When it comes to picking top soccer players, there are few to match the incredible skills of John Herrick.
Herrick attended the Glasheen National School and then went to Sullivan’s Quay CBS. The young star’s first incursions on to the sporting field was with a hurley in his hand when he lined out for his school in the Dr Harty Cup.
However, family ties determined that it was only a matter of time before Herrick would take up football. John’s family was steeped in tradition, with his grand-uncle Tim Herrick being one of the founder members of Glasheen.
His uncles John and Billy Moloney played against each other in the FAI Cup final when Cork Athletic faced Evergreen United. That family lineage was upheld when John's son Mark represented Cork City in the 1990s and early noughties.
In 1964, Herrick helped Glasheen to a Munster Minor Cup victory, and he recalls the demands of playing with the southside club at that time.
“The mentors at Glasheen were rather strange as they felt you had to be hungry to play football and, to be honest, you couldn’t even be seen playing football on the street by mentors of the club as they had strange policies before we played games,” said John.
The following year John was invited by Paul O’Donovan to play for Cork Celtic in a festival challenge game against Cork Hibs in Kilkenny and ironically it was Hibs who signed him after the game.
Herrick has always been indebted to the late Paul O’Donovan and he recalled meeting him in London shortly before he died.
“I was in London for a short holiday with my wife Pat and we were getting off a Tube in Convent Garden and I heard my name being shouted.
“I looked back and it was Paul O’Donovan, but sadly he told me he was in remission and gave me an indication of how long he was given to live.
“We spoke about the old times in Cork and shared lots of laughs in the hour we spoke, and that was the last time I ever saw Paul again, as he died shortly after in Cork — but he’s a man I will never forget.”
In 1966, John was signed by Queens Park Rangers in London, but things didn’t go according to plan for the skilful Corkman.
John returned to Cork 12 months later and was re-signed by Amby Fogarty — a man John reckons was responsible for the explosion of Cork football in the 1970s.
“All sorts of people get the credit for the boom of Cork football, but to me, Amby Fogarty stood head and shoulders above everybody else, as his training methods were incredible — and just look at the players he signed from England.”
Herrick played with some great players at Cork Hibs and he points to the 1972 FAI Cup win against Waterford and the Blaxnit Cup in the same season as their best achievements.
One of John’s former team-mates, Dave Wigginton, sadly passed away in 2001, but the speed and versatility of Wigginton was widely appreciated, and John was full of praise for him.
“Wiggy was a great person, who had skill and speed to burn,” he says. “And God love him, the day he was being buried Frank Connolly turned to me as we walked next to his coffin and remarked: ‘This is the first time we have been able to keep up with him in our lives!’ ”
Herrick joined Limerick for a season in 1976 and helped them to a place in the FAI Cup final, where they were defeated by Dundalk 2-0.
He then had two seasons with Drogheda United before he joined Galway United in 1979.
Herrick spent five seasons with the westerners before hanging up his boots in 1983, having that concluded 24 years playing at the top level of the sport in this country.
Capped three times by Liam Tuohy, the highlight of his international career was a 1-1 draw against France in a packed Parc des Princes in 1973.
Herrick can no longer go to League of Ireland games as he feels the atmosphere and attendances have dropped considerably when he played in the golden era.
“Soccer in Ireland was once a community sport but now it is all so different, and that saddens me,” he says.
He still lives in Galway and is a self-employed artist/signwriter working in the Gaeltacht area.
Few would doubt that John Herrick was a magnificent soccer player who represented Cork and Ireland with distinction and honour. Cork salutes him for his efforts!
John Herrick was capped three times for Ireland at senior level.
He signed for Queens Park Rangers in 1966 but only lasted at the London club for 12 months.
Herrick was a member of the Cork Hibs team that won the FAI Cup in 1972.
He retired from football in 1983 after playing League of Ireland football for 24 years.