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GAA: Five Players Who Memorably Came Out Of Retirement

GAA: Five Players Who Memorably Came Out Of Retirement
By Eoin Harrington Updated
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Stephen Cluxton is back. The surprising return of the six-time All Star to the Dublin panel was one of the biggest GAA stories of the weekend, with the legendary goalkeeper slotting in to the Dubs' matchday squad against Louth on Sunday.

His experience will be an invaluable addition to the Dublin camp - and he is not the first GAA icon to return after a period away from intercounty action.

Though Cluxton never formally retired, it did get us thinking about some other greats of Gaelic football and hurling who returned to the fold after announcing their retirement from the sport. Here are five of the best.

GAA: Five surprising returns from retirement

Diarmuid Connolly

4 August 2019; Diarmuid Connolly of Dublin is greeted by Dublin manager Jim Gavin as he leaves the pitch after being shown a black card during the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Quarter-Final Group 2 Phase 3 match between Tyrone and Dublin at Healy Park in Omagh, Tyrone. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Cluxton is not the first Dublin legend to make an unexpected return to the intercounty team.

In 2019, after a year-and-a-half away from the camp, Diarmuid Connolly was a surprise inclusion in Jim Gavin's team for the All-Ireland Super 8s trip to Tyrone.


The game was a dead rubber, with both sides assured to progress to the semi-finals, so a rotation in the Dublin squad meant that Connolly started the game. He would be black carded on his return, but would be given further opportunities in the semi-final against Mayo and in both the All-Ireland final and replay against Kerry.

He impressed in a deeper role than he had previously played, before officially retiring from intercounty football after sealing his seventh All-Ireland medal in that final replay against Kerry.

Paul Galvin

20 September 2015; Paul Galvin, Kerry, comes on as a substitute. GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final, Dublin v Kerry, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

Another multiple All-Ireland winner prone to a bit of controversy on the pitch, Paul Galvin announced his retirement midway through the 2014 Allianz League, to the surprise of many in the Kingdom. He missed out on Kerry's first All-Ireland win in five years later that season.

The three-time All Star winner would reverse his decision a year later, however, rejoining the Kerry panel ahead of the Munster championship. He was mostly used as an impact sub, as Kerry reached a second successive final, this time against Dublin. The final 13 minutes of that year's final proved to be Galvin's last moments in a Kerry jersey.


Galvin announced his final retirement in the aftermath of the 2015 final - despite defeat to the Dubs, he would finish up with four All-Ireland medals to his name.

Graham Geraghty

5 June 2011; Graham Geraghty runs out as he makes his return to the Meath squad for today's game. Leinster GAA Football Senior Championship Quarter-Final, Kildare v Meath, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

Of all the players on this list, Graham Geraghty's return to intercounty action was perhaps the most surprising and impressive, given his age.

A two-time All-Ireland winner with Meath, Geraghty packed it in at the end of the 2008 season, at the age of 35. After skipping out the 2009 and 2010 seasons, Geraghty would make a surprising return to the side ahead of the 2011 Leinster championship, and was named in the squad for Meath's quarter-final against Kildare.

He would be involved in a contentious incident on his return, seeing a late goal disallowed. An achilles injury would get the better of the now 38-year-old Geraghty. He initially moved to a role in Meath's backroom team while recovering from the injury, before calling it a day for good mid-way through the 2012 championship.


Brian Corcoran

11 September 2005; Brian Corcoran, Cork, runs past the Liam MacCarthy cup before the start of the game. Guinness All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship Final, Galway v Cork, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit; David Maher / SPORTSFILE

Alongside Diarmuid Connolly, Brian Corcoran is one of the lucky few in the GAA who returned to intercounty action and went on to add more silverware.


The Erin's Own dual player made the shock decision to step back not only from Cork duties, but from club hurling, at the end of the 2001 season. It would be almost three years before he picked up a hurl again, returning to club action in 2004. With Cork reeling from their 2003 loss in the All-Ireland final to Kilkenny, Corcoran's experience was called upon as the Rebels began their Munster championship campaign.

A memorable year saw them avenge the 2003 defeat against Kilkenny in that year's All-Ireland final, before Corcoran won yet another medal in 2005. After losing the 2006 final - again against Kilkenny - Corcoran finally stepped away from hurling.

Ja Fallon

25 March 2007; Jarlath Fallon, Galway, in action against Derek Heavin, Westmeath. Allianz National Football League, Division 1B, Round 5, Westmeath v Galway, Cusack Park, Mullingar. Photo by Sportsfile

Another man who left the intercounty scene for quite some time before making a grand return was 1998 footballer of the year Jarlath "Ja" Fallon.

The Galway man stepped away at the end of the 2003 season after an injury-ridden few years led to a reduced role with the intercounty team. After serving as one of Galway's selectors in the interim, he was tempted back to play for Galway in 2006 - though his return was once again blighted by an injury.

He went on to play for one more season before drawing the curtain on a memorable playing career - though his return wasn't quite as successful as some of the others who have returned to the fold.

Stephen Cluxton can now add his name to this esteemed list - even if never did technically retire - and time will tell if his return to the Dublin panel will be a successful one.

SEE ALSO: Pat Spillane Bemoans Modern Gaelic Football With Intriguing Andy Farrell Comparison

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