Unsuccessful sporting decades (Cork hurling, Yankees baseball, Spurs football)

We are a few weeks away from the end of the current decade, the least successful of my lifetime for three different teams, playing three different sports, in three different countries. From at least the 1940s onwards, Cork (hurling, Ireland), the New York Yankees (baseball, USA) and Tottenham Hotspur (football, England) had won at least one major honour in every decade. None of them won titles between 2010 and 2019. They will all have to wait until the 2020s for their next trophies.

In the summer, Cork’s failure to progress to the All-Ireland Hurling Final confirmed that this would be their first decade since the 1880s without winning the title. In fact, it’s the first complete decade in GAA history without a Cork hurling title. (There were only two hurling finals in the 1880s, the first decade of official competition.)

It was a similar story for the New York Yankees in the autumn. This is the first decade since the 1910s that they have not won at least one American League Pennant and appeared in the World Series. Apart from the 1980s they have also won at least one World Series in each of those decades. (They won the AL Pennant in 1981 but lost to the LA Dodgers in the World Series that year.)

Cork and the Yankees have been dominant in their respective sports for so long that their relative decline over the last ten years is worthy of note. Tottenham Hotspur have not been quite so dominant in English football – their last league title was in 1961 – but they have won at least one domestic trophy in every decade since the 1940s. If we discount the decades when English football competitions were suspended because of world wars (the 1910s, 1930s and 1940s, as you know), Spurs have won at least one domestic trophy in every decade since the 1890s. Much used to be made of the team’s success in years ending in 1 (the League title in 1951, the Double in 1961, the League Cup in 1971 and the FA Cup in 1981 and 1991) but 2001 and 2011 passed without Spurs winning anything, and so has the past decade. Their last trophy of any kind (and their only one in the last 20 years) was the League Cup in 2008.

Regular readers here will note that much of my sporting attention is taken up with Kilkenny (hurling) and Leeds United (football). Kilkenny were the most successful hurling team of the decade (four All-Ireland titles, one ahead of Tipperary, but none since 2015) and have overtaken Cork in the last 15 years as the county with the most titles overall. By contrast, for the first time in my lifetime Leeds have spent an entire decade outside the top flight of English football. Like fans of Cork, the New York Yankees and Spurs, I am hoping for better things in the 2020s.




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