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9 Intercounty GAA Player Nicknames And Their Origins

9 Intercounty GAA Player Nicknames And Their Origins
PJ Browne
By PJ Browne
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In honour of John 'Bubbles' O'Dwyer's retirement from inter-county hurling this afternoon, it's time to take a look at the origins of some of the most famous GAA nicknames.

From Star to Leper to the Brick, he is the origin of some of the most well-known GAA nicknames.

Sinead 'Nerd' Aherne - Dublin footballer

"I'm working as an accountant so when I was doing professional exams, I probably would have had the books on the bus a couple of times for the away matches," Aherne told Balls in early 2019.

"It started out as Sin-nerd which gradually shortened down to Nerd.

"I used to arrive with the rucksack that was probably bigger than me onto the bus. That would have been back 10 years ago. I joined KPMG the week after we won the All-Ireland in 2010 and I was doing my exams for two or three years after that."

Eamon 'Trollier' Dillon - Dublin hurler

"I have that since I’m about 10," Dillon told Balls.

"There’s a lot of stories going around, a lot of good stories. ‘You got thrown into a bus in a trolley’ and all! When I usually tell the proper story it’s a letdown.


"There used to be this show years ago called Eamonn’s Trolley Bus. It’s started off as ‘Trolley Bus’ and it’s now turned to Trollier. It’s a good nickname, it’s unique. Nobody else really has it."

Ciarán 'The Holla' Brady - Cavan footballer

"There's a lot of Bradys in Arvagh," the Cavan defender told Balls.

"There's the Garage Bradys, as we'd call them; the cars, they're the wealthier Bradys - Brady's Volkswagen, Arvagh, Co. Cavan.


"I suppose I'd live outside the town in a bit of a hollow, as they call it. I suppose that's where I got the nickname, The Holla.

"I've had it a few years but I suppose this year it's really come out in the media circles and across the country. That's where that came from."

Níall 'Squealer' Kane - Meath footballer

The Meath wing-back's nickname started out as 'Níaller No Squealer' for his tendency to stay tight-lipped. (He'd be a valued henchman if there was a Meath Mafia.)


It has since been shortened to 'Squealer', very much the opposite of the original.

Patrick 'Bonner' Maher - Tipperary hurler

"He got the name from his grandfather when he was five, from trying to copy Irish soccer goalkeeper Packie Bonner during the World Cup in 1994," according to an Irish Independent profile from 2014.

John 'Bubbles' O'Dwyer - Tipperary hurler

A texter Off The Ball in 2014 explained the origin of the Tipp forward's nickname:


As a child, John was quite a hairy baby and so people began to call him Bubbles, as in Michael Jackson's chimp.

Bubbles later tweeted to confirm the story (his account is currently deactivated):

"Yes I can confirm that the piece in @IndoSport today is actually true. My mother started it and it stuck #thanksmam #jacko #embarrassed"


Kieran 'Star' Donaghy - Former Kerry footballer

The Austin Stacks man's nickname was first coined by his second cousin Aidan O'Connor who runs the Greyhound Bar in Tralee.

"He’d also give me my nickname around that time," said Donaghy in his autobiography.

Well, him and a certain Monday night regular. I’d just got back from captaining the Irish Under-17 basketball team to that Four Nations tournament win. The C team had a junior league final replay on the bank holiday Monday and we’d won, so afterwards when I was working in The Greyhound, Aidan saluted me before a few punters. “Beat England on the Sunday! Then Annascaul the Monday! What a star!”

John The Mop was perched by the counter. “I’ll have a pint of porter there so, STARRRRRRR!”

Soon it had caught on with everyone in there. Donie would spot me daydreaming or yapping with someone. “Come on to fuck out of your spaceship, Star!”

To this day when I pop the head in to see Aidan and the gang down there, they’ll all greet me the same: “Hey, Star!”

So that’s how it started, before I ever slipped on a Kerry jersey, or even an Orlando Magic jacket with its signature blue star. With a typically affectionate line from Aidan and a typically droll quip from John The Mop.

Michael 'Brick' Walsh - Waterford hurler

Just like Tony Buckley became known as 'The Calf' because he followed in the footsteps of John 'The Bull' Hayes at Munster, Walsh earned his nickname due to the man who preceded him.

According to an Irish Sun article from 2018, the Waterford man became known 'The Brick' as his older brother Paul was called 'The Block'.

Eamonn 'Leper' Callaghan - former Kildare footballer

The Kildare footballer explained to The42.ie following his retirement in 2018:

"When I was in sixth class, I was about 12, I was the only lad in the group that didn’t have a nickname. One of the lads said he’d find a nickname for me in the dictionary. So I’d to open up a page in the dictionary and Leper was the first word on the top of the page.

"They were all just laughing and slagging and calling me Leper. I came back into school the next day and the whole school was calling me Leper.

"I don’t know how the hell it stuck over the years. When I was going to different places in Kildare, one fella would call me Leper and then sure everybody would.

"When I joined the Guards then in 2008, no one knew me as Leper but there was one lad I think who got wind of it, he started calling me and I can’t get away from it."

SEE ALSO: Two Sigerson-Winning Teammates, Two Cancer Survivors, One Love For GAA

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