FLOR Crowley had thought his days of playing two games in one weekend were behind him – but the Skibbereen man wound the clock back last weekend.
Last Saturday he captained the Cork Masters football team in a challenge game away against Limerick, and the day after Flor was lining out for Skibb’s junior hurlers in a home Carbery Division 2 Hurling League tie.
‘I feel like I am 20 years old again,’ he laughs, ‘with two games in the one weekend!’
He jokes that his partner, Carolina, thought those days were behind him too, but at 43 years old Flor’s still going strong in football and hurling.
The desire to challenge himself is still there and the body is willing too, so he wants to make the most of his playing days while he can.
‘The tag line for the Cork Masters is “You don’t stop playing because you grow old, you grow old because you stop playing”. It’s getting out and playing games that keeps you young,’ Flor says.
His GAA CV is a nod to a lifetime of football and hurling with O’Donovan Rossa. Some of his early memories centre around the season the club won it all: 1992/93. Flor was 13 years old when the Rossas captured Cork, Munster and All-Ireland senior football titles. Those days endure.
‘It’s 30 years since we won the All-Ireland club title. Seeing your team winning a county final against Nemo Rangers, marching behind St Fachtna’s Silver Band to go to Croke Park for the first time, seeing Small Mick play, heroes like Joe O’Driscoll, Frank McCarthy, Ian Breen,’ Flor reminisces.
‘When I got to play with the likes of Joe and Frank, they were our heroes … or even training with Small Mick when I was U20, they are days you’ll never forget.’
The generations that followed that incredible Rossas side – Flor’s included – have tried to emulate that team’s heroics, but have come up short. The bar was set at its highest. Flor was Skibb football captain in 2008 and played in the 2012 Cork SFC semi-final loss to Duhallow – but success did come years later.
‘We won a Carbery junior C football title in 2018 and I was captain – that was the height of my football career,’ he smiles, while he also played with the Rossas team that won the 2013 county junior B hurling championship. His brother Kevin was also on the Skibb side.
His club focus these days is all on Rossas’ junior hurlers and title bids at Carbery and county junior B levels, while his football efforts are concentrated on the Cork Masters. This is his second season with the county’s over-40s football team, which is now in its third year. Cork is one of 24 counties entered in this year’s All-Ireland competition, which is growing bigger every season.
The Rebels have former Cork All-Ireland winners Nicholas Murphy and John Miskella in their ranks for the upcoming campaign that throws in against Clare on May 6th. Reigning champions Tyrone, chasing the three-in-a-row, have added Sean Cavanagh, Martin Penrose, Joe McMahon and Niall Gormley to their squad that already includes Stephen O’Neill. Masters’ inter-county football is getting more and more competitive.
‘We will see this get bigger and bigger in the years to come,’ explains Flor, who highlights how the profile of Masters’ football is growing.
‘When we played Kerry in last year’s competition they had Aidan O’Mahony, William Kirby and Genie Farrell. Look at the strength of the Tyrone team and the quality of former All-Ireland winners they have with them now,’ he points out, as Cork Masters crank up their preparations to match the growing competition.
‘We were training one night a week last year but we’re training two nights a week this year. We got to the Challenge Cup semi-final last season and were beaten by London so we want to go further this year. The way we see it is that we are putting the foundations in for the Cork Masters for three, four and five years’ time. The profile is rising, and hopefully more former inter-county players will get involved. This is definitely growing,’ says the Skibbereen man based in Cork city since 2003, and that’s one of the reasons he joined the Cork Masters last season. With training in the city – he works as a environmental health and safety manager with Glennon Brothers, and is based in Fermoy – Flor doesn’t have a long commute to and from training. He still makes the familiar trek home to play hurling with Skibb, but admits it wouldn’t be feasible to play junior football and hurling with his home club. The Cork Masters allows him to scratch his football itch with the added bonus of representing Cork.
‘This is a great opening for guys who want to continue playing but can’t give the commitment to get involved with their own club,’ Flor explains.
‘This gives you the competitiveness to play football but it doesn’t have the same time consumption that playing with your club would have. You also get to represent your county, but it’s the enjoyment of playing with guys of an equal age and ability, and there is still a competitive edge.
‘It’s a bit of a buzz when you are lining out against former inter-county players, and it’s great to still be playing at 43,’ he adds.
John Paul O’Driscoll (St Oliver Plunkett’s) and Flor Harrington (Urhan) also fly with the West Cork flag with the Masters team, and Flor would love to see West Cork have its own Masters’ side. He is planting a seed in the home of Cork football.
‘Down the line it would be great to see a West Cork or a Carbery masters’ team,’ he says.
‘It’s hard for guys down home to make the trip to the city for training. It was different when I was playing senior football with Skibbereen and there were car loads of fellas up and down, but as you get older and have more work and family commitments it does get harder.
‘There are plenty of good lads in Skibb – John O’Sullivan, Jerry Keohane, Eddie and Paddy Nealon, they’re all good enough to still play.’
At 43, Flor feels he has plenty to offer the Cork Masters, noting that while he was never fast, he doesn’t seem to have slowed down.
‘I have maintained that single level of speed,’ the Cork Masters defender quips, adding he’s well versed in the dark arts, too. He has banks of experience to lean on, as he captains the Cork Masters – and it’s an honour for him and his family who are steeped in GAA.
Flor’s older brother Gordon is well known for his statistical analysis with various Galway hurling teams, Flor has won a county title with Kevin, his sister Ann Marie is involved with St Patrick’s camogie in Skibb, while his late brother Colm was very hands-on with Rossas hurling and St Patrick’s.
‘I’m sure Colm would have been smiling to himself and happy that his brother is captain of a Cork team now,’ Flor says, as he looks ahead to a busy few months with club and county. Not many 43 year olds can say that.
Cork Masters’ schedule is: Round 1 – Saturday, May 6th v Clare, away; Round 2 – Saturday, May 27th v Waterford, home; Round 3 – Saturday, June 10th v Kerry, away; Round 4 – Saturday, June 24th - Cork bye; Round 5 – Saturday, July 8th, Laois home; Round 6 – Saturday, July 22nd, Westmeath, home; Round 7 – Saturday, July 29th, Limerick, home.