Plunkett Carter Tribute & Profile of Blackrock & Cork Famous Hurler of 1950's & 60's
The surname “BROHAN” in Cork City and County immediately journies people to the subject of Blackrock hurling, but such is the fame of the “BROHAN” sporting dynasty, it is also very likely the beautiful game of soccer will also equally come to mind.
On this auspicious occasion our subject matter at All Ireland Hall Of Fame Online Gallery is the famous and historic Blackrock and Cork hurler, Jimmy Brohan, a former club, county and interprovincial hurler. Jimmy’s prowess was also utilised as a club and county selector with his lifelong club Blackrock and also with Cork’s rebel hurlers.
At All Ireland SportsLife Tributes, our editorial contributor Plunkett Carter, in recent times met up with Jimmy to reflect on the highs and lows of an outstanding hurling career from the 1940’s through to the 21st century. For many decades Jimmy Brohan built up a gentleman’s reputation as one of Blackrock’s finest ambassadors on and off the field and is held in exceptionally high regard by his contemporaries all over Ireland.
My own first encounter in meeting the Cork legend was in 1968 when I commenced a short tenure in Blackrock colours before returning to my native Passage West GAA club. As a stranger on the shore in Blackrock territory, I have never allowed myself to omit the very warm welcome afforded to me by Jimmy all those decades ago.
Vintage GAA people who encounterd Jimmy Brohan on their journies will proudly state “They Know” Jimmy but of course the Blackrock legend is highly regarded across all age levels in his own community and far beyond where hurling is the name of the game. Stand out memories of Jimmy for me are primarily as the Cork right full back, breaking out of a tackle (not a modern day scrum) finding a bit of space with ball in hand and unleashing a 70/80 yards clearance up the field, turning defence into attack.
Unfortunately our boyhood memories of Cork in the second half of the 1950’s and through to the mid 1960’s, are not memories to be described as fruitful years. Without a Munster senior hurling title from 1956 to 1966, these were years when Jimmy Brohan was at the peak of his hurling career. Tipperary were the all powerful county of that particular era and they possessed a gallery of players who became wholesome legends of hurling.
At All Ireland Hall Of Fame, Michael Casey, Plunkett Carter and myself, identify ourselves No.1 as SportsLife historians in the codes of gaelic games and soccer and composing LifeTime Career Tributes to outstanding sports personalities of times past. These are projects we thoroughly enjoy.
Upcoming in 2021 we will present a series of recognitions and appreciations and some awards also, to former sports stars. However we also recognise the invaluable impact numerous club volunteers made and without their influence, many stars may not have become household names. A few years ago we Blackrock soccer legend, John ‘Langton’ Fitzgerald as a Champion Sports Volunteer in recognition of John’s 60 glorious years association with Ringmahon Rangers as club secretary.
Watch this space for several more All Ireland Hall Of Fame upcoming recognitions and appreciations.
We now invite our local, national and global readers to enjoy Plunkett Carter’s SportsLife Golden Memories interview with Blackrock’s Own Jimmy Brohan.
Derry JF Doody (Editor)
Corner back with a mighty long clearance
“The game has become very professional which many might argue is a good thing but in Jimmy's opinion the skill element is being lost,”
In 1954 Cork and Tipp renewed their fierce rivalry in the Munster Senior Hurling final for the fifth consecutive year. The Rebels prevented a Premier county three -in-a-row in 1952 when they defeated their deadly rivals 1-11 to 2-6 after a riveting encounter. After another Leeside victory in ’53 it was Tipp’s turn in ’54 to gain revenge by attempting to end Cork’s treble aspirations.
Jimmy Brohan was on the bench in Limerick that day in 1954 and the ideal man to relive that occasion and maybe to discuss how the Munster Championship and hurling in general has evolved since. “I think we stole that game, said Jimmy Brohan”. Time was actually up and Tipp were leading by a point. The Tipp subs and mentors, obstructing our view, were on the side-line ready to run on to congratulate their team and the spectators were already half way over the fencing when lost time (which was what it was termed then) was being played and Ringy hit a speculative shot towards the posts.
Cork Forward Set Up Paddy Barry Vital Goal
Tony Reddan was about to make an easy save when he was distracted by Tom O’Sullivan who had raced through the parallelogram which was protected by John Doyle and Rattler Byrne, the corner stones of what became known later as Hell’s Kitchen. The Cork forward flicked Reddan with his hurley on the funny bone and uncharacteristically, all-time great Reddan, fumbled the ball and Paddy Barry dashed in to tap it to the net. From the puck-out Tipp conceded a free and Ringy added another point”, recalled Jimmy Brohan.
“That sent the Tipp boys back to their boxes”, and we nearly trampled over them as we stormed on to the pitch to celebrate“, he quipped. “It was a fierce game with intense duels ending in stalemate in every sector, except with Ring, who was unstoppable and destroyed Doyle and later Byrne”, continued Jimmy.
As for comparisons between Munster finals then and now, Jimmy explained, “Absolutely no comparison. It was winner takes all. Now you don’t have to reach the decider, as was the case with Limerick in 2018 to go on to win the McCarthy Cup.
The finalists have the luxury of knowing that whatever the result they’re still in the equation. It can even be an advantage to lose as the provincial winners have an abysmal record in the knock-out stages.
“It’s all about running and short passing , which I detest, “ claimed the obviously irritated former great who also, like many of his contemporaries, has an issue with the modern sliothar which can be pucked enormous distances.
“The game has become very professional which many might argue is a good thing, but in my opinion the skill element is being lost,” he said. “Now, admittedly, there are some outstanding skilful hurlers still playing the game, but we are losing the great arts like overhead pulling and ground hurling that was a key feature of former contests”, Jimmy added, almost apologetically.
With regard to the back-door system, Jimmy is stating facts, as since it was first introduced for the All-Ireland Hurling Championship in 1997, the Munster champions have won just two of the 22 McCarthy Cup finals, Clare (1997) and Tipperary (2016). Furthermore, Munster teams were finalists on 18 occasions and 12 of them made it to the final through the back-door qualifiers.
Amazing statistics you surely would agree. However, the qualifiers have been deemed a huge success and apart from providing countless classic encounters and extending the season for many, the qualifiers have also showcased how brilliant a game hurling can be when played by the country’s leading exponents. Yet, questions will surely continue to be asked of the diminishing importance of Provincial Championship titles - the honour of qualifying for the Munster and Leinster deciders now supersedes the glory of winning it. The ultimate aim is the same as ever - Croke Park on final day irrespective of the route travelled.
Great Honour To Play For Cork
Jimmy was thrilled to be chosen for the 1954 semi-final against Galway, which Cork won comfortably.“Tony Shaughnessy was not fit and I played corner back instead. I did well. However, I wasn’t surprised when the selectors went for experience over youth for the final and the fit again ‘Shaugh’ returned for the Wexford match.
When you were a sub then, you never expected to get a run as only injured players could be substituted. Shaugh suffered a nasty head injury early in the game and I was nearly sent on, but the medics strapped him up and he continued again. That was the way it was then. We won that game and Ringy got his record breaking eighth All- Ireland medal. The homecoming was unbelievable. And, as a Cork hurler, I expected to be part of future parades.”
1956 Cork and Wexford (holders) were back in Croke Park on the first Sunday in September, by which time Jimmy was widely acknowledged as one of the finest defenders in the country and a cornerstone of the Rebels 15. Ring was seeking his ninth medal. Cork were trailing by two points as the clock ticked towards the hour mark when the magical Ringy burst through and with the goal at his mercy, unleashed a powerful shot which was saved by Art Foley. The Wexford keeper was immortalised afterwards and the save is part of hurling folklore and is why Wexford retained their crown.
For Ringy and for Jimmy, it was to be the last time that they would grace Croke Park on All-Ireland Sunday wearing the rebel jersey. Cork went into transition after the retirement of prominent players and the emigration of magnificent talents like Paddy Philpott and Pat Dowling and the loss of the brilliant Derry O’Driscoll, who gave up hurling after sustaining a horrific eye injury.
However, Jimmy continued to hurl his heart out for Cork and his beloved Rockies. Later in 1956, Jimmy helped end a 25 year drought by starring in the defeat of Glen Rovers in the County Senior Championship final; a victory sweeter than any All-Ireland accolade. Jimmy was also a star of the Railway Cup competition when it was at its pinnacle.
He was chosen on the Rest of Ireland teams (forerunner of The GAA All-Stars) on five occasions. Of greater significance, he was the public’s choice at right-corner back in 1961 in the best team ever. Later, his role as a selector with some of the successful Cork hurling teams of the seventies and eighties, was vital to the maintenance of Cork as a hurling power.
When Jimmy played with Cork they had five selectors and a trainer, unlike now when the back- room team of psychologists, masseurs, doctors, analysts and stats-men etc, etc, actually outnumber the players. Training in his day consisted of groups of four doubling the ball in the air, shooting at goal, laps of the field and sprints. After training it was off to the Queen’s Hotel in Parnell Place for sandwiches.
Before concluding our little chat and by way of emphasising his love of hurling’s dying skills, Jimmy recalled two of the greatest goals he had ever seen; The first was from 1983 when Jimmy Barry Murphy scored a wonder goal doubling on a John Fenton delivery with such force that the RTE cameras failed to catch the ball fly into the net.
His second was Fenton’s thunderbolt from distance against Limerick, when he hit a ferocious daisy-cutter, from over forty yards, which travelled so fast that many spectators failed to see it hit the net, a goal which Jimmy told me led to a humorous exchange between a dissatisfied spectator and Cork treasurer Denis Conroy - “Hey Denis, the stand ticket you got me was crap as I didn’t see Fenton’s goal”, “Bet you didn’t”, replied Denis, “Limerick’s keeper Quaid had the best view of all and even he didn’t see it”, laughed Denis.
Jimmy Brohan – Club & County Roll Of Honour
1 All-Ireland Medal (1954)
6 Railway-Cup medals ('57, '58, '59, '60, '61 and '63)
5 Rest Of Ireland selections (equivalent of All-Stars)
2 Munster Championship Medals ('54 and '56)
2 County Championship medals ('56 and '61)
2 All-Ireland Colleges Medals ('52 and '53)
1 Junior County Championship Football medal ('56)
1 Intermediate County Championship Medal ('69)
1 Munster Junior Football medal ('57)
Several McSweeney and McCurtain Cup medals as well as league medals for junior hurling.
Editorial by Cork Sports Historian, Plunkett Carter