For the first time since the club’s foundation, Carrig‘s name was not included in any of the draws at the Cork county convention in January of 1940, but it was a significant convention in another way. Denis Conroy’s career as a GAA statesman began with his first bid for office at the Cork County Board. In the race for vice chairman he was well beaten by Seamus Long, 172 to 83. The ultimate fulfilment of his administrative career would be 47 years in coming.
It was an inauspicious year of which we know little more than the bare details of defeat. With a restructured team Carrig made no impression on the East Cork Championship and, in Ballincurrig at the end of June, they lost by a point to Killeagh, 6-3 to 6-2. Carrig were due to play Carrignavar in the junior football championship but failed to turn up and conceded a walk-over. The only light in Carrig’s season was the presence of a teenage Willie Cummins on the Cork panel that won the National Hurling League, along with Willie Tabb and Bobby Ryng.
A year later, however, Carrig were back on their feet. In the first round of the 1941 junior hurling championship they were drawn against Midleton. The first meeting ended in a draw, the replay in a one point victory for Carrig. Fr Bobby Dineen, a Cork senior who had played in the All Ireland final of 1939, had been missing from Midleton‘s line up in the first match and it was expected that he would make the difference in the replay but Willie Cummins played a storming match on Fr Dineen and Carrig prevailed.
“It was a hectic game,” reported the Examiner, “in which both sides maintained a terrific pace and in which hard knocks were frequent. The first half was a thrilling display in which both defences were brilliant and at half time the visitors (Carrig) held a slender lead of 1-2 to 1-1.”
“Midleton drew level a few minutes after the resumption and thereafter score followed score with rapid frequency. In the last quarter Carrig extended the lead by two goals and two points but Midleton staged a spectacular rally and rushed through a series of scores until a single point separated the teams. A thrilling finish ensued with the result in the balance, Carrig coming through for their slender win after a gruelling display.”
In the second round Carrig played the reigning East Cork champions, Aghada. Carrig seemed comfortable at half-time, 3-4 to 0-2, in front, but two quick goals after the break destroyed their leisure. “It looked like it would be a severe test of which team could stand up to the furious pace at which the match was being played,” reported the Examiner. “This trial of stamina swung decisively in Carrig’s direction and some rapid scoring gave them a lead which Aghada never threatened to overhaul.” In the end they won easily, 7-6 to 2-2. Little Island gave Carrig a closer match in the semi-final but Carrig’s eight point half time lead was still intact at the finish, 5-5 to 2-3.
Dungourney were Carrig’s opponents in the final at Midleton on the last Sunday of September. A dour first half ended with Carrig a goal ahead, and though Dungourney played with the wind in the second half they could do little with it. “The older and more experienced Carrig combination had the advantage against their younger opponents throughout the game” reported the Examiner. “In the second half Dungourney deteriorated in field craft while Carrig kept up a vigorous pace and went further ahead as play progressed.” At the finish Carrig won convincingly, 4-4 to 2-1.
Carrig played Fermoy at Midleton six weeks later in the county semi-final. In a strange match Fermoy led by 2-1 to 1-0 at the break and came from two goals down in the third quarter to level the scores, but Carrig eventually over-whelmed them to win by 12-1 to 4-1. The city championship was unfinished but Mayfield were their nominees and they awaited Carrig in the final on the last Sunday of November.
Tommy O’Donovan (Ronan) remembers it as “one of the dirtiest matches” he ever saw; “fierce scutching. Neither team had any respect for anybody at all.” Carrig, though, had much the better of what hurling was done. The Examiner left the casual violence unrecorded.
“The outstanding feature of the game,” reported the Examiner, “was the performance of the Carrigtwohill defence. O‘Keeffe in goals brought off some great saves. The game was splendidly contested and there were some great rallies by both teams in the closing stages but the Carrigtwohill defence held and their forwards made full use of their opportunities at the other end.”
Goals from Bill Tabb and Mattie Fouhy and a point from Paddy Fouhy put Carrig 2-1 to 0-0 ahead at half time; further goals from Tabb, Danny Horgan and the venerable Mick McCarthy, who had been enticed out of retirement that year, put the game beyond Mayfield’s reach, 5-1 to 2-0. “I couldn’t run,” said Mick years later, “but if they gave me enough of the ball I knew what to do with it.” So he did.
John Loftus, who had hurled for Carrig in the 1930s, travelling to training from the city on his motorbike, was the first Mayfield man into the Carrig dressing room.
Carrig: Jackie O’Keeffe(c), Willie Sloane, Dinny Lenihan, Willie Cummins, Danny Horgan, Paddy Fouhy, Dan Twomey, Sean Twomey, T O’Donovan, Jim ‘Daw’ Edwards, Willie Tabb, Jack Barry, Mattie Fouhy, Johnny Horgan, Mickey McCarthy.
Subs: Mossie Fitzgerald, Sean Fouhy, Richie Lynch.
While this was going on the B team pursued their own glory. They beat Ballinacurra handily in the first round of the East Cork championship, 7-6 to 3-2, and Dungourney in the next. During that match Denis Conroy, then the ambulance driver in Midleton, was called away on an emergency and Tommy O‘Donovan, still a minor, was called in from the bank to play in his civilian clothes.
At one point the sole came away from his shoe but with extraordinary goodheartedness the man he was marking, Paddy Hartnett, gave him the lace from one of his boots so that Tommy could keep his shoe together, and then broke his other lace in two so that his own boot wouldn‘t fall off. Hartnett later played for Carrig.
The campaign had other little adventures. Thomas Lynch, who was in charge of the jerseys, had a puncture on his bicycle on the way to one of the games. Fr. Bob Dineen, however, came upon the stricken Thomas in his pony and trap and Carrig were dressed before the first whistle. They went on to beat Bride Rovers in the quarter final and Lisgoold in the semi-final before meeting Russell Rovers in the final in Cloyne.
“Russell Rovers were a kind of a breakaway from Cloyne at the time” remembers Tommy O’Donovan. “Christy Ring’s brother, Paddy Joe Ring, played that day which will tell you how black it was in Cloyne. Lord knows he might have played for Cloyne earlier in the year. Things weren’t spotted at all that time. Carrig often had fellas who played for somebody else earlier in the year.” Either way Carrig won the final and an East Cork double was completed.
For a young Willie John Daly it was the first decoration of his adult career and in the same year Mattie Fouhy won his first All Ireland medal as sub on the Cork minor team. So much lay before them.
Carrig: Pad Leahy, Jack McCarthy, Paddy ‘Curls’ Fouhy, Sean Fouhy, Richie Lynch, Eamonn Cummins, JJ Higgins, Denis Conroy, Denis O’Donovan, Liam Lynch, Willie John Daly, Timmy O’Donovan, Paddy Curran, Tom Barry, Donal Cummins, Dinny O’Connell, Tommy O’Donovan, Tommy O’Leary.
Carrig’s name was back in the hat at the county convention in January of 1942. They drew Fr Matthew Hall in the first round of the intermediate championship, and beat them easily before going on to meet Eire Og. Carrig trailed by a point at the break, 2-1 to 1-5, but 2-2 without reply early in the second half asserted Carrig’s advantage. With Johnny Horgan and Willie Tabb both adding a second half goal to their first half ones, Carrig pulled away to win by 6-5 to 3-5.
Douglas were supine opponents in the semi-final although the Examiner was kind in its analysis. “Douglas lost more than a few scoring chances but put up a good fight against a superior East Cork team whose goalie O’Keeffe proved a big obstacle to the city men.” Carrig were only two points ahead at half time, 0-3 to 0-1, but they routed Douglas in the second half to win by 3-6 to 1-1, with Johnny Horgan pouncing for two goals and Denis Conroy getting the other.
The final against Lough Rovers at the Athletic Grounds on the second Sunday of October was a thrilling match. A Willie Tabb goal edged Carrig ahead at the break, 1-1 to 0-1, but the teams were level five times during the second half with Tom Conroy and Johnny Horgan adding further goals for Carrig.
“It was an entertaining game for the whole hour and at no point was there more than a puck of the ball between the teams,” reported the Examiner. “There was every possibility of a draw which would have been a fitting end to the contest, but it did not work out that way and after a terrific battle the honours went to Lough Rovers by the narrowest of margins, 3-5 to 3-4.”
The Examiner report does not record the teams, but Carrig‘s goalscorers were Wilie Tabb, Johnny Horgan and Tom Conroy, while the points were scored by J Twomey, T O‘Donovan and J Barry.
Earlier in the year Carrig had won their first East Cork minor hurling championship – or at least they thought they had. A team which included Willie John Daly caused a big upset by beating Midleton in the final in Castlemartyr. However the team also included a 19 year old “Tommy O’Donovan playing under the name of his 16 year old brother Joe, a plan concocted by Denis Conroy. Midleton rumbled Carrig’s sleight of hand, however, lodged an objection and then went in search of the evidence. Willie John Daly takes up the story. “Tommy O’Donovan was working for Pad Cotter above in Woodstock and Tom Powell, after whom the Midleton pavillion is named, came out from Midleton to the farm yard. He saw Tommy‘s coat hanging up on a nail and found his insurance book or card inside and realised his age.” According to Tommy the Midleton man he was marking was also over-age and the upshot of the whole affair was that both teams were thrown out of the championship.
After coming so close to an intermediate title in 1942 the 1943 championship proved to be a crushing disappointment. Fermoy failed to field a team in the first round which allowed Carrig through to a meeting with Douglas, whom they had beaten by eleven points at the same stage a year earlier. With a two goal half time lead Carrig seemed to be sailing through to the final, but with eight minutes to go Douglas drew level and in the closing stages they pulled away to win by two points, 4-4 to 4-2. Douglas later lost to Shanballymore by six goals in the county final.
Despite the failure of 1943 Carrig felt that they had a team good enough to compete in the senior championship of 1944. A 7-5 to 2-3 victory over Carbery in the first round seemed to confirm their confidence, as Sean Twomey, Mattie Fouhy and Jim ‘Daw’ Edwards drove Carrig to victory, but there was more eloquent confirmation to come later. On the same double bill as Carrig the Barrs beat the Army by a point in a match hailed as a “classic” by the Examiner; the Barrs were Carrig’s opponents in the semi-final.
“I remember how much Denis Conroy resented the fact that the Barrs‘ game got all the attention,” says Willie John Daly, who made his senior championship debut that day as a sub, “and he said at the county board that before the year was out Carrig would give them the game of the year – and we did. The Barrs saw us play and they had no meas in us. They thought they were playing a junior team. Well, we nearly created not just the shock of the year but the shock of the century.”
According to the Examiner it was a “curious game in many respects. The champions (the Barrs) were handicapped by having to field substitutes for several of their regular players, but on paper they had more than enough to spare over the inexperienced fifteen which represented the famous East Cork hurling centre.”
A goal by Willie Tabb edged Carrig into the lead during the first quarter but Sean Condon, a Cork senior, was in terrific form and be landed six points before the break to put the Barrs into a lead of 1-8 to 1-4. Carrig pressed hard after the break and reduced the deficit to two points, before a soft goal knocked them back again.
“For three quarters of an hour it looked any odds on a victory for the Barrs,” reported the Examiner. “Though playing far below their best they led by four points at the interval and against the run of play they increased their lead by a further two points with fifteen minutes left. Then came the reward for Carrig’s persistent attacking. Foiled for a long time by the brilliance of Tommy Mulcahy in the Barrs’ goal they eventually wore down the champions’ defence and five minutes from the end they had turned the deficit into a lead.”
It was a goal from Eamonn Cleary which sparked Carrig’s late comeback. Points from Mattie Fouhy and Sean Twomey brought Carrig level before another goal by Cleary put Carrig ahead. From the puck-out, however, Sean Condon dribbled through the Carrig defence and though he was brought down he had created the chance for the Barrs’ equalising goal, hammered home by McCarthy. “We had three chances of points to win it in the last three minutes,” remembers Willie John, “but it was a draw in the end, (3-9 to 3-9)”
The replay drew a crowd of 10,000, but it was a different match in every respect. Once again the Barrs led by four points at half time, but this time Carrig’s fight back had a sinister nature: “From the time the Barrs scored their first goal in the second half,” according to the Examiner, “the standard of play deteriorated. For apparently no sound reason many of the Carrigtwohill players, particularly from midfield onwards, appeared to lose their heads. Instead of just depending on their own skill they appeared to concentrate on preventing their opponents from hurling, a tactic which was foredoomed to failure.”
“Thereafter each Barrs’ score, particularly the goals, appeared to sharpen the already keen tempers and eventually the referee had to order a Carrigtwohill forward and a St Finbarrs back to the sideline with just three minutes left to play. As added time began there was a fresh outburst of ill-temper amongst the players and this time the pitch was invaded and spectators became involved. Spectators were then amazed to see the Carrigtwohill player previously sent off again taking part.”
Sean Twomey gave an exhibition against Condon, but there were too few like Twomey and Carrig were thrashed, 4-6 to 0-2.
As luck would have it the draw for the 1945 championship pitted Carrig against the Barrs in the first round. Carrig’s defeat was even heavier than the previous summer’s, but at least this time they took defeat honourably. The Barrs led by 2-7 to 0-3 at half time, but according to the Examiner it was a good match for 40 minutes.
“The Barrs, however, were overall the better side and they made full use of the opportunities that came their way. The Carrig team on the other hand were particularly weak at midfield and though their defence showed up well in the first half with Jim ‘Daw’ Edwards, Willie Cummins and Dan Fenton giving a good display, they were nonetheless under constant pressure to hold the quick moving Barrs’ forward line. Of the Carrig forwards Willie John Daly and Willie Tabb did some fine work, but did not have support from their colleagues.”
Carrig had a good spell after half time when they threatened to get back into the match, but they were thwarted by Tommy Mulcahy in the Barrs’ goal and by their own inability to defend a free from 80 yards which went all the way to the Carrig net. Two late Carrig goals by O’Brien took some of the bareness off the score line, but it remained stark enough, 6-12 to 2-6.
After such an early exit from the championship Carrig players had time on their hands; in Denis Conroy, however, there was a man who knew what could be done with it. The practice of players moonlighting for clubs in other counties was common in the 1940s and that summer Tallow needed players for a championship match against Dungarvan. Conroy provided them, six in all, including three notables from Carrig: Mattie Fouhy, Willie John Daly and Sean Twomey. “We only wanted class” said Conroy.
“There was an awful lot of money on the match” says Willie John Daly, “but as we lined out this Dungarvan chap said ‘Look at Twomey, working in Barry’s in Carrigtwohill.’ Immediately the game was up. We played the match and we won and we had a fierce day back in Tallow afterwards. Anyway Denis got a two year suspension and we all got 12 months.”
Carrig dropped back to intermediate in 1946, but had the misfortune to meet a rising Charleville team who would go on to win two intermediate championships in succession. The match drew a large crowd to Mallow on the first Sunday of May and it appeared to be over by half time. A Carrig defence, described by the Examiner as “seriously disorganised” conceded 4-4 with only a goal in reply. Carrig, though, shook themselves after the break. O’Brien started the momentum with a goal, and the comeback ended with an equalising point from Mattie Fouhy.
At this point proceedings became too much for what the Examiner says was “inadequate stewarding” and “sideline infringements by spectators were continuous in the second half.” In the chaos, though, it was Charleville who collected themselves and while Carrig failed to score again, Charleville mustered one last devastating surge to win by 6-6 to 4-4.
Through sheer lack of numbers Carrig sometimes struggled to field second teams during the 1940s and that year they gave Youghal a walk-over in the first round. Three years earlier, in 1943, they had reached the East Cork final, but were hammered by Midleton, 8-8 to 2-0, and there our knowledge of the match ends. However Fr Andy O‘Keeffe, who was usually in charge of the second team in those days, never surrendered easily.
“Every man who could walk straight he had them on the junior selection,” said Denis Conroy, “he played them all. He was a great bit of stuff. Fr Andy was a great man for the flasks of tea at half time. I remember at one stage there was about 12 of the team did a bit of analysis on why they weren’t having success. They had played reasonably well the same day but the conclusion they came to was, you could win nothing on tea.”
Earlier in 1946 Imokilly, backboned by seven Carrig players, brought Blackrock to a replay in the senior hurling championship. Blackrock had a last minute goal disallowed in the drawn match but made no mistake in the replay. In the following seasons Imokilly would continue to make waves.
Imokilly: L Barry, Eamonn Cleary*, W Power, R McMahon, P Campbell, Sean Twomey*, Jim ‘Daw’ Edwards*, Willie Cummins*, Dinny Lenihan*, Willie John Daly*, Mattie Fouhy*, Paul Abernethy, J O’Sullivan, C Murphy, W Kenneally, *from Carrig.
For the second successive year Carrig regraded downwards, this time to junior. The team that had taken the club to two county finals already in the 1940s was breaking up and a better team was in embryo. Carrig players, however, were still in demand.
Of the seven Carrig players who had played for lmokilly in 1946 only Dinny Lenihan had lost his place. Imokilly began their campaign in 1947 with a victory over UCC and went on to draw a county semi-final against the Barrs before 15,000 people at the Athletic Grounds. The Barrs, however, won the replay and later beat Sars in the county final.
Sean Twomey, Willie John Daly and Mattie Fouhy were all on the Cork junior team that year. Fouhy had already won a senior All Ireland medal as a sub in 1944 and during that summer he was recalled to the senior panel. lt was fate decreed it, because if Mattie had remained with the juniors, he would have been marking his brother Paddy in the All Ireland final against London.
Paddy played for Brian Borus in London along with another former Carrig player Harry Lynch. He lined out in three All Ireland junior finals with London during the 1940s but this one against Cork in Enniscorty was his best. He was only one of two London players who hadn’t played inter-county at home, but it didn’t hold him back: “A man called Fr Thornhill was playing on me,” said Paddy, “and they had him blown up as a great prospect. But he was a big slob of a young fella and very soft. He got an awful tumble early on and that was the end of him.” London lost but in the local newspaper reports Paddy was hailed as the man of the match.
The involvement of Carrig players with Cork and Imokilly delayed their first round meeting with Ballinacurra until the first Sunday of August, but then Ballinacurra were unable to field; “A communication was read from the secretary of the Ballinacurra club at the East Cork Board meeting,” reported the Examiner, “stating that they were unable to field their A grade hurling team against Carrigtwohill on Sunday”, thus giving Carrigtwohill a walkover.
“The letter added that they sought a postponement and would be in a position to play the match at a later date, but Carrigtwohill would not agree to this. Mr Fenton (Carrigtwohill) said he could only carry out the instructions of his club and they would play the match on Sunday night if Ballinacurra agreed. There was no agreement and, accordingly, the match was awarded to Carrigtwohill.”
With Daly, Fouhy, Twomey and Edwards on the team, Imokilly again had a good run in the championship, only losing the semi final to St Finbarrs after a replay. But Imokilly’s success put the East Cork championship so far behind that Castlemartyr, as the reigning champions, were nominated to play in the county championship.
They got as far as the county final before losing to Blackrock by a goal. When their East Cork semi-final against Carrig was eventually played in the middle of November they lost again, this time by 4-6 to 2-2. Carrig challenged Blackrock to a match for their county championship, but the challenge was not taken up.
Two weeks later Carrig played O‘Briens (Ladysbridge) in the East Cork Final and, after trailing by a goal at half time, went on to win by two points, 6-3 to 5-4. The tide was rising again.