The Double: How Cork Made GAA History
By Adrian Russell
The Mercier Press
This is the second book which has been written about Cork’s famous 1990 Senior double. The first, “Rebels at Double”, was written by Eamon Young and published late in that same year.
I took another read through that particular book before starting on the present volume, just to see how it stood up to the test of time.
I found Young's book to be made up to a large degree of articles and interviews from newspapers - including extracts from his own “Rambler” column” - linked in places with original text. Some of the reports were not always enclosed in quotes, but the certain give-away was the use of the present and future tense to describe matches which had been played months ago. There are also plenty of yarns about games, years - not to say decades- before, including Kerry’s only All-Ireland win in hurling. Given the short timescale for the preparation of the book, I suppose it was inevitable it would be done this way. At the time I first read it, I hadn’t spotted this, although I did feel that it lacked depth.
Anyway on to “The Double: How Cork Made GAA History.”
Obviously the results of extensive interviews, the story of the double is told mainly through it’s participants, the mentors and players, the seeds of which were sown years before the event
A clever part of the design of Russell’s book is that the front inside cover and the back inside cover contains the virtual line-outs of the two teams as they would have appeared in the match programs on All-Ireland day.
In the first chapter Russell gives a glimpse of the background and importance of Cork’s famous masseur John “Kid” Cronin. Explaining the “Kid”’s value to both panels, Russell writes: “In a dressing room with a passionate football manager who earned the nickname “Semtex”, and another led by a hurling-obsessed priest prone to histrionics, the Kid brought some much needed Ying to their Yang.”
He also had a keen perception of the problems in both camps. As Kevin Hennessy relates, as the Kid started on the massage the Tuesday night after another unsuccessful trip to Killarney with the Footballers, Hennessey lifted his head to ask, “That’s not the bottle you used in Killarney, now is it, Kid?” And Cronin replied, without looking up, “Oh no, no: it’s their heads I should be rubbing, not their legs.”
It was not the only time a hurler had made a crack about the footballers. In 1993 shortly after Cork had lost to Derry in the All-Ireland final, Cronin died at his home while the footballers were actually touring the Beamish and Crawford brewery. Doctor Con related that at the funeral the hurlers commented to him, “We always knew it would be the footballers that would kill him.”
Regarding the large homecoming turnout for the footballers after the All-Ireland 1987 football defeat, Larry Tompkins said “That’s what I always say about Cork; the footballers will say, ‘ah, they don’t follow the football the same as the hurling’. But you must gain the respect to get the following. And Cork people would go down to
Killarney, but they don’t want to go down there every year getting beaten. I think when we beat Kerry down in Killarney we got them following us then. They kept coming because they had it inside their head: ‘yeah we have a team now that’s capable of doing something’”
The double coincided with the end of Cork’s dominance in football and the beginning of a dominance in hurling:
“Some people think the historic Double takes the focus away slightly from the footballers achievements in their own right. ‘I suppose,’ says Colm O’Neill, ‘maybe one of the issues was that if that Cork (football) team was doing now what it did then, with the hurlers on a bit of a downer … maybe there would have been a bit more credit. But Cork (footballers) win back-to-back when the hurling gang win in ‘90, so obviously there was an element of even when we’re having our dream time, the feckers in the hurling are still winning. But if they were in a bit of a lull, it would have really highlighted the football a bit more.’”