Ten Years With MacSwiney
Way back in December 2003 when White’s Cross defeated Mayfield in the MacSwiney Cup Final, in a game that went to extra time, it was considered a big upset. After-all Mayfield were the reigning city champions and this was their team’s last game as a junior football side because they had been promoted to intermediate ranks for the following season. The city kingpins of the time were certainly fancied to push on in the two periods of extra time, after the teams remain deadlocked after 60 minutes, as their superior fitness levels from their county championships efforts had them active a lot later in the year than a White’s Cross side, devoid of championship action since the summer.
However the White’s Cross lads smelt blood having whittled away at a Mayfield lead that had stood at seven points coming into the last 12 minutes of normal time. Seanie Murnane, named at corner-back, found himself following his man up-the-field as Mayfield decided to deploy a corner-forward as a third midfielder, in a tactic that surely back-fired in this clash – Murnane popped over two vital points to bring parity in the contest. However, it wasn’t just corner-backs got in on the scoring act in this particular final, as the goalkeeper on the teamsheet also scored a goal – and from play! Yes, Damien Kenneally who played in goal for the first sixty minutes was repositioned to corner-forward in a swap with his brother Jonathan, and Damien scored the decisive goal in the extra-time period!
For all those involved with the White’s Cross side on the day, this win caused great celebrations given the prowess of the opponents and the fact that it was our only football silver-ware of the season. Moreover it was the Club’s first time ever winning the MacSwiney Cup.
This is a competition loaded with history named after one of Cork’s most famous sons – the Lord Mayor who had died on hunger strike in Brixton Prison in October 1920. Indeed, as part of a tie-in with Cork being the European Capital of Culture in 2005, Cork City Council had entered into a five year sponsorship of this competition, and its hurling equivalent named after Tomás MacCurtain, another Lord Mayor of Cork, who was shot dead by the Royal Irish Constabulary in 1920. MacSwiney was his successor to the office of Lord Mayor. As part of the sponsorship a special medal was commissioned for each of the winning players for the five year period, and the winning clubs were invited to a reception at City Hall.
Moving on one year and White’s Cross found themselves back at the Lord Mayor’s chambers for another reception, having held onto the title. In fact Mayfield were again the final opponents – but this time it was their second side, who White’s Cross easily accounted for in a mismatch final, by 4-10 to 1-4. Based on this win the City Council, in addition to the specially commissioned medals and the reception at City Hall, also sponsored the Club on a weekend trip to Dublin. There they had the distinction of playing in a game against Kilmacud Crokes, who including a descendent of MacSwiney himself in their team’s line-up! In a post-match reception Terence MacSwiney’s only daughter Máire (she went to her eternal rest in May, 2012 – RIP), was presented with one of the specially commissioned medals by White’s Cross officials, in the presence of her son Cathal Brugha, and grandson Cathal Óg who had played the game.
By this time, it wasn’t just the MacSwiney Cup bug had caught on as the travel bug also kicked in – twelve months later and to celebrate winning three in a row, the winning White’s Cross panel who had accounted for St. Vincents in the final (on the most slender of margins 0-8 to 0-7) travelled to London and played the Club’s first and only game outside of the country. The opposition was the Essex based GAA team, named after MacSwiney’s contemporary, Tomás MacCurtains.
In another 12 months and the final presented real bragging rights as our near-neighbours Carraig na bhFear were the opponents. Carraig were arch-rivals of our Club through the 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s but the White’s Cross decision in 1984 to move from the Imokilly division to the Seandún division meant that our paths did not cross, bar the odd ‘friendly’ which typically didn’t prove that friendly at all! That was until Carraig decided to partake in this particular competition in 2006 and qualified through to the final on the opposite side of the draw. In a game played in challenging December conditions White’s Cross won out a tough encounter by 1-7 to 0-5, making it four in a row.
Thus you can gather that this is a competition steeped in happy memories for our Club and that is no doubt at least part of the reason that our lads have been very slow to relinquish such an historic cup. In 2007, St. Vincents were again the opposition and we won out by 1-9 to 1-6. The 2008 final was one of the higher scoring games in a number of years, no doubt influenced by the fact that it was played at a relatively early time of year (October) – White’s Cross defeated Brian Dillons by 2-13 to 1-10. In 2009 the final retuned to a more familiar slot on the calendar and involved a show-down on the Sunday before Christmas with Donoughmore – on a frozen pitch at the Na Piarsaigh venue our lads put in a huge second half performance (after receiving a right talking-to at half-time from manager Finbarr Kiely) to win out 3-11 to 0-11. The 2010 final, played in Ballinlough in mid-December, proved another one sided affair as we accounted for Passage 5-13 to 0-2. The 2011 final did end up being played early in the year – but the wrong year, as it was not played until January 8th 2012! In it, White’s Cross defeated St. Finbarr’s by 2-16 to 0-8; despite what the scoreline might suggest this was a very competitive encounter for 45 minutes and more.
At the opposite end of the 2012 calendar, White’s Cross had wins in the competition against St. Finbarr’s and Passage to exceed over 30 consecutive wins in this straight knock-out competition, and qualify for yet another final. While it was not something that was given any public airing in training or team-talks, the significance of this match-up with Delanys was not lost on any of the lads – ten-in-a-row certainly has a ring about it!
Unfortunately this was another final that did not get played in its proper calendar year and rolled over to February 2013. It proved a nip-and-tuck encounter against an opposition boosted by the fact that they game was on their home-turf. Scoring proved to be at a real premium in this encounter with both sets of defenders on top of their opponents throughout. However White’s Cross, buoyed by a fine score from Conor Buckley five minutes from time to put them one up, put down the shutters in defence with Eoin Murnane, James Cooney and Seanie Gorman all resilient in battle to win out 0-9 to 0-8.
Thus over ten years on from the giant-killing 2003 win, White’s Cross have proven great custodians of this historic cup, and I guess make their own little bit of history… 10 in a row! For the record, the following was the White’s Cross panel that was part of this final success, under the instruction of Finbarr Kiely, TC Buckley, Paudie Curtin and Con Kelleher:
Billy Sheahan (Captain), Sean Murnane, James Cooney, Sean Gorman, Cormac Manning, Eoin Murnane, Brian Murphy, Kevin Buckley, Brendáin Murnane, Dylan Burke, Bryan O Sullivan, Donnacha Murnane, Edwin Buckley, Michael Osborne, John McElhinney. Subs: Conor Kelleher for K Buckley (35 mins. – injured), Denis O Regan for B O Sullivan (50 mins. – injured), Ruairí Murnane, Kevin Fennessy, Richard Sherlock, Niall Twomey, Seamas O Reilly.