Last Sunday saw the very last U18 All Ireland final take place when Galway defeated Cork in Croke Park. I look back at the first final.
The sun shone strongly into his eyes when young Frank Whelan walked up the Mardyke in Cork in October 1929. The Drumcondra man could easily have been mistaken as just another spectator at the Free State Football league game at the UCC venue. The local team Fordsons where taking on Drumcondra FC. However Frank and his other Dublin teammates would be on the adjacent pitch at the venue to play an All-Ireland hurling final.
Almost 2 months earlier they had taken part in the very first All-Ireland Minor Final at Croke Park, not far from Whelan’s home in Millmount Avenue. Their opponents were Cork whose senior team would be involved in the main event that day claiming All Ireland glory against Galway. In front of a crowd of 18,000 whom had reach the venue despite the lack of trams the youngsters would play out an exciting contest.
In great weather conditions Cork enjoyed the early exchanges and four points from Con Sheehan (3 from placed balls) and another from Mick Finn had them in a commanding lead approaching half time before Dublin conjured up a quick goal and a point from Reynolds and Nealin to put the minimum between them.
A large Cork contingent having arrived in the stadium by the second half roared their team on and 2 early points from the Rebels including a well worked team point from Finn had them back in command.
Then Dublin struck with another goal to tie the match. However their joy was short lived as Cork through the impressive Finn fired home a goal of their own moments later. Another Cork point seemed to put enough daylight between the teams but they couldn’t push their advantage on and as the game headed towards its conclusion Dublin struck back with a third goal.
Cork still held a one point lead but with moments left Dublin were awarded a free and tied the game sending the first minor All Ireland final to a replay.
The fact it took two months to replay was not a surprise as despite the year been 1929 this was the 1928 Minor championship.
Dublin had started their campaign a year earlier with a victory over Meath, followed by a walkover from Kilkenny and finally a Leinster Final win over Offaly late in September 1928 to qualify for the final they would play a year later.
Cork’s campaign had started even earlier in July 1928 with victory over Clare in Thurles before winning their Munster crown at the expense of Waterford in Mitchelstown nearly 12 months later in June 1929 to setup the showdown with Dublin.
It was agreed to replay the All Ireland final in Cork. So on the 29th October 1929 at the UCC grounds in the Mardyke both teams came face to face again.
A large crowd were in attendance when the ball was thrown in. However the standard they’d witness in the first 30 minutes was very different from the first game. Playing into a very strong sun Dublin started brightly but it was the home side who registered the first score with Finn tapping over a point. Moments later Denis Lynch was put through for a goal to extend their lead to 1-1.
Dublin responded quickly with a goal of their own but that was to be the last score of the first half for the visitors. Cork knocked over another point through James Ryng and a then a sloppy passage of play in Dublin’s goalmouth ended with a goal by Lynch. Another point by Finn was followed up by him with a goal that crashed in off the upright.
The floodgates started to open and Lynch added 2 more goals for the home side before Ryng and Dermot Cogan scored goals of their own to leave the half time score Cork 7-3 Dublin 1-0. The match was over as a contest but the standard would improve in the second half as Dublin attempted to fight back.
A change in tactics at half time saw Dublin rush at the Cork defence in the second half. It began to pay dividends early on as Kinsella picked up where he left off and posted goal number 2 for Dublin. The old idea that the best defence is a good attack was used and the earlier rampant Cork forwards were limited to only 3 points in the second half.
Constant attacks began to wear the Cork defence down but Dublin couldn’t convert their superior possession into scores. Finally Melinn put the ball in the back of the Cork net for goal number 3. He followed up with another just before the end of the game but there was no way back for the team from the capital. The damage having been done in the first 30 minutes leaving the final score Cork 7-6 Dublin 4-0.
Cork had won the inaugural All Ireland Minor (U18) Hurling Championship. Could they repeat their success the following year? If you had asked anyone in the Mardyke that sunny October day they’d have said ….No.
As seven days earlier at a wet Mitchelstown Athletic grounds the future 1928 All Ireland minor champions would exit the 1929 minor hurling championship at the hands of Tipperary.
Even Marty McFly from Back to the Future would be puzzled.