THE late John Horgan was an integral part of the great Cork and Blackrock teams of the 1970s and his performances for club and county made him a firm favourite on and off the pitch.
Horgan or ‘Blondie John’ as he was affectionately known was a great reader of the game that helped him win many honours in the sport.
John originally hailed from the Lough area in Cork and was born in 1950, with the star defender attending Sullivan’s Quay CBS and like many youngsters down through the years began playing in the Street Leagues at Blackrock.
There was a major stumbling block for Horgan in those early days as he couldn’t play with Blackrock at club level as he did not reside in the area.
He eventually joined Blackrock after playing for Passage and had the distinction of being selected for the Cork minor hurling team in three successive years from 1966 to 1968.
In 1970 John joined the Cork senior hurling team and landed a double when the Rebel County won the National Hurling League and All-Ireland championship.
In the early '70s John lost his place on the Cork team but some sensational displays for his club saw him fight his way back into contention in 1973.
The following year he was rewarded with a hurling All-Star and the rest is history as he played a leading role in the Cork team that clinched the three in-a-row from 1976-78.
However, there was disappointment for Horgan when he captained the Cork team that were defeated by Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final.
In 1981 John brought the curtain down on a brilliant career as his club achievements are just as impressive as his inter-county record.
He won the first of his five Cork senior county medals in 1971 and Horgan also had the distinction of captaining Blackrock to three All-Ireland titles that gave him great satisfaction.
“I did not realise at the time but now when I look back I feel very honoured because no other player had done that at club level.”
Further All-Star hurling awards went to Horgan in 1977 and 1978 and he also picked up the Texaco Hurler of the Year award in ’78.
Looking back on his introduction to inter-county hurling John recalled how proud his family were when he was selected.
“My father (Tim) and mother (Esther) were two of the most innocent people you could meet and when I was selected on the Cork minor team in 1966 both of them shed a tear.”
Horgan was always proud to wear the red and white jersey and remembers crying after the All-Ireland minor final against Wexford in 1968 as he thought he would never play for his beloved county again.
John was a solid corner back who stood his ground against the very best forwards and was known for his mighty clearances but felt the game had changed from his playing days.
“To be honest the game is a lot quicker but in other ways the skill factor has gone out of the game as hurling was more deliberate in my time but don’t get me wrong there are some very good modern-day hurlers.”
John singled out his Cork teammate Charlie McCarthy as one of his toughest opponents.
“I played against some very good players but to me the classiest forward I had to mark was Charlie who had skills beyond belief.”
John had a brief coaching stint in 2001 and guided Castlelyons to the Cork senior county semi-final but terminated his coaching career after one season.
“I didn’t have the temperament to be a coach, but I must say I was very proud of the Castlelyons team as they were a great bunch of lads.”
When John sadly passed away in 2016 he left his wife Liz and four daughters Gillian, Lorraine, Debbie and Ashleigh.
At the time of his death former teammate Jimmy Barry-Murphy recalled how the Blackrock man was the stalwart of the team.
“I played with John and he was an inspirational player because his type of play with his long striking and the scores he got were fantastic and lifted our team on many occasions.
“He was an incredibly popular player across the clubs, and he wasn’t into club rivalries that a lot of us were into as he was above all that as he was a one off and a free spirit type of player.”
Fitting words from one Leeside legend to another.
John Horgan began his hurling career with Passage before joining Blackrock at the age of 17.
He captained Blackrock to three All-Ireland club championships in 1972, '74 and '79.
Horgan was part of the Cork team that won three All-Ireland senior titles in-a-row, 1976 to 1978.
He retired from hurling in 1981 at the age of 31, the holder of four senior All-Ireland medals and six Munster championship medals.
He died on June 10, 2016, at just 66 years old.