Hurling

"It was like the US & USSR!" - Tommy Walsh & Seán Óg on Cork-Kilkenny rivalry

Ciaran Bradley
Ciaran Bradley

06:27 9 Jul 2019


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Seán Óg Ó hAilpín and Tommy Walsh have been reflecting on the Cork-Kilkenny rivalry from the mid-2000s which Seán Óg describes as "like the US and USSR" during the Cold War.

Cork and Kilkenny's finest players joined Joe Molloy to discuss a rivalry that defined hurling by its ferocity and the reciprocated success over the decade - and more, in Kilkenny's case.

Seán Óg believed that the rivalry came to define each side's feelings about themselves, as Kilkenny stopped Cork's three-in-a-row bid in 2006.

"Both teams, players on each side, had to do what they had to do to win, whether that was on or off the field.

"I would describe it like the US and USSR back then going for the first fella to the moon! Whatever Kilkenny did better one year, Cork would come the following year, and vice versa.

Sean believes that Cork were the USSR of the two, not only because of their playing colours.

"Ultimately, the USA got Neil Armstrong on the moon. It's an old rivalry, disappointing from a Cork point of view.

That rivalry only realistically went to 2006 - after that, Kilkenny went full Sugar Ray Leonard on it. Beat Hagler, beat Hearns, beat Roberto Duran - whereas we couldn't beat Azerbaijan!"

Tommy spoke about the utter ruthlessness that he showed in order to win these epic sporting battles.

"I can only speak for myself [...] I was absolutely selfish. To put it straight, I didn't care about anyone else.

"First and foremost, I cared about myself. Absolutely, 100% ruthless, selfish - call it what you want.

"I wanted to go out first and foremost and become the best player in training and on the field in the matches. I didn't care about anything else.

"After that then came winning and everything else. So, me helping players in other counties, whether that was the weaker counties who weren't getting the same dinners that we were after training - that didn't come across my mind. And when it did, it didn't matter.

"I only wanted to go out and train.

"If I had a training session next Wednesday, I was going to be marking Charlie Carter, DJ [Carey], Henry [Shefflin]. All you wanted was to be ready."

With the distance that retirement allows, both men have become  more contemplative of their exploits, but no less determined.

"That's the way, and if I was back again, I'd do the very same thing!"

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