, Nemo Rangers caused a shock in the championship by defeating Ballinhassig and then six days later the Duhallow champions Freemount caused an even bigger shock when defeating Nemo Rangers - so it was to be a Bride Rovers v Freemount County Junior Hurling Championship Final for 1998. The teams had played in practice games in 1996 and 1997 and there was never much between the sides. If the final went ahead on Sunday November 1st Fr. Seanie Barry could have altered his flight arrangements and attended the game. This was not to be however, as the County Board fixed the final for Sunday November 15th.

Final Countdown
The preparations fora County Hurling Final were completely new to the Bride Rovers club but for the five weeks between the semi final and the final, the players put in an unbelievable amount of work. As well as early evening sessions during the week, training was also held on Saturdays and Sundays. More and more supporters turned up to see the team training. Hurling in the Imokilly division was certainly to the forefront.
The Divisional team were in the County Final for a third year in a row to defend the title won in 1997. Castlelyons and Killeagh qualified for the Intermediate Final and so with the Rovers in the Junior Final, East Cork was at the top in Cork hurling circles.

To Africa
Fr. Seanie Barry left for Africa on Saturday 31st October. The previous week-end he was in Rathcormac for his last training session with the team. Before he left he wrote out a series of large posters which were put on the walls of the dressing-rooms. These posters were to remind the players of the occasion of the County Final, how to approach it, how to react to different situations and how to win the title for Bride Rovers. The biggest problem facing Fr. Seanie in Africa was how to get the result of the game as telephone links were not available in many of the areas he was visiting. The only hope was that on the evening of the game he might be able to get to a telephone near the Malawi Border.

County Titles
The County Senior Hurling final between Blackrock and Imokilly was fixed for Pdirc Ui Chaoimh for Sunday October 25th but after heavy rain the game was postponed. It was played the following Sunday and Imokilly became the first Division ever to retain the Cork Senior Hurling Championship. William O’Riordan from Castlelyons was captain and Barry Murphy played an outstanding game at wing back while Niall Fitzgerald was also on the selection. Seven days later Castlelyons created hurling history winning the Intermediate Hurling Championship title in their first year in the competition. Castlelyons defeated Killeagh by 2-12 to 2-9 in a great game of hurling. The Castlelyons team lined out as follows: Aidan Barry, Barry O’Connell, William O’Riordan, Andrew Meade, Seanie Cotter, Barry Fitzgerald, Paul Cotter, Paul Cashman, Donal Sheehan, Peter Murphy, Timmy McCarthy, Eoin Fitzgerald, Pddraig O’Brien, Mick Spillane (Captain) and Sylvester McAuliffe. Imokilly had won the Senior, Castlelyons the Intermediate, so now it was up to Bride Rovers to complete the 3 in a row.

County Final
Trainer Tom Mulcahy, Denis Ahern and Pat Hoskins were helped by Willie O’Riordan for the final preparation of the team. The attendance at training was excellent and one session included an impromptu birthday party for Donal Ryan and Jerome O’Driscoll. A suggestion was made to put the final back to Sunday November 22nd but with Donal and Alan bound for Australia on Saturday November 28th there would then have been no available date for a replay so the date of November 15th was agreed upon. The venue was changed from PAirc Ui Rinn to Pdirc Ui Chaoimh. With the County Junior ‘B’ Hurling final between Castletownroche and Tullylease as a curtain-raiser, fears were expressed about the ability of the pitch to take two hurling game in Mid November. The day before the, game was cold and wet but Sunday November 15th dawned as a lovely day and from early on the sun shone. The newspapers and bookmakers had installed the Rovers as hot favourites but everyone associated with the team knew that Freemount would be tough opposition. Some of the best hurling displayed by the Rovers was in good dry conditions during the summer, but at this stage of the year the ground was far different. The Castletownroche/Tullylease game certainly took its toll on the field which was cutting up badly especially near the covered stand. All the Rovers players were in the grounds by 2 o’clock, wearing their lovely new jackets in club colours. As the team went into the dressing-room the colourful Rovers supporters were coming in huge numbers. Former club secretary and player Tony Walsh described the occasion as “the day we have always dreamed of,” and then just after 2.30 Donal Ryan led his team out onto the field as a mighty roar went up from the supporters in green, white and gold. Even in the puck-around before the game it was noticeable how soft the covered stand side of the pitch was while the other half of the ground close to the open stand was not too bad and was brightened by the winter sun. The Castlelyons Pipe Band led the parade as John Morrissey and Donal Ryan proudly marched at the head of their teams. As the National Anthem was sung it was a time of choking emotion for so many in the 4,537 crowd. When that first meeting of the Bride Rovers Club was held in the Bandroom in Bartlemy in the autumn of 1928 those present probably never thought of days like this. In far. away Malawi Fr. Seanie Barry’s thoughts were with his beloved Bride Rovers.

The Game
Playing into the Blackrock end it was the Freemount side had the first score when Brendan Broderick had a point after 27 seconds. Donal Ryan won possession but was fouled and Jerome O’Driscoll levelled the score from the free. A minute later Donal Ryan put his team into the lead when he caught a long clearance and scored a good point. After a wide from Terry Broderick, Donal Ryan’s sideline cut came to Padraig Murphy who opened his account with a lovely point with just over 5 minutes gone. It was noticeable that even at this early stage that both teams were hurling with passion and pace and that it was going to be a tight contest. Having gone 0-3 to 0-1 ahead the Rovers missed two good chances and Niall Fitzgerald batted out a dangerous looking Freemount free. After six scoreless minutes Brendan Broderick cut a great line ball over the bar to narrow the gap. Almost immediately Padraig Murphy made it 0-4 to 0-2 following good work from Pat Walsh. Freemount scored two points from frees to be on level terms again. Andrew O’Flynn’s puck-out was helped on by Barry Murphy to Jerome O’Driscoll. He passed to Sedn Ryan who placed Terry Broderick and Terry made it 0-5 to 0-4 in the Rovers favour with 19 minutes gone. A dangerous ball was cleared by Pat Walsh before Alan Broderick was fouled and Niall Fitzgerald sent the ball upfield. The Duhallow champions really thundered into the game at this stage. The conditions did not seem to deter them in any way as they used a lot of ground hurling whereas the Rovers tried to pick too often. John O’Flynn levelled the scores again from a free and then Brendan Broderick scored a good point to put his side in front in the 22nd minute. Ger Withers put Freemount two points in front in the 23rd minute. The Rovers had allowed their early dominance to be eroded and the Duhallow side were growing in confidence. The Rovers had two wides in the last four minutes of the half to leave a margin of two points in it at half time, Freemount 0-7 Bride Rovers 0-5. The game had gone similarly to the Ballinascarthy game, the team starting very well but then losing their way. Luckily enough the Freemount forwards were wayward in their shooting and could have been 4 or 5 points ahead. “Keep calm, keep cool, keep hurling and the scores will come”, was the half time message from Tom, Pat, Denis and Willie in the dressing-room.

Just as he had done at the start of the game Brendan Broderick had a quick point after 40 seconds to put a goal between the teams. The Maroon flags in the stand were now waving wildly as the Freemount team and supporters anticipated victory. Now was the time when the Rovers had to make a move to win or else the danger was that Freemount would grow in confidence. The move came with telling effect. Awarded a free 65 metres out Pat Barry lobbed the ball towards the square, Sean Ryan got a touch and the ball was in the net. A great score and now the sides were level. Andrew O’Flynn made a good save and for the next attack a 65 was conceded which Freemount sent wide. Many thought the Rovers goal would spur on the team but it was Freemount who regained the lead when club secretary John O’Flynn shot a good point. Donal Ryan levelled again but once more Freemount attacked and added two points to lead by 0-11 to 1-6. A Pat Walsh free in around the square was shot wide by Sean Ryan and from a free, Freemount also sent wide.. Shane Hogan came on at comer back for Anthony Cahill. A great ball from Mike Hogan was added to by Terry Broderick and the shot seemed destined for the goal when comer back Michael O’Regan made a great interception on the line. It was noticeable by now that the Duhallow men were off target with a number of frees which could have increased their lead. Padraig Murphy went on a great solo run brushing off the attentions of 3 defenders and put over a superb point to leave just the minimum between the sides 0-11 to 1-7. After thirteen minutes Richie Cahill came on for James Murphy. The pitch by now was extremely cut up and it seemed that fitness and stamina were going to be vital in the last quarter. With eighteen minutes gone Donal Ryan took a line ball, hit it to Mike Hogan and then took the return pass and hit over the equaliser. Now the Rovers crowd were in full voice and it seemed as though every man, woman and child in the parish were willing the team to victory. The next score would be crucial. Pat Barry hit a ball to Padraig Murphy who passed neatly to Richie Cahill who floated a high ball goalwards and Terry Broderick finished off the great move with a smashing goal to put the Rovers ahead 2-8 to 0-11. Two minutes later Shane Hogan cut off a great ball into the square and the danger was cleared by Pat Walsh. Jerome O’Driscoll cut through the defence but his shot was wide before Brendan Broderick added a point for the Freemount side. They were great battlers and were not giving in. Then with a little over five minutes left Jerome O’Driscoll scored a great point from play. John O’Flynn shot wide from a free. Andrew’s puck out was grabbed in the middle of the pitch by Donal Ryan. Donal was fouled and from the resultant free the ball came to Padraig Murphy who struck over a great point to put the Rovers ahead by 4 points 2-10 to 0-12. Donal Ryan was down injured for a while but recovered quickly. From another free in the 28th minute Brendan Broderick sent wide. From the puck out Donal Ryan again jumped high and caught the sliotar but Freemount were awarded a free which landed about 30 metres out. A clash ball followed as the game went into injury time. It seemed as though the referee would never blow as hundreds of whistles sounded in the stand. There were 32 minutes gone when the Duhallow side were awarded a free, on the covered stand side about 45 metres out. Brendan Broderick’s angled shot went over the bar. It couldn’t be long now. Andrew O’Flynn had the sliotar in his hand behind the end line. He took two steps and pucked it out. Then it came, that final glorious whistle. Bride Rovers were the Cork Junior Hurling Champions of 1998 on a scoreline of Bride Rovers 2-10, Freemount 0-13.

Incredible was the only way to describe the scenes after the game. Where Imokilly and Castlelyons had celebrated the previous two Sundays, now it was the turn of the Bride Rovers fans. Tears flowed freely from many eyes; tears of joy at the realisation of a dream come true. The team were mobbed as all the disappointments and setbacks of other years were quickly forgotten. Eventually Donal Ryan made his way to the stand where County Chairman Brian Barrett said the game was the culmination of a great year for Imokilly and he praised the two teams for such an outstanding display of hurling. Then Donal Ryan received the Johnny Quirke Cup and raising it high he made his acceptance speech during which his comment “Fr. Seanie, this is for you”, brought a mighty cheer from the crowd. It was a fantastic win and no one player should be singled out as the seventeen that played all hurled with spirit and heart and displayed the great determination and passion needed to win a county. This was the first time a county hurling championship had been won by the club since 1932 and the first ever adult county hurling title. The team who made history was: Andrew O’Flynn, Anthony Cahill, Niall Fitzgerald, Alan Broderick, Pat Barry, Barry Murphy, Pat Walsh, Donal Ryan (Captain), Batt McHugh, Padraig Murphy, James Murphy, Mike Hogan, Jerome O’Driscoll, Sean Ryan, Terry Broderick. Subs: Shane Hogan, Richie Cahill. Scorers: Terry Broderick 1-1, Padraig Murphy 0-4, Sean Ryan 1-0, Donal Ryan 0-3, Jerome O’Driscoll 0-2. Great credit is due to the other players on the panel, all of whom would have loved to have played. The county was not won by 15 or 17 players but by the entire panel. The subs on the day of the County Final were Martin O’Flynn, Batt O’Connell, Cormac Howard, John O’Dowd, Liam Barry, Mark O’Connell, Michael Kearney, Declan O’Donovan and Dermot Johnson. After the presentation an emotional meeting took place on the pitch when Captain Donal Ryan for the first time met Dick Ryan who had captained the Rovers to glory in the 1932 County Minor Final.

The Celebrations
It was back to Rathcormac then for the never to be forgotten scenes. When Donal Ryan arrived with the Cup the whole parish seemed to have gathered in the street. Within a few hours Fr. Seanie Barry had rang Mick Barry’s house to receive the brilliant result. Though far away his joy knew no bounds as was the same with Fr. Gus O’Driscoll in the Philippines. After a victory meal in O’Driscolls the players lined up for the second time that day behind the Castlelyons Pipe Band fora wonderful victory parade to the Green. The faithful loyal supporters turned out again in huge numbers. Club Chairman Pat Hoskins acted as M.C. on this historic night for the club. He thanked each and everyone who helped to make the dream a reality. Donal Ryan the team captain spoke of his pride at captaining such a wonderful team. Tom Mulcahy and Denis Ahern also spoke of the achievement which came after so many years of frustration.

When Billy Barry’s song, originally written in 1932, was changed in later years, it included the words:
When hot grew that fight those hearts grew more eager
And that is why we’re East Cork Champions today.

Now, 66 years later, one line could at last be changed again as Bride Rovers were now County as well as East Cork champions. On Sunday November, 15th 1998 the latest version of the song was proudly sung by this author at the joyous victory celebration on the Green.

Come listen a while and I’ll tell you a story,
Of heroes and hurlers well tested and true,
A team that East Cork has covered in glory,
And they come from the green banks along by the Bride.
Right gamely we fought all opponents defeating,
The big one, the small one, the old and the new,
So now I will ask you to join me in my chorus,
Bride Rovers forever, Bride Rovers abú.

How oft this great team by long odds got defeated,
But still their hearts were not dimmed in the fray,
When hot grew that fight, those hearts grew more eager,
And this is why we’re County Champions to-day.
We crossed the camdn with the bravest and best of them,
Cloyne, Carrignavar, the ‘Hill, Dungourney, Ballinascarthy,
And now we have Freemount lying low with the rest of them,
Bride Rovers forever, Bride Rovers abú.

Andrew minds goal and ‘twas safe in his keeping,
With Cahill, Fitzgerald and Broderick to the fore,
Terry, Sean and Jerome were our men ever scoring,
While Mike, Batt and the Murphys kept adding up more,
The two Pats and Barry Murphy shone out in defending,
Donal Ryan our captain each ball he sent through,
So that was our team gallant bold and unbending,
Bride Rovers forever, Bride Rovers abú.

O we played that game as sportsmen did play it,
No mercy to ask or no tyrants to yield,
We give knocks and take them, as none can dare say it,
We were manly straightforward and clean on the field.
Soo . ft the traditions of sires we inherit,
Rathcormac that reared them and Bartlemy too,
So now for my song you can take it on merit,
Bride Rovers forever, Bride Rovers abú.

What the Papers said:
The Examiner:
“Bride Rovers take first title in an epic encounter”
“This victory will rank as one of the very best recorded by the Rovers. They went into the game without the services of team coach Fr. Seanie Barry, who had been with them right through the campaign, but had been called away to the foreign missions in Malawi (Central Africa) 10 days ago. Maybe he sought divine inspiration for his charges, but they certainly played like men inspired, particularly in the second-half when they fell three points behind after 35 minutes.”

The Avondhu:
”Rovers bask in Glory”
“In a pulsating and fascinating Junior ‘A’ Final, Bride Rovers, appearing at this stage for the first time - as were their opponents - got the better of a strong Freemount challenge and poor conditions to record a 2-10 to 0- 13 win and write their names gloriously in the annals of Cork hurling.”

The Imokilly People:
“Bride Rovers complete their mission as harvest of hurling glory is secured” “
Last Sunday, for the third Sunday in a row, the gaels of East Cork travelled to the Banks of the Lee and GAA headquarters of Pairc Ui Chaoimh to witness an East Cork side contest a County decider. This time around, it was the hurling representatives of Bride Rovers from the parish of Rathcormac and Bartlemy whose day in the sun was to end with the perfect sunset.”

In relation to sport, it is often said “you get out of it what you put into it”.
The effort made by the Bride Rovers players during the 1998 season was astounding. Now they had reaped the reward they richly deserved. The winning of the County title was a dream come true, not just for the club, but for everyone in the parish.

As the final chapter of this book comes to a close, we can all look forward to the future and days when that chorus will be sung again:
Bride Rovers Forever,
Bride Rovers Abu.

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