After winning two intermediate titles in a row Carrig were automatically graded senior in 1951. The new challenge focused the mind of the strategists and, not for the first time in the club’s history, Carrig looked to galvanise the team with outsiders; three Sewards, Paddy, Jack and Charlie joined from Killeagh, Willie Moore arrived from Lisgoold and Paddy Hartnett, originally from Dungourney but a Midleton and Imokilly player in the late 40s, also came on board.
Carrig lost Michael Keating to emigration and Billy O’Neill to an army posting in Galway, but Billy’s brother Paddy returned to Carrig from Monaghan and rejoined the team. He played so well that he made the Cork senior panel that summer.
Charleville were Carrig’s opponents in the first round at the Cork Athletic Grounds on the second Sunday of July. Having played against the wind Carrig only trailed by a goal at half-time, 2-5 to 1-5, but Charleville proved sticky and it wasn’t until Val Deasy added a goal to his 1-2 of the first half that Carrig pulled away for a six points victory, 2-12 to 2-6. The Examiner condemned the game for its mediocrity, but applauded the greatness of a few.
“Carrigtwohill can thank one man in particular for their win, their centre half back Matt Fouhy. Fouhy dominated the centre of the field in both halves, was mainly instrumental in breaking up the Charleville raids and scored practically every time he took a free himself. He was well flanked by Dan Fenton on the left and Paddy O’Neill on the right.”
“ln front of this trio Sean Twomey and Paddy Hartnett, the centre men, were always prominent. In attack Willie John Daly was always clever in the left corner, Willie Meade was a hard working full forward while Val Deasy contributed well to the score sheet.”
The Glen were next. As well as playing, Willie John Daly was involved in training the Carrig team at the time and he came up with a plan: “I always remember going down to Tom Barry on the Sunday before we played the Glen and saying to him that I’d play centre half back on Ring. I was always a forward that time and Tom wouldn’t hear of it. “Anyway that Sunday afternoon we were playing Sars in some match inside in Cobh and it was my only chance to impress.”
It nearly ended in calamity. With ten minutes to go, Tommy O’Donovan (Ronan) came out from corner back to contest a ball that Daly also had his eye on and the two collided helplessly. The wound in Daly’s head required 12 stitches: “They poured methylated spirits into it and it was alright.” A week later Daly lined up alongside Ring. Their momentous clash decorated a thrilling match.
“Carrig put up a resistance that came as a pleasant surprise to many neutrals,” reported the Examiner. “Tom Nagle at full back was well flanked by Jack and Charlie Seward while a third brother Paddy Seward kept a good goal. The half back line in which Willie John Daly was flanked by Mattie Fouhy and Dan Fenton proved the sheet anchor of the side and this trio gave a wonderful display of hurling.”
“Indeed the exchanges between Willie John Daly and Christy Ring were worthy of going many a mile to see. Both these brilliant players, who are both county and provincial representatives, thrilled the crowd again and again for they put all they knew about hurling into their efforts. In the first half Willie John Daly, who was always cleverly backed up by Mattie Fouhy, kept the brilliant Christy tethered as he had not been tethered by any other opponent this year. In the second half, however, Christy came into his own after Mattie Fouhy had gone centre half forward.”
“In the first half there was little between the midfield pairings in which Sean Twomey shone for Carrigtwohill,” continued the report. “The Glen forwards, however, were much better balanced than their opponents and were always dangerous if they got an opening. The Carrigtwohill forwards missed some grand openings in the first half and it was due to their poor finish that it became necessary to switch Mattie Fouhy to that sector in the hope of giving it more thrust.”
“This transfer, however, as expected gave Glen Rovers’ forwards more scope and enabled them to get those scores which proved so useful when Carrig began an amazing rally which at one stage looked as if they were at least going to make a draw of the game.”
Val Deasy got both of Carrig’s scores in the first half, but just before the break the Glen got a second goal against the run of play to put them 2-0 to 1-1 ahead. A flurry of points were exchanged early in the second half before the Glen struck with two goals; the second was a rasping 40 yard free by Johnny Clifford – who captained Cork in the All Ireland minor final a week later. A further point from Clifford put the city team eight points clear before Carrig finally stirred. Fouhy found the net with a fierce ground shot from 30 yards and soon after Willie Moore added another goal.
“With only two points between the teams,” said the Examiner, “excitement became intense as both sides went all out for a score. Glen Rovers, however, had that little bit extra in a hectic finish. Christy Ring and Johnny Clifford added a point each in a finish that brought spectators to their toes and kept them in a state of feverish excitement until the game ended in a Glen victory (4-4 to 3-3).”
Carrig: Paddy Seward, Jack Seward, Tom Nagle, Charlie Seward, Matt Fouhy(c), Willie John Daly, Dan Fenton, JJ Higgins, Sean Twomey, Derry Foley, Val Deasy, Paddy Hartnett, Paddy O‘Neill, Noelie O’Brien, Willie Moore.
Sub; Willie Meade for JJ Higgins.
Glen Rovers: Dave Creedon, T Logue, P Hogan, John Lyons, Josie Hartnett, Vincie Twomey, Seanie O‘Brien(c), C O’Flaherty, Joe Twomey, Joe Lynam, Christy Ring, Johnny Clifford, D Twomey, S O’Sullivan, Donie O’Donovan.
At the 1952 county convention Denis Conroy was elected to the GPC, 12 years after he first sought office at the county hoard and three years since he had last tried his luck. On the same day the draw was made for the senior championship and no tie resonated like Carrigtwohill v Glen Rovers.
After beating Carrig the Glen had lost the 1951 county final to Sars but they were still a team which sparkled with stars; six of them would win an All Ireland with Cork that year. On May 25th at the Athletic Grounds 6,000 people witnessed one of the most famous victories in Carrig’s history.
“Played in brilliant sunshine both teams served up hurling of a high order” reported the Examiner, “but on the run of play the winners deserved a greater margin than a single point at the final whistle (0-12 to 2-5). The Glen were fighting an uphill battle all of the time, their main weakness being at midfield where the youthful Joe Twomey and Val Dorgan were out of their depth (against Sean Twomey and Paddy Hartnett). Add to this the blotting out of Christy Ring by Willie John Daly and the story of Carrigtwohill‘s victory is told.”
After the events of a year before Carrig had no hesitation in detailing Willie John Daly to police Ring again. “I don’t care who you are as a forward,” says Willie John, “you can stop a forward from scoring. If you stand hip to hip with your man and run with him and pull with him you can stop him.” And so it was. During the first half Ring was forced out to centre field for a spell in search of possession, but returned to the forty when that ploy failed.
Carrig deserved to lead by more than two points at half time, 0-4 to 0-2. and the vulnerability of their position was amplified when the Glen took a two point lead early in the second half. Then the match took another twist. “The wirey Daly deserves more than casual mention,” continued the Examiner. “Having played superbly with Mattie Fouhy and Dan Fenton in the half back line in the first half he took on the role of attacker early in the second half when the Blackpool men were two points ahead.
“His moving to left half forward signalled an all out effort by Carrigtwohill and Daly set a headline by sending over copy-book points, four of them from play. The East Cork men forged into a four point lead (Val Deasy added his third point) and seemed set for a comfortable win when a last minute goal for the Glen put a different complexion on the score line.”
“The Glen made one tactical mistake,” continued the Examiner, “and it was in persistently trying for goals when points were available. This was particularly so in the first half when the Glen defence seemed capable of dealing with most of what the Carrig attack could offer.”
“Nor did the Glen forwards show the smoothness which is normally their style. Minor Johnny Clifford found the going too much and was outclassed by Fenton, while Donie O‘Donovan, though he scored a fine goal, showed little of his fine ability. The winners’ forwards, of whom Paddy O‘Neill and Val Deasy were best, also showed room for improvement.”
Deasy’s form was so good in 1952 that he won a Thomond Tournament medal with Cork as a sub, having played in the semi-final. “But by disposing of Glen Rovers,” the Examiner went on, “Carrigtwohill had negotiated one of the most difficult hurdles in their path to the final. On yesterday‘s form they will he very hard to beat.”
Carrig: Tom Nagle, Charlie Seward, Eamon Cummins, Willie Cummins, Mattie Fouhy, Willy John Daly, Dan Fenton, Sean Twomey, Paddy Hartnett, Paddy O’Neill, Val Deasy(c), Willie Moore, Derry Foley, Jimmy O’Brien, Jack Seward.
Glen Rovers: Liam O’Tuama, T Logue, John Lyons, Vincie Twomey, Josie Hartnett, Seanie O’Brien, C O’Flaherty, Joe Twomey, Val Dorgan, Johnny Clifford, Christy Ring, Donnie O’Donovan, D Twomey, E Ryan, Joe Lynam.
Five weeks later Carrig met Midleton in the next round at the Athletic Grounds. In those days every senior championship match was played in the Athletic Grounds, regardless of the competing teams, and four trains were laid on from East Cork to carry supporters. After the tension of the Glen Rovers match, this was a breezy victory for Carrig. “A lot of Carrig people had money on that Carrig would win by three goals or more,” remembers Paddy Duggan. They hit the jackpot:
“It was obvious after the first half that Midleton, who were then playing with the advantage of a stiff breeze, could not match the craft of Carrig,” reported the Examiner, “and in the second half there was very little exciting play with Midleton only making token raids. Carrig were quicker to seize opportunities and time and again they picked the ball from off their opponent’s stick. Their forwards were a little unsteady, however, and this combined with the good work of the Midleton keeper Neilly Horgan prevented the scoring from going higher.” In the event Carrig’s scoring soared to 7-3 with 2-5 in reply from Midleton.
Cork’s run in the championship that summer meant the semi-final against St Finbarrs was delayed until the end of August. When it was finally played the Examiner hailed it as the best match of the championship so far, but that was no consolation to Carrig; they suffered defeat by a pointed free in injury time, 2-7 to 1-9. After the summer Carrig had enjoyed, it was a galling defeat.
“The issue was always in doubt,” reported the Examiner, “the hurling was hard and clean and the teams evenly matched. Carrigtwohill appeared to play the better hurling, they had the outstanding individuals in Willie John Daly and Mattie Fouhy (recovered from a finger injury) and they were the masters at midfield (Sean Twomey and Paddy Hartnett). The attack, however, failed to rise to the occasion.”
A goal from Paddy Hartnett propelled Carrig into a point lead at half time, and though the Barrs got a goal within three minutes of the second half, Carrig pulled four points clear again with points from Fouhy and Hartnett. With ten minutes to go the Barrs pulled level only for Daly to restore Carrig’s advantage. It was the last time they led.
In the six minutes of lost time that were played Daly missed a free from a very difficult angle and Fouhy had a 70 cleared as the Barrs hung on: “It was unfortunate that the deciding point should have been gained as it was (from a free),” concluded the Examiner, “for rarely has a team been so deserving of a replay as Carrigtwohill were on this occasion. They had more than an equal share of the play, but it was not their lucky day.” The Barrs later lost the county final to Avondhu after a replay.
Carrig: Tom Nagle, Willie Cummins, Eamon Cummins, Charlie Seward, Mattie Fouhy, Willie John Daly, Dan Fenton, Sean Twomey, Paddy Hartnett, Derry Foley, Val Deasy, Willie Moore, John Keegan, Paddy Seward, Paddy O‘Neill.
Barrs: R Higgins, M Lynch, MJ O’Driscoll, D Maher, Jimmy O’Grady, S Murphy, J Ring, C Doolan, M Finn, J Goulding, M O’Driscoll, S Leddy, Tony O’Shaughnessy, S O’Callaghan, H Gouldsborough.
The draw for the 1953 championship was kinder to Carrig than it had been in the previous two years. Carrigdhoun were their opponents in the first round and as expected Carrig had an easy victory, 2-14 to 2-6. “Matt Fouhy was outstanding at centre back,” reported the Examiner, “while Willie John Daly roamed all over the to score almost at will.”
The second round against Shanballymore at the end of August proved to be just as Comfortable, 6-6 to 2-5. Carrig led by two goals at half time and then turned to play with the wind in the second half. “Overall Carrig were a much craftier combination,” said the Examiner, “and their experience and skill was a deciding factor. Their midfield men gave their forwards a good service which was not availed of to the full. In the last quarter hour of the game the East Cork men were continually on the attack, but scores eluded them time and again.”
Carrig: Neilly Horgan, Willie Cummins, Eamonn Cummins, Charlie Seward, Mattie Fouhy, Willie John Daly, Derry Foley, Sean Twomey, Willie Moore, Paddy Hartnett, Val Deasy, Kevin Tabb, John O’Flynn, JJ Higgins, Jack Seward.
Carrig were back in the semi-final, this time against Sars, county champions only two years before. Throughout the1950s Carrig enjoyed huge support all over East Cork and another massive crowd of 7,000 people turned up at the Athletic Grounds; they were treated to a thunderous match. Once again, however, Carrig’s gallantry was in defeat, 5-5 to 3-8.
“The Riverstown men deserved their narrow victory, for though there were occasions when it seemed they might lose their grip on the game they always rose to the challenge,” reported the Examiner. “Twice they enjoyed a seven point lead and only once during the game did Carrigtwohill get in front, and then just by a point which they quickly lost.”
A goal by JJ Higgins just before half time left Carrig only three points behind, 3-2 to 1-5, and, after a goal by John ‘Baker’ O‘Flynn brought Carrig level three minutes into the second half, a point by Derry Foley put them ahead. Sars responded strongly, however, and they were 5-5 to 2-7 in front when Carrig mounted a storming comeback.
“Though Carrig were always struggling to stay in touch they did so in a fashion that won the admiration of all present,” continued the Examiner. “Slow to settle down, when they got going they always had the winners at full stretch and with a moderate slice of luck might have pulled the game out of the fire. The error, however, a tactical one, that very likely cost them the honours, was the playing of Mattie Fouhy, a natural half back, in the attack for the greater part of the hour, while fiery Willie John Daly, a born forward, figured at centre back.”
“This belief was fully borne out by the fact that, when Daly took over at centre forward during the second half, he notched a quick goal and point which initiated a grandstand finish. The eight minutes played that followed Daly‘s goal was more hectic and pulsating as anyone could wish for.”
“The better balance of the Sars fifteen was the deciding factor,” concluded the Examiner. “The losers had great workers in Daly, Fouhy, O‘Flynn and Willie Moore but they had some weak links. To offset these shortcomings there was much switching of places during the game, but the only one to get any results was bringing Daly into the attack, and this was done too late.” Just like a year before, Carrig‘s conquerors in the semi-fìnal lost the final, this time to Glen Rovers.
Carrig: Neilly Horgan, Willie Cummins, Jack Seward, Charlie Seward, Derry Foley, Willie John Daly, Mattie Fouhy, Sean Twomey, Willie Moore, Paddy Hartnett, Val Deasy, Kevin Tabb, John O’Flynn, JJ Higgins, Jimmy O’Brien.
Sars: Seaníe Carroll, D Buckley, T Barry, T Hayes, W Barry, P Bowman, D Barry, P O’Leary, Pat Barry, J Coleman, E Monahan, Denis Hurley, K Barry, Micka Brennan, J O’Neill.
At under age, 1953 was a significant year because for the first time since 1934 Carrig’s U-14’s won the East Cork Schools Shield. There was no B grade in those days and for a school of Carrig’s size to win the championship was a momentous achievement. They beat Sars in the semi-final before facing Midleton in the final at Glounthane. James McCarthy remembers the team being transported in the back of Jim O’Donovan’s and Tim Lordan’s trucks, although Davy O’Keeffe claims that some of the team travelled in a CIE bus under Sean Twomey‘s stewardship.
Midleton were hot favourites and led for most of the hour, but Carrig surged decisively in the final quarter. We have no report of the match but according to O’Keeffe Carrig were eight points up when a Midleton goal went past him in the last minute: “I was under pressure from one or two colleagues,” says O’Keeffe, “and I said that I thought the final whistle had gone. That was my story then and I’m not going to change it now. ”
Victory was celebrated with rockshandies in the Elm Tree bar. “The new Queen of England was crowned that week and we dedicated the victory to her,” says Davy, his tongue buried in his cheek. Unlike the 1934 team, however, Carrig were unable to add a county to their East Cork championship and were knocked out by Charleville at Riverstown.
Carrig: Davy O’Keeffe, Pat Kelly, Dave Cull, Mickey Buckley, Greg Hanley, John Barry, James McCarthy, Tim Joe Browne, Tommy Jeffers, Michael Ryan, Brendan Meehan, Val O’Connor, Dan Joe McCarthy, Pat Spillane, Paddy ‘Tunny’ O’Donovan (c).
Carrig’s seniors drew UCC in the first round of the 1954 Championship and they proved to be treacherous opponents. The match was played unusually early, on the last Sunday of March, and the students seemed to catch Carrig on the hop. “A draw came as a big surprise, for the experience and reliability of the Carrig men was expected to be too much for their younger opponents. The fast, first-time pulling of the students had the Carrig side at a standstill at times. The final result (2-7 to 3-4) was, however, a fitting one and both sides deserved another chance.”
Two goals and a point by Willie John Daly helped Carrig into a to 1-2 lead at half time, but the College refused to wilt. Daly was forced out to centre field where he cast off his boots and took on Cathal Hurley, who was having a stormer for UCC. In the finish it was Carrig who were hanging on as the College missed a free from 60 yards and a 70.
Carrig: Neilly Horgan, Charlie Seward, Jack Seward, Liam Butler, JJ Higgns, Mattie Fouhy, Paddy Hartnett, Sean Twomey, Seanie Butler, Dermot Foley, Val Deasy, Kevin Tabb, John ‘Baker’ O’Flynn, Willie John Daly, Lar Cotter.
A week before the replay in early May Carrig lost to Blackrock by four goals in a tournament match in Killeagh. Their championship form, however, was conspicuously better and, despite playing without Willie John Daly, they gave UCC a hiding, 7-3 to 2-4. Mattie Fouhy was outstanding at centre back and JJ Higgins broke the students hearts with 5 goals, the second of which mid-way through the second half turned the game decisively in Carrig’s favour.
Carrig reached the final of the Noonan Cup in June, having beaten Sars in the semi final, 4-8 to 5-1. It boded well for the second round of the Championship against Bandon on the first Sunday of August. In 1954 Bandon would have been given no chance of beating Carrig in the senior championship but, on the day, Carrig flopped.
Willie John Daly, who didn’t start, came on in a desperate attempt to save the match, but it was beyond rescue as Carrig went down by 5-3 to 0-6.
Carrig: Neilly Horgan, Paddy O’Brien, Eamonn Cummins, Charlie Seward, Mattie Fouhy, Sean Twomey, Liam Butler, Paddy Hartnett, Willie Moore, Derry Foley, Seanie Butler, Kevin Tabb, Paddy Butler, JJ Higgins, Val Deasy.
In September of 1954 Cork won their third All Ireland title in a row, witnessed by the biggest crowd to ever watch a hurling match, 84,856. It was a momentous day; Christy Ring won a record eighth All Ireland medal and for three Carrig players it marked the summit of their careers. Mattie Fouhy won his fourth medal, Willie John Daly won his third and Willie Moore won his only All Ireland.
Fouhy was a year older than Daly; while Fouhy was making his first appearance on a Cork panel in the 1944 championship Daly was only making his senior debut for Carrig as an 18 year old. But in 1947 their Cork careers coalesced and there came a time when Daly and Fouhy and Carrig were synonymous in the minds of anybody who followed hurling. There were many other gifted players in the club during the significant successes of the late 1940s and early 1950s, but none of the others affected Carrig games as often as Daly and Fouhy did. Long before their careers finished they had joined the pantheon of the club’s greats.
Daly was born in the Main Street in 1925, son of Paddy and Mary (nee Savage). Paddy was a successful pointto-point jockey, but hurling came from his mother’s side; her brother Mick played on the first Carrig team to win an intermediate title in 1909.
Fouhy was born in Barryscourt, the son of Matt and Katie (nee Grey). His father had played on the Carrig team that won the senior championship in 1918 and so had two of his uncles, Jim and Ned ‘Sailor’ Grey; a year later Ned won an All Ireland with Cork. Another uncle, Jerh Fouhy, captained the first Carrig team to win an intermediate title in 1909. For Fouhy hurling was a matter of genetic compulsion, although that influence wouldn‘t have been ecessary. In Fouhy’s and Daly‘s time hurling was woven into the fabric of youth.”
“I couldn’t praise the school leagues enough,” says Daly. “You must appreciate that it was the 1930s. The Economic War was on and money was very tight. We hadn’t the price of a hurley so we made them ourselves. The playground was a very confined space, only about 40 or 50 yards long which meant you weren’t allowed to pick the ball, it was all first time ground hurling. You had eight teams of 10, the captains were picked and everyone brought along two pence a man. The leagues took place every day the whole year round and the excitement was fantastic.
“I can always remember myself playing in goal at the beginning because I was very small. Mr Barry (John the teacher) would be sitting inside the window having his lunch and when you’d make a save you’d look over for a reaction. When it came to the semi-finals or the finals then you’d have fellas from the village coming down to watch, looking over the wall. Mr Barry was playing for Cork that time and on the Monday morning after a Cork game old players carne up talking about the game and we used to love it – a great break from the lessons.”
Fouhy was just old enough and bold enough to play on the team that won the schools shield in 1934. It was the biggest thing the school would win for over 50 years. The whole school walked to the final in Glounthane to see them beat Greenmount. A rich seam of talent was emerging in the club.
“Every night in the summer we’d be down the Pond field watching the seniors training and following the balls,” says Daly. “The senior team was a great thing at that time. When they were playing up in the Park there was never a shortage of spins. You’d be inside on the sideline then and there’d be a race to pick up the handle of a broken hurley – it was the same down at training. You‘d make a hurley for yourself out of it after. But you could have 10 or 12 racing to get it and you had to be tough to win.”
The first All Ireland that Daly can recall is the second replay of the famous trilogy of 1931 finals between Cork and Kilkenny. There were only three wireless sets in the village and the six year old Willie John was in Teddy O’Brien’s. Coming up to half-time Tom Barry had the ball in his hand when the wireless went dead. The crowd instantly dispersed in search of the other two wireless sets. Six years later he was taken to his first All Ireland final. With major construction work going on at Croke Park the match between Tipperary and Kilkenny was played in Killarney. Mick Barry extended the invitation.
“I often wonder what instinct told these men to take me to these places. I often wonder how I had such a keen interest. I was living for it. Jack Delaney, Christy Delaney and Mick were in the car that day. Tipp beat Kilkenny well. That was Tommy Doyle’s year. He had a great Munster final and all the talk was about him as an 18 year old starting out. The next time I was in Killarney was in 1950 playing for Cork against Tipperary and who was I on – Tommy Doyle. The crowd rushed the field twice that day – mostly Cork supporters. We were three points down that day with two or three minutes to go and Ringy was calling the crowd in hoping that they’d abandon the match.”
After primary school in Carrig Fouhy went on to Midleton CBS where he won a Dean Ryan Cup and was picked on the Munster colleges team for the interprovincial championship. As a 17 year old he played corner forward on the Carrig team that won the junior county title in 1941 and was sub for the Cork minors that won the All Ireland. In the same year Daly won his first medal with the club, an East Cork junior B championship.
The inter-county minor championships were suspended from 1942 to 1944 so Daly missed out on his chance to be a Cork minor, but it wasn’t too long before both men were in the red jersey. Fouhy only had to wait until 1944 when he was brought onto the senior panel for the Munster championship and was kept on for the All Ireland, the last of Cork‘s four-in-a-row. He made his championship debut a year later, but missed out on the 1946 championship through suspension.
“I’m afraid I blotted my copybook that year,” Fouhy told Tim Horgan in Cork‘s Hurling Story. “Being young and foolish a few of us went down to Tallow to play for a Waterford club in the championship there. We were already hurling with Carrig, of course, and we had no right to play for two teams in the one season. We were found out and suspended and I’m afraid that misdemeanour cost me an All Ireland medal in 1946. Naturally it was very nice to be on the Cork selection in 1944, but I always regarded my medal as a sub’s medal and as such I didn’t have great meas on it.”
Fouhy started 1947 with the Cork juniors, but he was promoted to the senior panel for the Munster semi-final against Waterford and came on as a sub. Daly was a member of the same Cork junior team that summer and on their way to an All Ireland title he made his first mark in a Cork jersey; his form was so good that he was drafted on to the senior panel for the final against Kilkenny, a match Cork lost by a point.
Three weeks later, when Kilkenny visited the Athletic Grounds in the league, Daly was given his debut. It was the first time that Fouhy and Daly appeared on the same Cork senior selection; for the next eleven seasons their presence was taken for granted.
In their demeanour and in their hurling Fouhy and Daly were opposites. Fouhy was tall, Daly was only 5’8″; Fouhy looked frail, but had a whipcord strength; Daly was a forceful, condensed 12 stone and his aggression animated his power; Fouhy was ice, Daly was fire.
“You had the strength from work,” says Daly, “l never knew what it was to be tired. Every morning I got on my bike in Carrig and cycled the 13 miles to Kilbarry and got on the back of a lorry with pick shovel and bar. You‘d dig down six feet and it was only getting the circulation going. You came home then and went out training. I knew from work that I was stronger than any of them. I could knock a man 16 stone weight.
“My idea was, if you want to hurl I’ll hurl with you and if you want to play otherwise I’ll be there too. I remember playing in the Thomond Shield against Limerick in 1948. I scored four points in the first quarter of an hour and I went out centre field after a ball and I fell awkwardly over this chap. I was on the ground and he caught the hurley and split me. I was being attended on the ground when Sean Power and Sean Herbert lifted him out of it – they gave him dog’s abuse. I played 11 years with Cork and nobody came near me apart from that. But I hit hard and took no quarter.”
Between 1948 and 1954 Cork had a dozen thunderous matches against Tipperary, in league and championship. Some of them were quite poisonous affairs. After beating Tipp in the league final of 1948, they met again a year later: “Mick Byrne, the ‘Rattler’, and myself had murder in that match,” says Daly. “He caught me badly across the back with the first puck and I’d say for the whole second half we only hit each other. Tipp won that one.”
Along with Fouhy and Daly, Sean Twomey played in both of those league finals. Twomey was gone from the team before Cork broke Tipperary’s stranglehold on Munster in 1952 though the East Cork contingent was still significant: “We were all friends,” said Fouhy. “Christy Ring was living in Cloyne at the time and he used to collect us in his car and drive us to the training sessions. He’d pick up Liam Dowling and Billy Abernethy at Castlemartyr and then Gerald Murphy in Midleton and collect Willie John and myself in Carrig. Ring had a great sense of humour, a great wit. We used have the best of craic.”
In the early 1950s Daly and Fouhy enjoyed recognition on an exalted level. Fouhy made the Munster Railway Cup team in 1950 and Daly followed him a year later. In 1952 Daly was picked at corner forward on the Rest of Ireland selection for the annual match against the Combined Universities and kept his place until 1955.
Cork’s three-in-a-row found them at their peak. Tipp had won three All Irelands in a row when they met Cork in the Munster final of 1952; another Munster Championship for Tipp would have equalled Cork‘s record of four-in-a-row. A finger injury kept Fouhy out of the match and in the re-shuffle Daly played at centre back.
The tension of the closing minutes are still vivid in his memory; “We were two points up and Tipp won a sideline cut. I asked the referee if there was much left. Clear this one he said and its all over. Pat Stakelum took the sideline cut for Tipp. It hopped lovely. I dived for it and completely missed it. My heart sank, but Gerald Murphy, Lord rest him, caught it and cleared it up-field, and the final whistle sounded.”
“It reminded me of the first round match we had against Tipp in 1949. With two minutes to go Cork were three points ahead and we were awarded a free about 21 yards out. Jack Lynch stood over the ball. Ring told him to put it over the bar. Don’t worry, said Jack. The ball went wide. l heard Pat Stakelum shout: “Come on lads, we have them.” From the puck out the ball came up the field.”
“Sonny Maher was at full forward for Tipp. Jim Young was at corner back for Cork. Would you believe it, Jim Young and myself went for the same ball with Maher. I went to take Sonny, feeling that Jim Young would clear it. But didn’t Sonny scoop the ball over to the unmarked Jimmy Kennedy. I could see his hand was shaking; he gathered, struck – goal. Extra time, and we lost.”
After losing to Clare in 1955 that Cork team carne back for one more crack at an All Ireland in 1956. In the Munster final against Limerick Daly had one last brilliant performance in a Cork jersey, playing at centre back.
In the lead-up to the All Ireland final against Wexford, Daly, Fouhy and Tony O’Shaugnessy of St Finbarrs were in the vanguard of a players’ dispute with the county board over their allocation of tickets. The County board always gave four, but the players believed they deserved six. The players threatened not to play if their demands weren‘t met and on the Tuesday before the All Ireland final the county board relented.
That All Ireland, which ended in a six point defeat, was the last for Fouhy and Daly. After Cork lost the Munster final to Waterford in 1957 their inter county careers ended.
Fouhy was married that year to Dympna and the couple spent their honeymoon in New York where the Cork and Wexford teams that met in the 1956 All Ireland final were playing an exhibition match. It was only two years later that Daly finished with Carrig: “I was after building a house inside in Midleton and I used to be out all hours working with the ESB, so I had no time for training. My attitude was if I couldn’t give it 100% I should pack it up. You couldn’t go on living on your name.”
After a while Willie John took up coaching and in the early 1970s took on the Cork job, leading Cork to an Oireachtas title and a National League, before stepping down early in 1975. Fouhy played on until 1962 when he won his second East Cork junior medal, 21 years after he won his first. It was only a short 15 years later, in April of 1977, that Fouhy died suddenly, a young man of 53.
In the Cork Examiner Val Dorgan paid tribute: “Matt Fouhy played through some of the most tempestuous years of hurling rivalry, particularly between Cork and Tipperary. The competitive element in these games especially was perhaps as sharp and sometimes bitter as ever generated in hurling. They were games which not alone demanded exceptional hurling ability, but also great physical courage. Mattie Fouhy was never found lacking in either. He earned the reputation of not alone being undeniably fearless but always fair. Matt Fouhy’s behaviour on the field only reflected his real character. In the real sense of the word he was a sportsman.”
It was an opinion shared by all who knew him: “Mattie was a very loyal and devoted player to the club and a great personal friend of mine,” says Daly. “Although not too well built he was a fearless player and very clever in avoiding the hard men of that period. On top of that he had a marvellous temperament for the big occasion. It was a sad day for us all when he passed away.”
Only weeks before his death Willie John and Mattie found themselves reminiscing about old days: “Do you know Dal,” said Fouhy, “I wouldn’t have changed one bit of it for the world.” Their greatness will endure.
The Evening Echo published an elegy to Fouhy, by Mick Barry from Whitechurch. It is beautiful in its simplicity.
Gaels far and near we’re grieved to hear
Of a hurler staunch and true
Has passed away from us today
His equals were but few
Played All Irelands four; won three
in a row
Brought fame to his native Lee
And with Carrig too donning gold
Steeped in East Cork rivalry
The marching bands, the
No more will he hear those cheers
His elusive frame who from
To instill in forwards fear
In the championship at Limerick
Waterford, Thurles or Croke Park
Adorning red oe’r the sward he sped
To give his heart for Cork
In Carrigtwohill his name will live
And by Leeside evermore
The neat lean back with the
Who foiled a thousand scores
St Finbarr’s soil which today is piled
On his boundless sturdy breast
Lean light upon you Matt now gone
You held your own with the best
And may angel’s wing and guide you in
Far beyond the stars on high
We all hope and pray we will meet
Carrigtwohill’s golden boy