News of the 2020/21 Covid-19 pandemic has been, from the outset, through the power and reach of the internet, widely publicised and commented upon. CLOSE THE BOARDERS (sic) bayed many in Jersey in the early months.
65 years ago there was an outbreak of the dreaded poliomyelitis in Cork in southern Ireland. Though news travelled less swiftly in those far off days, travel it did. And the panic was disproportionate in relation to the damage which, was, in the event, very well dealt with.
Ireland loves its sport, and Cork more than most. That year both Cork’s Gaelic football and hurling teams had reached their respective All-Ireland finals, to be played in Dublin. The women’s camogie (similar to hurling) team had likewise reached the All-Ireland semi-final, to be played against Mayo in Castlebar, the county town of Mayo in the north west of the country.
There was outcry in Dublin and Castlebar. The residents of those places were panicked and demanded that the games be cancelled so that the expected hordes of plague-carrying Cork supporters would not come. The governing body, the GAA, duly postponed the matches but eventually they all went ahead. Cork’s men lost both of their matches, the loss to Wexford at hurling proving to be the 10th and last All-Ireland final appearance of the great Christy Ring, eight of those appearance being on the winning side.
The Mayo ladies refused to play the rearranged semi-final so Cork progressed to the final to face Antrim in Dublin. By all accounts the better team, Cork were beaten by a heroic goalkeeping display by 14-year-old Teresa Kearns.
In the event, the 1956 polio epidemic claimed just five deaths in Cork and 20 across the country. The disease has now been virtually eradicated around the world.
In the absence of a pic from 1956 here is Cork’s All-Ireland-winning camogie team from 1934.