To date there are two members of the Poc Fada Hall of Fame - The recipients are two of Ireland's Hurling greats - Michael Shaughnessy (Galway) and Ger Cunningham (Cork).
Michael Shaughnessy - Galway
Michael Shaughnessy along with the Shaughnessy family have been great servants to their home club of Turloughmore in County Galway. Michael lifted An Poc Fada Craobh na hÉireann titles in 1994, 1995, 1996 and incredibly was a Comortas Beirte (All ireland pairs) Champion on eight occasions. He had the honour of winning a Galway Senior Hurling Championship medal with his Club which he also captained.
Michael since he retired from playing hurling has become a very proficient golfer regularly competing in regional events. Michael Shaughnessy will always be remembered as a gifted and committed Poc Fada Champion who gave great support to the unique GAA sporting and cultural game. Michael was added to the Poc Fada Hall of Fame in 2009.
Connacht Tribune Article - Talking Sport with Stephen Glennon 2013
It may have gone unnoticed but this week the regional finals of the Galway Poc Fada took place in various venues around the county. While it's a competition Galway has only had moderate success in at national level in the past, the county did produce one of the game's best exponents.
Only Ger Cunningham of Cork and Brendan Cummins of Tipperary with seven Poc Fada national titles apiece (2013) have more than Turloughmore native Mike Shaughnessy, who between 1994 and 1996, claimed the three-in-a-row of the Setanta Cup for his heroics around the Cooley Mountain. Interestingly, Shaughnessy's victory in '94 stopped Offaly's Albert Kelly from achieving a similar feat.
It would be an understatement to say that the Poc Fada has not played a huge part in Shaughnessy's life. For 15 years, Shaughnessy competed in the nationals, finishing second on two other occasions and winning the Cooley Cup – pairs competition – on no less than eight occasions.
Consequently, his exploits at the County Louth venue saw the former goalkeeper inducted into the Hall of Fame two years ago by the organising committee and, yet, he acknowledges that his achievements have gone largely unnoticed outside his own family, friends and his native Turloughmore club.
Still, it's not something Shaughnessy loses any sleep over. He's just delighted to be able to relive some of those sporting moments from the Cooley Mountain once again. "The first year I qualified for the Poc Fada was when I was 19 – in 1981," begins the father of three.
"I qualified along with Jim Wall from Castlegar and Joe Cooney from St. Thomas', father of the Cooneys. In that first year, I didn't get on great. I was a bit green to what was involved; the fact that it was around a mountain. It was all totally new."
In 1984, though, he enjoyed his first success when winning the pairs competition with Cork legend Justin McCarthy. "They would pair a winner from one province with a runner-up from another. It was still the same competition; they would just add your total pucks together.
"So, I won that [pairs] a total of eight times, starting with Justin McCarthy in '84. You would meet the finest of lads and I would be friendly with some of them. The Lord have Mercy on Tommy Quaid (Limerick), I couldn't believe it when he died. Tommy was a gentleman," remarks Shaughnessy, who also became very friendly with Limerick's Pat Hartigan who he often met up with at the Galway Races.
In addition to that first pairs victory in '84, he also won the Cooley Cup with Kildare's Vincent Moore ('88), Kerry's John Conway ('89), the late Tommy Quaid ('91), Offaly's Albert Kelly ('92), Clare's Davy Fitzgerald ('93), Meath's Johnny Masterson ('94) and Tipperary's Liam Shinners ('95).
The only other Galway hurlers to do this were Richie Burke, alongside Clare's Christy O'Connor, in 2000 and Galway goalkeeper James Skehill, with Gerry Fallon of Roscommon, in 2010.
Shaughnessy notes that before he finally won the overall event in the mid '90s, he had come second twice – one year in which he was very unlucky to lose out to Cunningham during the Corkman's seven-in-a-row rampage. Indeed, on that occasion, both men finished on the same amount of pucks.
Ger Cunningham - Cork
Ger Cunningham, the famous Cork goalkeeper won the Poc Fada Craobh na hÉireann title for seven years in a row from 1984 to 1990, and it is only fitting that the St Finbarr's star should be the first recipient of the Hall of Fame Award. Ger has always been a terrific ambassador for the Poc Fada and he has established numerous friends from the area throughout his many years attachment to this great hurling contest.
Prior to his retirement from hurling he had donned the famous red and white hoped colours of Cork for almost twenty years, during which he made an amazing 50 consecutive championship appearances whilst also playing 111 league games. A Sales Manager with Bord Gais in Cork, Ger Cunningham can proudly reflect on a hurling career, which would do justice to a classic tale from Roy of the Rovers.
A past pupil of Sullivan's Quay National School where Tipperary man Brother McLoughney was one of his greatest influences, Ger was equally adept at both hurling and football in those formative years. He represented his county in both codes at minor and under 21 level, garnering All-Ireland minor hurling medals in 1978 and '79, an All-Ireland under 21 football medal in '81 and an All-Ireland under 21 hurling memento the following year. Cunningham made his senior hurling debut in May of 1980, lining out against Kilkenny in a challenge match. He made his championship debut the following season and remained an ever-present until Cork's defeat to Clare in last year's Munster Championship semi-final. Though he formed part of a highly promising Cork team (youngsters such as Tony O'Sullivan, Tomás Mulcahy, Jim Cashman and Kevin Hennessy were also emerging on the scene),
Cunningham had to bide to his time before he finally got his hands on a precious All-Ireland senior medal in 1984. Two defeats to Kilkenny in the All-Ireland finals of '82 and '83 had raised questions about Cork's capabilities, questions they duly answered in style courtesy of an emphatic victory over Offaly in the Centenary year decider at Thurles. The Rebels retained the Munster Championship in 1985 under Ger's captaincy but a shock defeat to Galway in a rain-washed All-Ireland semi-final ruled out the possibility of back-to-back All-Ireland successes. The following year, the reds exacted revenge on the Tribesmen to regain the Liam McCarthy. Cunningham had double reason to celebrate when, later that same season; he was named Texaco Hurler of the Year. The ever-reliable net minder picked up his third and final All-Ireland medal in 1990 when, once again, Galway were Cork's victims. The final was effectively decided on an incident, which occurred midway through the second half when Cunningham blocked a point-blank shot from Martin Naughton with his nose. "I remember the moment well," he remarks. "Shortly after I made that block, we went back down the field and Tomás Mulcahy goaled. We went on to win and to cap off a great year; the Cork footballers added the Sam Maguire a couple of weeks later. Looking back on it now, it's unbelievable to think that we won the All-Ireland double."
Ger Cunningham's list of achievements also includes three National League successes (the most recent was achieved last season), six county championships with St. Finbarr's and four All-star awards. Poc Fada Craobh na hÉireann Coiste member and great personal friend of Ger, Jackie Connolly stated that Ger had been a great ambassador for the sport of hurling throughout Ireland, and that he was a worthy first recipient of the Hall of Fame Award.