TO thousands of Cork Hibs fans of the late '50s and '60s Jerry Lane, who died peacefully at the St Luke’s Home, was revered.
He was the epitome of the old-fashioned full back; though very small his uncompromising aggression, ability to intercept and speed in the tackle meant that he was a defender wingers didn’t like facing.
Most people who knew Jerry or saw him playing in his prime with Cork Hibs will agree that Mark Twain’s famous quote describes him best, "It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog."
During his heyday Hibs were the great Shamrock Rovers bogey team.
The supposedly invincible Hoops failed to record a victory over Hibs at the Mardyke; shortly after Hibs were founded they were mauled 7-1 by Rovers at Miltown.
However, it was their defeat by bottom of the table Hibs during the closing weeks of the Cork teams debut season that cost the Dubs the championship.
It was a case of Déjà Vu in 1960 when Rovers, who finished three points behind champions Limerick, were beaten home and away by Hibs.
Rovers' game was based a lot on bringing their wingers into play. International and 19-time capped Inter League star Liam Touhy explained why they were entertaining.
“We attacked the goal more during the '50s and '60s when Maxi McCann and myself were the wingers. It worked a treat except in Cork where they had two tiny terrier full backs.
"Jerry Lane was like a watch dog snapping at my heels intercepting and tackling. I don’t ever remember beating them in the Mardyke and never looked forward to playing against Lane.”
Touhy was right! Rovers never beat Hibs at the Dyke - their record against Hibs there and later The Lodge read - played 11, drew two, lost nine.
They eventually laid the bogey in a shield game at the Lodge by which time Jerry had switched from right to left full. He showed his versatility during his final season in 1967 when he got to wear the numbers two, three, four, six, seven, nine, 10 and 11 jerseys.
Jerry made his debut on the original Hibs team in 1957and in a career spanning 10 seasons went on to make 285 appearances. He missed the whole of the 1958-59 season when he assisted Port Talbot in the Welsh League.
Apart from two Munster senior Cup wins in 1961 and ’65 the Hibs trophy cabinet was bare. Jerry also had to settle for runners-up medals in the FAI Cup when they were defeated by the brilliant Shels in 1960 and ’63.
In the 1960 decider he was outstanding as was his opposite number Tony Dunne who transferred to Man Utd the following morning.
The then 17-year-old Jerry first won the hearts of the Cork soccer public in 1956 when he was magnificent at a packed Mardyke where Munster Youths defeated West Germany 2-0.
He was representing Rockmount which he helped win a hat-trick of prestigious Murphy Cups between 1955-57. After his display against West Germany he was an automatic choice on the Irish team for matches against England and Germany (twice). The Rockmount youngster captained Ireland on the German tour and scored Ireland’s only goal in a 5-1 defeat. Four days later it was a different story when Ireland inspired by Lane defeated the hosts 3-1.
On retirement from League of Ireland football Jerry assisted Crofton, Aer Lingus and UCC (coach).
You couldn’t fail to be impressed by his immense contribution to League of Ireland soccer particularly in Cork.
The perfect role model for budding full backs he earned the respect of his contemporaries, team mates and rivals alike and former fans will grieve at his passing. May he rest in peace.