Saluting Paul Kerrigan, the great survivor from a golden age of Cork football

Saluting Paul Kerrigan, the great survivor from a golden age of Cork football

Cork's Paul Kerrigan solos past Down's Kevin McKernan in the 2010 All-Ireland final at Croke Park. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

PAUL Kerrigan has called time on a Cork football career that took him from a high-flying underage attacker to the last survivor of a golden generation of players.

A former Cork captain and leader in recent years when there have been as many disappointments as notable wins, he made his championship debut in 2008 and was a mainstay of the team from '09 until this season. 

Paul Kerrigan takes on Tomás Ó Sé in 2009. Picture: Stephen McCarthy
Paul Kerrigan takes on Tomás Ó Sé in 2009. Picture: Stephen McCarthy

Turning 34 next month, the Nemo club man came through the 2003-'04 minor squads that featured Daniel Goulding, Michael Shields, Pa Kelly, Alan O'Connor, Fintan Goold, John Hayes, Eoin Cadogan, Ray Carey and more. While the Rebels didn't land silverware as U18s, they reached the U21 All-Ireland finals in 2006 and '07, winning the latter.

The nucleus of those panels helped Cork to get their hands on Sam Maguire 10 years ago and Kerrigan's retirement, notwithstanding 30-year-old Ciarán Sheehan's involvement next season, severs the last link to the victory over Down at Croke Park.

Paul Kerrigan lifts the Sam Maguire Cup after the one-point win over Down. Picture: Dáire Brennan
Paul Kerrigan lifts the Sam Maguire Cup after the one-point win over Down. Picture: Dáire Brennan

Kerrigan started out as Jimmy's son but as his career progressed, both with Nemo Rangers and Cork, he created his own legacy. Electrifyingly quick and direct from the half-forward line, the secondary school teacher was far from a one-dimensional threat. He could kick points left and right, had an eye for a pass, a nose for goal and the game-intelligence to drop deep and offer cover for the defence.

Perhaps his best season for Cork was in 2011, when he shouldered the attacking burden after injuries to Goulding, Sheehan and Colm O'Neill, only for Mayo to end the Rebels' All-Ireland defence. 

As a consequence, he never got the All-Star his consistency for his county deserved. He was also a key member of the CIT side that made the breakthrough and landed the Sigerson Cup under Keith Ricken's stewardship. 

A Corn Uí Mhuirí winner as a pupil in Críost Rí, Kerrigan has since given back to his former school, inspiring the next generation including Mark Cronin, who he now dovetails with in the Nemo attack.

The bluebloods of Cork football are the reigning county champions and will face Castlehaven in the rescheduled 2020 decider in the spring. Upon graduating to the Nemo senior set-up in 2005, Kerrigan has collected eight county medals. 

It would be in keeping with his sustained excellence if he adds another at the Haven's expense.

Often the deadly finisher in black and green, he's adept at linking the play too and that's an underrated aspect of his game. 

Cork players Micheál Martin and Paul Kerrigan leave the pitch after victory over Kerry recently. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Cork players Micheál Martin and Paul Kerrigan leave the pitch after victory over Kerry recently. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

It was flagged up before the 2020 inter-county campaign that Kerrigan would probably call time on his Cork career, so it was disappointing he wasn't utilised off the bench in the Munster final loss to Tipp. He did contribute as a sub in the stunning semi-final upset against Kerry and that was the right note to sign off on.

As you'd expect with a Nemo footballer, Kerrigan had the skills and self-belief of the best from over the border, and he more than played his part to the great Old Firm clashes of the modern era.

Paul Kerrigan and Kerry's Kieran Donaghy exchange views during the 2015 Munster final replay. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Paul Kerrigan and Kerry's Kieran Donaghy exchange views during the 2015 Munster final replay. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

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