I Never Caught The Sliothar In My Hand In All The Championship Games
I Played For Cork and My Club, Blackrock
1900's Legendary Cork Hurler & Famous Cork Taximan
In the 1960’s Cork had an abundance of hurling legends from Times Past and to walk in their midst was a real treat for young aspiring teenage hurlers. We had the magician hurler Christy Ring, a native of Cloyne, and down Blackrock way, a sprightly gentleman who played his hurling with the Rockies in the early years of the 20th century. Born in 1883, Larry O'Flaherty became a legendary Cork hurler but he also became a legendary Cork Taxi man with his distinctive vintage style Dodge car.
For Cork hurling fans who wanted to talk hurling, all they had to do, was sit in to Larry’s flagship taxi at Cork’s No.1 Railway Station, book as long a journey as they could afford and get up and personal with the Cork hurling giant.
When Larry’s playing days were over his status as a Famous Corkonian was truly assured and for gaels of my own seven decades vintage, when his taxi passed your way in the 1960’s, it was only natural to reminesce - There goes the famous Larry O'Flaherty in his vintage taxi.
The Blackrock giant was born into a locality steeped in hurling legends, such as the Coughlans; The Hayes’s; Dinny Scannell; John Cashman; Denis Cremin; Miah Norberg; and many more local hurlers who have been recorded in the annals of Rockies hurling history. In the formative years of the G.A.A. in the 1900's young boys had little underage competitions and Larry O'Flaherty, at the age of eighteen, was a budding future unknown star serving his apprentice.
The current soccer grounds at Turner’s Cross, home of Cork City FC, was a famous G.A.A. venue in the early 20th century and it was here that Larry first wore the Blackrock colours in a competitive match. His opponents on that auspicious day in 1901, were a team called Evergreen National and records state Larry won his first ever medal in that year.
The budding hurler progressed in 1903 to claim his first Cork senior hurling championship medal and in the same year Cork selectors also came calling at his door, informing Larry he would be playing for Cork at midfield.
In that era due to the vast army of Irishmen exiled in London, the British hurling and football champions were admitted to the All Ireland senior hurling championship at the concluding stages and we had a “Home Final” and also a final involving the exiles. Cork’s hurling fame was only a budding star at that time and now when we recall Larry’s hurling career, we can put in to print the fact, that he won just one All Ireland senior hurling medal and that was the 1903 final v London, after Cork beat “The Cats” of Kilkenny in the “Home Final” at Jones’s Road, Dublin.
In 1912 Kilkenny beat Cork in the All Ireland final and in 1915 Larry and his colleagues dramatically lost to Laois, giving that county its one and only All Ireland senior hurling title.
At club level with his native Blackrock, Larry garnished a total of six county medals and also in that early era of the G.A.A. in the 1900's tournaments were hugely popular and major attendances came to these games. Larry collected many prized awards from tournaments in that era and these popular matches were to facilitate fundraising for various bodies. The tournaments also hugely showcased young hurlers outside of the hotly contested senior championship arenas.
Reflecting on the status of Larry O'Flaherty in hurling folklore, even right up to the 21st century, and a hurler with just one All Ireland medal, it mirrors the greatness of Larry in his day and the esteem in which he was held, that the name ‘Larry O'Flaherty’ is still revered all over Cork.
Many of our younger generations of browsers may not be aware that parish hurling in the early days of the 20th century was a breeding ground for upcoming hurlers and in the huge sprawling parish of Blackrock, like many more parishes around Ireland, local village teams exposed streams of young and great hurlers.
Village teams associated with Blackrock were Ballintemple; Boreenmana; Ballinsheen; Skehard; Ballinlough; Ballinure and a place called Brick Yard. The ferocity of these local parish matches was really intense and I recall, that in my own native barony of Passage West, Co. Cork, it was our own local and very tense and competitive Parish League in 1960, that led to the breakaway of Rochestown G.A.A. from the Passage club.
In Blackrock, Larry as one of the great players, was, with other best known club players at that time, chosen to select the Blackrock hurling teams and in my research I read a quote from Larry that stated “he always went on to the field of play with a spirit of being superior to the man next to him, no matter who he was; It was always a great pleasure to meet good opponents and to hurl against them; as long as I played, I never caught the sliothar in my hand; never fouled anybody; and was never taken off any team”.
It is also important to relate that, in those far off days of hurling matches, players marked their opposing players like superglue. In further sentiments expressed by Larry, he noted that hurling played today (as of 1978 interview) it is not hurling at all. In his 1978 interview Larry urged Blackrock hurlers to always respect the opposition, play the game as it should be played and remember ‘we are all Irishmen – let us be Sportsmen as well.
And for hurlers of Larry’s era it was a style and combat of hurling that they upheld in a tough and fair tradition and no doubt the ball did all their talking when it spun along very speedily on the green grass. Another scientific facet of hurling and a throw back to Larry’s days, was ‘Doubling on the ball in the air’ but alas our current generation of hurlers would never have witnessed this noble art of hurling.
As we now induct Larry O'Flaherty into our “All Ireland Hall Of Fame online Gallery” in our hurling category, we hope our tribute to Larry will revive Golden Memories of a Famous Cork and Blackrock Hurler.
Larry Flaherty died on 5th January 1978, at the ripe old age of ninety six years.
Special thanks to Mr. Barry Noonan, grandson of Larry O'Flaherty, who presented us with the historic pictures for this tribute.
Yours In Sport,
Derry JF Doody