Noel O'Leary's Cork senior debut came as a major surprise to his parents. It was not because they had low expectations of their son's footballing ability. O'Leary never told them he was training with the Cork seniors as he felt his father might object.
The Cill na Martra man won an All-Ireland minor title with Cork in 2000. "I'd say I was the smallest on the team. 13 of 15 were well over six feet," O'Leary says in his episode of TG4 series Laochra Gael which airs March 16th at 9:30pm.
During the homecoming celebrations at Kent Station, O'Leary was approached by then Cork manager Larry Tompkins.
"He said, 'Look, we're training on Wednesday night, and I want you to come in'. I was absolutely over the moon," O'Leary says.
"At the same time, my father had a huge issue with not being mature enough for senior football. I said the best thing to do was tear away into training on Wednesday night and say nothing at home."
His mother MÃ¡ire recalls: "He told us he was going out with friends. What we didn't know was that he had thrown his gear bag out of the window. The car arrived, he took the bag, and went off to Cork."
O'Leary trained with Cork "for a good three or four weeks" before making his debut.
"We had Limerick in the league. He brought me on with about 10 minutes to go," he says.
"You'd think I'd be delighted with that but the first thing that hit me was, 'Jesus, the paper tomorrow morning, if there's something in it about us, himself will see it, and there will be murder'."
'We were at home listening to Cork radio'
For O'Leary's parents, the realisation that their son had lined out with Cork came sooner than the morning after the game.
"We were at home listening to Cork radio," says MÃ¡ire UÃ Laoire.
"Next thing, they said that Noel O'Leary had scored. That was the first we knew Noel had even gone to Cork, not to mind playing!"
The 2010 All-Ireland winner spent two years on the fringes of the Cork panel before getting his chance during the 2003 league.
"[Larry Tompkins] came to me and said, 'Look, you're going to get your shot here for the league. You've got to really stamp your authority'," says O'Leary.
"I'd say I went slightly over the top on that! I picked up a yellow card in every league game that year, and was lucky enough to not get a few red ones as well. I was making a statement, no doubt."
Up next is All-Ireland winning Cork footballer, Noel O'Leary ð´âª
An chÃ©ad laoch eile nÃ¡ gaiscÃoch ChorcaÃ, Noel O'Leary.
ð Laochra Gael - Noel O'Leary
ð DÃ©ardaoin / Thursday
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â SpÃ³rt TG4 (@SportTG4) March 12, 2023