Cork City legend John Caulfield also had a rich sporting life as a Gaelic footballer

Cork City legend John Caulfield also had a rich sporting life as a Gaelic footballer
St Mary's John Caulfield shoots from Rathpeacon's David O'Donovan during the junior B football final at Pairc Uí Rinn. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

CORK’S historic double of 1990 will be celebrated in these pages at the appropriate time but what people might forget is that another All-Ireland title landed on Leeside in that year too, the junior crown.

For obvious reasons that success was overshadowed by the exploits of the two senior teams but that team contained some very fine footballers and it’s only right and fitting that we should recall their achievement 30 years on.

In the Munster final they had to overcome arch-rivals Kerry and in the home All-Ireland final another old foe, Meath had to be taken care of.

One of the major contributors to that successful team was former Cork City star and subsequently a very successful team boss, John Caulfield.

Caulfield’s success story as a player and manager in Turner’s Cross is well documented but he was a very capable Gaelic footballer too and he has fond memories of his time in the red jersey.

“It was a great achievement by the team and I was very honoured to have been able to play a part in it,” he told the Echo.

So how did it all begin?

“I moved to Enniskeane in 1986 from Roscommon where I had been playing with a local club called St Dominic’s. After coming down I stayed on with them for a while but it was a long journey up there so I transferred to the local club, St Mary’s.

“I started playing with them and got on the Carbery team in the Cork SFC and I was on that team for a few years. They had a strong team back then as most of the clubs were playing in the IFC, not like it is now where the big clubs are playing senior.

Cork footballer Mark O'Connor.
Cork footballer Mark O'Connor.

“You had players like Mark O’Connor, Mark Farr, Brian and Barry Herlihy, Jason Whooley, Stephen Dineen among others.

“I must have been doing something right because I got called in for a trial with the Cork junior team and I managed to get on the team.

“You had Sean Ryan from Newcestown as the coach and he and his selectors put together a team that turned out to be very good.”

Caulfield remembers the Munster and All-Ireland campaigns of that year very well.

“Yes, we defeated Tipperary in the opening round in Munster and we played Kerry in the Munster final in Macroom on a Wednesday night.

“It was a close game if I can recall but we got a late enough goal which changed the match and in the end we won by a couple of points.

“For the Cork fans that night it was great to beat their fierce rivals and we moved on then to the All-Ireland championship.

“You had to play a home final first and if you won that you had to face the British champions.”

Cork and Meath had a fierce rivalry at that time at senior level and, according to Caulfield, it was no different when they met in the All-Ireland final in Portlaoise.

“Like their senior team, they took no prisoners, they were hard men, fairly aggressive and we had to be able to match that.

“We were losing at half-time but like the Kerry game, we got another late goal, if memory serves me right, I think it was Mick Lewis from Aghada who got it.

“Again that was a turning point in the game as it had been in the Munster final and we went on to win by a couple of points.

“I remember coming up to that game, Billy (Morgan) had injury worries with the senior team and we had lost Paddy Hayes and Colm O’Neill who had been with us earlier.”

Paddy Hayes in junior football action for Cork.
Paddy Hayes in junior football action for Cork.

Before the campaign could be successfully completed, Cork had one game to play against Warwickshire in the away final.

“That’s the way it was but we went on to win that game fairly easily so we had done the business. For us it was it was a great victory, it meant a lot to us even if it was overshadowed by what the seniors did.

“We had an All-Ireland medal and they don’t fall off trees. It was a big thing for the club too, St Mary’s, a small club in West Cork and I was delighted and proud to be able to represent them.”

Caulfield remembers that game against the British team for another reason too.

“I do because I had a game with Cork City the following night and I had to get permission from Noel O’Mahony to play. Look, it was much different back then, the soccer season was in winter whereas the GAA was in summer.

“A lot of us at City played Gaelic in the summer, it kept us fit and the championship was knockout in those days so if you lost the first round you were gone. We had day jobs too unlike now with the professional game.”

So very enjoyable times for one of the great Cork soccer servants, who would later work with St Mary’s as a selector too.

St Mary's John Caulfield gathers the ball from Rathpeacon's Brendan Hallissey during the 2004 junior B county football final. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
St Mary's John Caulfield gathers the ball from Rathpeacon's Brendan Hallissey during the 2004 junior B county football final. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

“Absolutely, it was great, we were a close-knit bunch on that Cork team. There was some very good players involved but Cork were very successful in those years at senior level and it was hard to break into senior ranks.

“Ciarán O’Sullivan went on to have a great career, others played senior too and Ger Manley became a Cork senior hurler. I loved my time with Cork, with Carbery too and with St Mary’s, good times and good friends made and winning the All-Ireland in that year was something to cherish.”

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