Noel O'Leary owes his football success to junior days with Cill na Martra

Noel O'Leary owes his football success to junior days with Cill na Martra
Cill na Martra Noel O'Leary wins the ball from Erin Own's Alan Bowen, Brian McHugh and Eoghan Murphy. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

NOEL O'Leary was a cult hero for Cork fans.

He was a Rebel to the core, giving absolutely everything to the geansaí each time he pulled it on, from challenge matches to the league. From battling Kerry and eventually landing the All-Ireland in 2010.

That all came from his early days with Cill na Martra, who he continues to represent with distinction.

The 38-year-old was recently interviewed by another brilliant wing-back, Kerry’s Tomás Ó Sé, as part of the Benetti Menswear Q&A series.

“It is all football in Cill na Martra. Going back to when we became successful around the late 90s, it kind of took a crop of young lads to merge in with the older crew at the time,” O’Leary said.

“We hadn’t been very successful and we were really a junior B club for a long time. There were a few brothers who came along, young lads and the likes, it kind of tied together then.”

Cill na Martra gained huge confidence from their Mid Cork Junior A Football title success of 2002.

That of course was the very first time that the club won the premier competition in Muskerry football, after beating Grenagh in the decider 2-10 to 1-9.

“In 2002 we made the breakthrough and won the Mid Cork again in 2003. We got the county final that year and went up to intermediate. We then went a good few years of near misses and the like.”

The intermediate title success of 2018 for Cill na Martra was a proud day for O’Leary.

After coming close on occasions, including coming up short against Carrigaline in the 2009 IFC decider, the determination of the Muskerry men was eventually rewarded.

“It came to a stage then I suppose where our generation was getting a bit older and we were lucky enough that a new crop came in again. We have a good young team there.”

Carrigaline's Joe Moran is tackled by Cill Na Martra's Noel O'Leary. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Carrigaline's Joe Moran is tackled by Cill Na Martra's Noel O'Leary. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

With a number of talented young players such as Cork senior Tadhg Corkery, along with the likes of Michael Desmond and Dano Dineen, who both lined out at minor level for Cork, the next couple of years could offer much promise and excitement for those associated with Cill na Martra.

Last term, they made it to the quarter-finals of the PIFC, where Kanturk defeated them.

For 2020, they were put into a group with Muskerry rivals Naomh Abán, St Vincent’s and Knocknagree, though that will all change in a revised structure post-Covid-19.

The full chat with O’Leary is available to watch on YouTube, and also touches on topics such as the demands on players today and his battles Kerry’s Paul Galvin over the years.

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