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Presenting Our All-Time Cork Gaelic Football XV

Presenting Our All-Time Cork Gaelic Football XV
By Conor Neville
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We've given you the Cork Soccer XI. We've offered you the chance to tear to shreds both the Cork Rugby XV and the Cork Hurling XV. What is there left only the Cork all-time Gaelic football XV.

Here's the side.

1. Billy Morgan

Mr. Cork football. Morgan is better known to younger people as the manager of Cork on two separate occasions. As manager, he led them in that glorious spell in the late 80s and early 90s when they knocked Kerry off their perch and then kept them trapped in the wilderness for the guts of a decade. In his second spell, he took over at a less promising time when Kerry were clearly in the ascendant, though he did manage to lead Cork back to the All-Ireland final in 2007.

But his achievements as a player can't be forgotten. Captained Cork to the All-Ireland title in 1973. Kept the faith in the miserable Kerry golden years, eventually after fifteen years in No. 1 jersey in 1981.

Won an All-Star in '73 as well as the scheme's forerunner, the CuChulainn award in 1967.

2. Niall Cahalane


Corner back from the mid-1980s to the late 90s. Picked up two All-Ireland titles and two All-Stars. The All-Stars arrived, incidentally, in the two years Cork lost the AI Final to Meath. Also part of Castlehaven's rise to prominence. Won two county titles.

Who better to attest to Cahalane's worth than Drumcondra-born Kilkenny hurling supporter, Eamon Dunhpy, who was resident in West Cork for two years in the early 90s.

Niall Cahalane was the warrior chief on the Castlehaven team back then. A tremendous footballer, he was also as tough a man as Irish sport has produced.

Cork won two All-Irelands under Billy Morgan in 1989 and 1990. They would never have won them without Cahalane’s rugged presence.

3. Kevin Kehilly

A close run thing for the cult hero poll, Kehilly was Cork's regular full-back from 1969 until the mid-1980s. Despite Kerry's supremacy, Kehilly still managed to collect two All-Stars in the latter period of his career, picking up gongs in 1980 and 1982. Stood tall against the greatest forward line ever assembled.


Rather cruelly, he missed out an All-Ireland medal. A Cork win did fall within the span of his career but Kehilly was suspended in 1973 for supposedly playing illegally in London. Shades of the Keady affair, etc.

4. Anthony Lynch

Perhaps Cork's most admired player during the second Billy Morgan era, aka, the mid-noughties. Lynch could operate at either wing back of corner back but we've popped him in the corner. Picked up an All-Star for his efforts in 1999 and 2002. Lost three All-Ireland finals with Cork in '99, '07 and '09.


There is some confusion over his eligibility for various 'best XV without an All-Ireland medal' teams. Though he spent almost the entire season on the subs bench during the victorious 2010 season, he finally picked up that elusive All-Ireland medal.

5. Ciaran O'Sullivan

Two-time All-Ireland finalist with Cork in 1993 and 1999, O'Sullivan earned an All-Star for his efforts in the later of those years. A raiding wing back in a county which has produced plenty of them, O'Sullivan was usually good for chipping in with a score.


He was also a star player on the Beara divisional team which won the Cork championship in 1997. Teammate Donal O'Sullivan told the Cork Evening Echo about his worth in an article reminiscing on that success a couple of years back.

Ciarán O’Sullivan was a talisman, just a fantastic player. I remember one evening we played Clyda and they weren’t soft, but even though he was playing for Cork the following week, he gave an exhibition, kicked eight points from play I think and they couldn’t touch him.

6. Stephen O'Brien


The Nemo Rangers defender was a Michael Collins obsessive apparently. According to a profile by Anthony Lynch, O'Brien used to devour Collins biographies.

He operated in a few spots across the back-line, often at full back, sometimes further out. The awards seasons underlined his versatility. He collected three All-Star awards, one at full-back (1990), one at centre-half back (1994) and one at wing back (1995).

His inter-county career went from 1988 to 2000. He might have bridged the gap between the 1989-90 team and the All-Ireland finalists of 1999 but for the fact that injury robbed him of the chance in '99. Played his final championship match in Killarney in 2000.

7. Graham Canty

Normally a centre-half back but moved across to wing-back to make space. Pips the darling of the 70s and 80s, Jimmy Kerrigan to a spot in the half-back line.

Canty won three All-Stars in four years at the turn of the decade. The Bantry engineer suffered an injury-blighted 2010 season and he had an eventful All-Ireland final on that account. Was still there to pick up Sam at the end. Notably prominent for the Ireland international rules side as well.

8. Larry Tompkins


In his lyrical paean to the people of Castlehaven, Dunphy credited the Cahalane's for persuading Larry Tompkins to throw his lot in with Cork.

One of the family met Tompkins when they both were working the summer in New York. Kildare had tired of paying for Tompkins to come home and play championship every summer.

When Tompkins returned, he settled down in Castlehaven. He threw his lot in with Cork at the right time. In his first year, Billy Morgan's side finally slayed the ageing Kerry monster. They would enjoy unprecedented domination in Munster over the next nine years.

It is a testament to his impact that so many Cork supporters proclaim one of the county's greatest footballers. We've moved him to midfield to accommodate Declan Barron on the 40. But we would imagine they can switch spots at will.

9. Shea Fahy

Another Kildare man, Fahy was born in Newbridge. A midfield hero for Cork during the glory days from 1987 to 1995 (aka, the Charlton/Billy Morgan years), Fahy's signature display arrived in the 1990 All-Ireland final. In a grimly low-scoring affair, Fahy kicked 0-4 from play from midfield. Stunning in the context of the game.

He was rewarded with the Footballer of the Year award for 1990 and collected his second All-Star award. Nicholas Murphy came closest to dislodging him from the midfield spot.

10. Dave Barry

In a profile on the 1990 team for the Irish Examiner, Niall Cahalane said of his old teammate.

Dave had incredible vision. Back then, there wouldn’t have been too much talk of spatial awareness – if you mentioned it, fellas would have looked at you like you were on drugs – but his would have been of the highest degree. He could thread a pass where some other fella wouldn’t even see it. Maybe it’s something he brought from soccer but I think it’s either something you have or you haven’t, Dave had it and it helped him in the Gaelic and the soccer.

A member of both our Cork all-time soccer XI and now our Cork Gaelic football XV. Barry played for the Cork seniors until 1991, winning two All-Ireland titles and an All-Star in '89. He kept at it with Cork City a few years longer, thankfully long enough to win that League of Ireland medal in 1993.

11. Declan Barron

Could play in midfield or centre-forward - or centre-back as we learned in the 1973 All-Ireland final. He was asked to slot into the role when Galway put the pressure on in the second half.

Didn't have a reputation for not being a diligent trainer, but Barron was a wonderful fielder and distributor of the ball.

The Bantry Blues player won two All-Star awards to go with his All-Ireland medal. He was selected at centre half-forward in 1974, when Cork added a second consecutive Munster title but were then the surprising victims of Heffo's blue wave, and 1978, when Cork were soundly beaten by Kerry in another Munster Final.

12. Dinny Allen

Slick, quick and a deadly finisher, Allen was a 'marquee forward' before the term entered the GAA lexicon. The bleak early 1980s. Annoyed the hell out of Kerry too, which is always a plus. Especially Paidí O'Sé in a clip which may safely be described as legendary.

Dinny was cursed with ill-luck on the national honours front for the bulk of his career, missing Cork successes in both codes through flirtations with soccer (1973) and a short-sighted decision to quit the hurling in 1975 (thus missing the three-in-a-row which followed immediately).

By the mid-80s he was resigned to missing the primary honour and was even named by the GAA on the centenary best XV of players without an All-Ireland. Retired in 1986 but was recalled by Billy Morgan for the '88 championship. Cork were beaten by Meath that year and Allen resolved to retire once more.

Morgan persuaded him to give it one more whirl in 1989 and we got our fairytale ending. At 37 years of age, he captained Cork to an All-Ireland title at full-forward.

13. Paul McGrath

Colm O'Neill should probably be taking this spot were his career not blighted by injury. Donncha O'Connor and Daniel Goulding were both in the shakeup. But we've gone for the stylish two-time All-Star winner on the 89-90 side. Usually good for slipping over a few neat points in what were often gritty low-scoring affairs. Against Meath, they were nearly always gritty low-scoring affairs.

14. Colin Corkery

The most exciting Cork player during the twenty years between the 1990 and 2010 successes. Won an All-Star in his debut championship season in 1993. Cork got to the All-Ireland final that year but those were the years of the Ulster revolution and they were turned over by Derry. It would be as close as Corkery ever got to an All-Ireland inter-county medal. Ironically, his missed the '99 season when Cork made it all the way to the

15. Jimmy Barry Murphy

Lit up the 1973 All-Ireland final and archive footage of his football displays in later years reveals a terrifically stylish footballer. It's now gospel in Cork that he quit the football because of the constant 'blackguarding' he received at the hands of certain defenders from 'you-know-where.' While more renowned for hurling, his poise and balance on a football pitch are a delight to watch. See the Laochra Gael episode on him.

Read more: Presenting Our Cork All-Time Hurling XV



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