'Success isn't as important as playing with great characters and skillful players'

'Success isn't as important as playing with great characters and skillful players'

John Joe O'Sullivan, with the ball in the front row, and his Rockmount team at underage level.

GET out and keep active and return to the old regime of kicking a ball off a wall.

With the majority of training sessions put on hold for the moment, sports-mad John Joe O’Sullivan from St Luke’s believes people just have to get out in the fresh air, and develop their talent on the streets, where his love of the game began.

O’Sullivan’s love of the game spans over five decades, and having met up with him recently, it was apparent that his passion is still as strong as it was back when he was a child.

O’Sullivan began his schoolboys soccer with Rockmount at the age of 10 and played schoolboys, youths and senior with the club where he enjoyed some success. More importantly, he developed many friendships. 

“In my day we had limited success but brilliant characters and some great players,” said O’Sullivan. 

"We had Ian Hennessey, son of Mr Football Tony, who oozed class, David Quinn a fabulous goalkeeper who I shared the dressing room with also for Cork U14 and U15. That team was mainly made up of Everton players including Denis Irwin (below) and Christy McGuckian, a great player who later hurled for Cork. 

"The best player I've played with at any level would be Liam Hourigan who was capped by Ireland at U15 level. Wonderful naturally gifted footballer but also a genius academically and was lost to the game.

“I played under Denis O'Donovan and John O’Shea. Fantastic people who were never for the limelight but instead all about the players. 

"We had some of the best coaches in ex-League of Ireland players Donie Leahy, Charlie O’Mahony, Mick O’Keeffe and Amby Fogarty. A testament to the people of Rockmount in getting these pure gentlemen and purists of football. 

There was Jimmy Deasy, Tom O’Callaghan, Tommy Hosford, John Twomey, Neilus Joyce, Flossy Foley, John Delea, Pat magic O’Callaghan and Len Speight, all totally dedicated and committed to developing the club and us schoolboys as people. To this day these are the people we should thank for helping develop what is an institution on the northside. Speight and O’Donovan both celebrated their 80th birthdays this year and I look forward to celebrating with them once we get back to some normality.” 

A winner of the Cork Schoolboys Player of the Year award back in 1982 for his outstanding contribution as a midfielder, it's an accolade that O’Sullivan holds dear to his heart and one in which he raced home to show his father.

“My proudest memory individually would have been winning the Cork Schoolboy of the Year Award in 1982 at the Imperial Hotel ahead of some great players, a trophy previously won by Paddy Shortt and Noel O Mahony and Rockmount’s own Aidan O Mahony in 1972. 

"I couldn't wait to get home to show my father. Funny thing is, I probably peaked at 15 or 16 where most players do at 28 or 29!

“Rivalry was great back then between clubs most notably Crofton with Laurence Neville, Pat Walsh, small Barry 'Misser' O’Leary the most annoying but a talented player, and the best player to play against Anthony Morley a trendy punk back in the day but a brilliant centre-half. 

"Casement had Paul Bowden and Ray Fowler. Kilreen Celtic had our own Trevor Welch a tricky winger who fancied himself as a bit of a Gordon Hill. 

"Everton who dominated with the likes of Derek O’Sullivan, John Gussy Keane, Stanley Nott and obviously Denis Irwin.

"Avondale Utd had the uncompromising Mark Murray and the elegant John O'Leary. St Mary's had the great Declan Daly, whose father Joe was a gentleman used to collect myself and David Quinn in his silver Ford Escort for Cork training." 

It’s fair to say where there was a rivalry on the pitch, they were great friends off it.

“I think now is the opportunity where we can rekindle the old style of playing ball on the streets.” 

The proud grandad of Georgie and Archie contributed a lot to Cork soccer over the years as a coach where he used his experience and knowledge of the game to develop many players across the city. Technique and skill helped him win the All-Ireland Skills competition at U13 level, attributes he passed on to players he coached.

“I loved my time as a coach with Dave Quinn and with Mayfield we enjoyed a lot of success. At U17 level we won the Premier League unbeaten. We had some great lads in Eric O’Leary, Luke Burns, Ryan Murray, Ryan Goldsmith, Kaka McCarthy, and Adam Hegarty. 

"I like to think myself and Dave had a great way with the young fellas and always tried to get the best out of them, both as players and people.” 

 Although he hasn’t coached for a long time, he still enjoys getting to see as many games as possible.

 Conor Meaney, Rockmount, jumping the tackle of Springfield Ramblers' Charlie Morrissey during their U15 match at Pat O’Brien Park. Picture: Dan Linehan
Conor Meaney, Rockmount, jumping the tackle of Springfield Ramblers' Charlie Morrissey during their U15 match at Pat O’Brien Park. Picture: Dan Linehan

“I don't get to as many games as I would like but the two teams I always look out for are Rockmount and Mayfield. Billy Cronin, Deccie Courtney, Jamesie Corcoran (RIP) and Kieran O’Sullivan would be great friends and proper football men who live and breathe Rockmount. With Mayfield, Richie Keating, Billy O Flynn, Ken Cotter, Tadhg O’Neill, Jojo Kennedy, Ernest O’Mahoney and Mick Murphy all great clubmen.

“I think Covid is terrible for everyone connected with football. It's an outlet for everyone from those lining the pitch putting up the nets, taking script, coaches preparing sessions, bus drivers. It's a social hub and hopefully there will be a vaccine soon. 

"To kids I'd say just get a ball on your own hit off a wall. Not the kitchen one... unless the mother is out,” laughs O’Sullivan.

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