In all their glory. Our definitive ranking of the 12 best fictional Irish sportspeople of all time.
12. Connor McCarthy
The talented Northerner was inevitably billed as the next George Best when he signed for Harchester United in 1997. He played all of 90 seconds for the first team when he was sent off for a vicious tackle from behind on Ian Wright. The club decided that they had seen enough. He never played another game and was released at the end of the season. Harchester United also decided that was the end of their experiment with Irish players. According to McCarthy's unnecessarily detailed bio on the Harchester United website, he ended up signing for Cliftonville whereupon he fell out of love with football shortly afterwards.
11. Fergal Collins
The main man at Kildoran GAA had to deal with the tumultuous personal lives of his players, the unscrupulous and salacious journalists at Kildoran FM, and the pressures placed on him by the local free spending, big swinging dick, Barry King, the Roman Abramovich of Kildare GAA (who surely ended up in NAMA in later years).
10. The Irish Quidditch team
It's not often Ireland become world champions of a sport.
A promising, if easily riled junior footballer, Charlo was lost, like so many other Roddy Doyle characters, to a world of petty crime, bad karaoke singing and hitting women. Here he is squaring up to what looks like a 12 year old kid (wearing the no.9 jersey) after a challenge.
8. The lad who was appointed captain in the Barry's Tea ad
A man of undoubted leadership ability but prone to self doubt. He shared a longing glance with the coach's daughter. I was interested to see where this would develop but, as with many Barry's Tea ads, this plotline went nowhere.
7. Jack Foley
Chris O'Donnell's character in Circle of Friends was a top school's rugby player. He looks to be wearing a St. Mary's jersey here but it's not clear what school he played for as he attracts the eye of the Minnie Driver/Maeve Binchy character. A true son of amateur era Irish rugby, he was the offspring of a doctor and fully intended to follow his old daddy into that profession.
6. Stephen Maturin
A little known one, Maturin is a character in one of cod-Irishman Patrick O'Brian's series of novels. A touch of the Lord Clifton Wrottesley style exoticism about him. He was one of those posh people who goes to secondary school in a different country to the one he was born in. A protestant adventurer raised in Cahirciveen and Clare who spent his teenage years in Spain and who later went to Trinity (where else), he appalls his cricket loving pals with his mastery of the barbaric game of hurling. He was played by Paul Bettany in the films but hurling didn't come into it
5. Ross O'Carroll Kelly
The greatest fictional out-half that fictional Ireland never had, O'Carroll Kelly captained Castlerock College to the Leinster Senior Cup title in 1999. Unfortunately that proved to be the pinnacle of his career. His personal column for the Irish Times turned to be more ill-advised than anything Neil Francis has written. A player with a great future behind him, he wrote a moving column in the aftermath of Ireland's 2009 Grand Slam, where in a rare moment of humble candour, he admitted that he didn't have it in him to do what Rog did in the final moments.
4. Danny Flynn
A talented boxer who gave the best years of his career to the provisional IRA, Flynn returns from a British prison to go after a prisoner's wife and, while he's at it, give the old boxing another shot. Flynn was clearly a gifted boxer but like many fictional pugilists, he seemed to have woeful blind spot when it came to defending. In the grand tradition of boxing in film, his bouts were Kevin Keegan style all-out-attack bloodbaths, with both men seemingly helpless at intercepting the furious punches that flew their way.
3. Mickey Doolan
The triumphant Irish jockey interviewed at the fictional racecourse of Marple by Alan Partridge in the Day Today.
2. Phil Kelly
From the 1987 film 'Clash of the Ash'. Portrayed by Liam Heffernan - the actor who was to become better known by his Glenroe name 'Blackie Connors' - Kelly was a talented but wayward hurler in Cork. Sadly, his career ended the way so many other promising hurling careers in the 80s ended, with him sacrificing a job in the bank so he could flake a dirty opponent on the side of the head. In rural Ireland at the time 80% of all bank jobs were dispensed by GAA coaches. As he had alienated his manager by retaliating to a nasty dig, the bank job was now closed off to him, a fact he was reminded of in no uncertain terms by his manager even as he was leaving the pitch. This being the 1980s, he was left with little option but to skive off his Leaving Cert and emigrate, both of which he duly did. The film also features Gina Moxley, Myles Breen and the boat to London.
1. Roger O'Neill
In the original British version of House of Cards back in 1990, the Tory spin doctor was played by cocaine addled former Irish out-half Roger O'Neill. The show was dotted with the odd reference to his previous career. We're guessing his time in the fabled No.10 jersey would have fitted in somewhere between Barry McGann and Tony Ward. After hurriedly flitting between cars when crossing the road at one point, he boasted to his girlfriend that "I had Phil Bennett with that (sidestep) at Lansdowne Road once."
It seemed like a very strange and quirky piece of characterisation though there are probably many die hard Republicans/Leftists who hate rugby and who find it deliciously appropriate that an Irish out-half ends up working for the British Conservative party. Francis Urquhart (the British version's answer to Frank Underwood) ends up killing him and telling the audience (the fourth wall was crashed through in the UK version as well) that it's best if we remember him as the "burning boy in that green jersey."