This Galway born All Ireland champion hurler landed in Cork as a garsúin óg with his family, knew absolutely nothing about the famous spirit of Glen Rovers, Christy Ring and the cavalcade of Cork hurling legends who preceded him in the rebel red of Cork.
That child grew up to become a Cork teenager, then an adult Corkonian and wrote himself into the annals of Cork’s rich sporting history.
Adding further uniqueness to the sporting story of Martin O’Doherty, famous Glen Rovers and Cork All Star champion hurler, is the reality that Glen Rovers foundation stones were all berthed around the district of Blackpool, on Cork’s northside of the city.
When the O’Doherty family exiled to the Banks Of My Own Lovely Lee, there was a family connection to Fermoy, Co. Cork. That connection was the romantic meeting place of Mary Ballesty from Mullingar and Kevin O’Doherty from Carndonagh, in far off north west Donegal. From that eventful meeting, Kevin and Mary proceeded to raise a family of seven boys and two girls.
The pecking order of the children is Mary; John; Paddy; Dolores; Philip; Kevin; Martin; Kieran and Gerard.
Galway was the early campus abode and it was in the city of the Tribes that famous Cork hurler, Martin O’Doherty, left his very first squeals be known and heard.
Mary O’Doherty had a keen eye for camogie and told a story many years ago to one of Cork’s greatest sports scribes, Eamonn Young, of Cork football fame. When Mary’s Mullingar camogie team were down to play a rival team, she was detailed to mark an opponent who needed careful monitoring, as that player was known to be a ‘Flier’. Years later Mary discovered the ‘Flier’ was in fact a boy masquerading as a girl in a camogie skirt.
The O’Doherty sports roots were embedded in gaelic football and soccer in north west Donegal.
On exiling to Cork in the 1960’s the family took up residence in the district of Tivoli and later moved across the river Lee to southside Cork, near Douglas and were far removed from the sacred sods of Glen Rovers home patches around Blackpool.
A former Cork and Glen Rovers hurling custodian was by now almost babysitting a young boy from Cork’s southside and watching and monitoring every half inch the young boy grew and moved. His name was Finbarr O’Neill and Finbarr was an able Glen Rovers scout who saw only a green/black/white and yellow jersey, ever appearing on the frame of a young Martin O’Doherty.
Finbarr was responsible for Martin crossing over the Berlin wall of Cork hurling with his prized capture to Cork’s northside and little could Finbarr have realised the significant catch he had prized away from local clubs, Douglas and Nemo Rangers. Schooling for Martin began at St. Patrick’s National School, near Dillon’s Cross and deep in the heart of Brian Dillons G.A.A. territory.
On the family re-location to Douglas, Finbarr had his radar beamed at the potential for his beloved Glen Rovers and despite Martin spending years at Coláiste Chriot Rí, Turners’s Cross, staunch Nemo Rangers territory, he was going one way only and that was over to Cork’s famed Glen Rovers.
A glittering club and county career beckoned for the aspiring athlete and he commenced his rapid rise through the grades at Glen Rovers and St.Nicholas and at 15/16 years old, he was called into the Glen minor squad. In 1969 he was a sub on the Glen senior hurling team who defeated UCC in the county final. Harking back to 1968, this was a momentous year for the Glenman. He was at left half back with Chriost Rí when they won the All Ireland Colleges football title and he also played on the losing All Ireland Colleges hurling final team. Further glory came with the winning of an All Ireland minor football medal.
Experts of both codes were now earmarking a bright future for the young Glen player when in 1969 he played centre back for both Cork minor teams as they claimed a Munster minor double. In 1970 Martin repeated his feat again and the O’Doherty clan had script writers very busy as Martin captained Cork minor footballers and his brother, Paddy also captained the Cork senior football team at both 1970 Munster football finals, played at Killarney.
As the weeks flowed into months and years, hurling and football was now almost a full time occupation for a rising Cork star of hurling and football. The Under 21 grade at club and county was also a huge demand and again success flowed in this grade. A browse at Martin’s honours collection will reveal that the Glenman captained Cork to an All Ireland Under 21 hurling title.
Playing both codes for club and county at the top level demands great immersion in training and commitment and Martin had to deliver in spades on both fronts. Playing inter county minor, Under 21 and senior in both codes is a daunting task and then throw in a junior All Ireland football title won with Cork, Railway Cup competitions and the magnitude of Martin’s sporting career becomes evident.
Cork senior hurling management threw Martin his first ever senior jersey at Thurles V Limerick in the red hot arena of Munster senior championship hurling in 1971. His direct opponent was none other than the Limerick 1973 All Ireland winning captain, Eamon Grimes, a tough baptism for a player making his debut. Cork were not firing on any winning cylinders on that momentous Martin O’Doherty occasion.
Sunshine beamed on Cork hurling in 1975 as Martin and his Cork colleagues tore through Munster giving him his first Munster senior hurling championship medal. A rampant PJ Molloy and his Galway colleagues stunned the Cork team and fans at Croke Park on All Ireland semi final day.
Cork were down but the ship stayed afloat as a new management team was installed and again Cork won out in Munster in 1976.
Casting forward to the halcyon three in a row of Cork senior hurling in 1976/77 and ’78, Martin presented himself at No.3 against Wexford ‘76/’77 and against old foe, Kilkenny in ’78. Down on Leeside the Cork legends who made everlasting history are as popular now, as they were forty years ago.
When the crescendo of red flags again emerged in the 1979 Munster championship, it was back to Croke Park once again to confront the men from the west. Cork were just two steps away from a famous 4 in a row and confidence was miles high. Out came the warriors from Galway, slayed Cork for a succession of scores and in the dying embers of the game, it was a forlorn rebel team that departed Croke Park unable to explain how it all unfolded.
Martin was now a 27 year old hurler in the prime of his sporting life. However he had big mileage on board, had played both codes at the highest level and in 1980 he went into another Munster campaign, lost out and then took the emigrant trail to Los Angeles to begin a brand new life without the wonderful roars of Cork hurling ringing in his ears.
Coaxed back to a Cork jersey in 1982 when Cork were scraping for a suitable full back, the Leesiders made it once again to another Kilkenny All Ireland showdown. The Cats were down since they mesmerised Galway in the 1979 decider and now they wanted repossession of the Liam McCarthy Cup once more. Cork floundered and now the three times All Star hurler finally bade farewell to the camán. He was just 30 years young but it seemed Cork took it for granted the Glen Rovers legend was bullet proof when talk of retirement surfaced. Even the greatest of the great call time but Martin O’Doherty, though exiled in a far off foreign land for over 30 years, has left behind in his adopted homeland of Cork, bundles of Golden Memories treasured by his legions of Cork fans.
We now take a worthy Tribute/Profile of Glen Rovers, St. Nicholas, Cork and Munster former player, Martin O’Doherty, on a global tour within our All Ireland Hall Of Fame Online Gallery. Martin’s story will sit side by side with three more Glen Rovers hurling legends in our gallery, namely Christy Ring, Joe Salmon (another Galway native) and the great Denis Coughlan.
Collection of Club & County Honours:
Coláiste Chríost Rí Collection:
- Hogan Cup (2): 1968, 1970
- Corn Uí Mhuirí (2): 1968, 1970
- Harty Cup (1): 1968
Glen Rovers Collection:
- All-Ireland Senior Club Hurling Championship (2): 1973, 1977 (captain)
- Munster Senior Club Hurling Championship (2): 1972, 1976 (captain)
- Cork Senior Club Hurling Championship (2): 1972, 1976 (captain)
Cork Inter County Collection:
- All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship (3): 1976, 1977 (captain), 1978
- Munster Senior Hurling Championship (6): 1975, 1976, 1977 (captain), 1978, 1979, 1982
- All Stars (hurling) Awards: 1977; 1978; 1979
- National Hurling League (1): 1973–74
- All-Ireland Junior Football Championship (1): 1972
- Munster Junior Football Championship (1): 1971
- All-Ireland Under-21 Hurling Championship (3): 1970 (sub), 1971, 1973 (captain)
- Munster Under-21 Hurling Championship (1): 1971
- All-Ireland Minor Hurling Championship (2): 1969, 1970
- Munster Minor Hurling Championship (2): 1969, 1970
- All-Ireland Minor Football Championship (2): 1968, 1969
- Munster Minor Football Championship (1): 1969
- Munster Provincial Collection: Hurling
- Railway Cup (1): 1978
Martin – thanks for the Golden Memories and long life and happiness in your retirement.