It was November 16, 1890, and a Cork side represented by Aghabullogue traveled to Dublin to take on a Wexford side represented by Castlebridge.

This was a time in GAA history when clubs who won their county finals went on to represent their county at All-Ireland level and this was the case with Aghabullogue who won the 1890 Cork county hurling championship.

The All-Ireland Hurling Final took place at Clonturk Park on Dublin’s north side where a crowd of up to 1,000 witnessed Cork and Wexford slog it out for hurling glory.

The Aghabullogue boys turned out in their club colors of green and white. Their jerseys were resplendent while their breeches were dazzling white and all 21 players wore green caps. They surely looked the part except for their feet, which were bare!

Cork entered the field of play that cold afternoon tagged with an underdog status but as soon as Limerick referee John Sheehy threw in the sliotar, the lads from the Muskerry village proved all experts wrong.

Although they were in their bare feet, the Cork side proved lightning quick. The Wexford side was a lot slower but for their slowness, they made up for in brutality.

As the first half went into full swing, Cork were dominant on the ball. Wexford was unable to keep up with Cork's fast pace of ground hurling and when Cork was beginning to register scores the boys of Wexford decided to unleash unsporting tactics.

Jer Henchion tormented the Wexford backs so three of their players were assigned to mark him but they failed to bring down the big man no matter how they swiped and slashed at him. Tim O’Connor was not as lucky as he suffered a broken toe when one Wexford player unmercifully brought his hurley down on his foot. O’Connor limped to the sideline where his banjaxed toe was tended to and after applying some dressing to it, he was sprung onto the field of play again.

At half time, Cork was leading Wexford 1-03 to 0-01. After a brief rest on the grass at the sideline, the two sides went head to head for the second half with Wexford instantly targeting their opponents with sheer and utter violence.

Only minutes into the game and Cork already had eight players injured. Through their brutal style of play, Wexford scored two goals but many of the Cork players pleaded with the referee to warn Wexford about their violent disorder. The referee ignored their calls until he was approached by captain Dan Lane who informed him that he was taking his players off the pitch before any more harm could come to them. Sheehy agreed to call a halt to the game and blew the whistle as Cork were leading 1-06 to 2-02.

The referee awarded the game to Cork and asked the Central Council to ratify his decision which they duly did a week later, thus securing Cork’s first-ever All Ireland Hurling title.

It was, without doubt, a match won on controversial terms but as noted in The Freemans Journal:

'Wexford played a reckless game while Cork were a more faster and skilful set of players.[sic]'

When the All-Ireland champions arrived back in Cork by train, there were no crowds to greet them, no pipe band, no fanfare at all. The players quietly disembarked and made their way back to Aghabullouge unaware of how historic their achievement was.

Cork’s first All-Ireland winning hurling team:

  • Dan Lane (Capt.)
  • Jer Henchion
  • Tom Twomey
  • John Buckley
  • Pat Buckley
  • Dan Sullivan
  • Dan Drew
  • John Linehan
  • Dan Linehan
  • Tom Goode
  • Denis Horgan
  • Michael Horgan
  • James O’Reilly
  • Tady O’Connor
  • Pat O’Riordan
  • Ger Sullivan
  • Dan Looney
  • John Kelleher
  • Pat O’Riordan
  • J. Reilly
  • Tim O’Connor
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*Originally published April 2019. Updated November 2022.

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