The Leeside legends series: Ray Cummins had the skill and size to deliver

The Leeside legends series: Ray Cummins had the skill and size to deliver
Cork GAA legend Ray Cummins was outstanding in attack for the hurlers and footballers. Picture: Denis Scannell

ONE of the most gifted players of all time in GAA, Blackrock’s Ray Cummins brought a new dimension and dynamism to forward play in both hurling and football.

Always modest and unassuming, Ray was a great favourite with supporters everywhere because of his unrivalled skill and his record as a sportsman during a glittering career.

Cummins, born in 1948, was reared in Ballinlough and his late father Billy was a prolific player with the Cork minor teams of 1938 and 1939.

Billy lined out with Christy Ring in the 1938 team so it was little wonder that Ray followed in his father’s footsteps.

Cummins failed to achieve any great honours with his school Coláiste Chríost Rí but at club level he became one of the most respected forwards in the game.

In 1970 Ray won his first All-Ireland senior hurling medal but it was inevitable that others would soon follow.

He had natural ability and was comfortable with a big or small ball.

Ray Cummins in action for Cork against Wexford in 1976. 
Ray Cummins in action for Cork against Wexford in 1976. 

In 1973 Cummins was once again crucial in the Cork senior All-Ireland football triumph over Galway.

The hurling skills came to the fore as Cummins was a crucial cog in the wheel of Cork’s historic three-in-a-row of 1976-78 that brought his All-Ireland medal tally to five.

Club:

He was equally busy on the club hurling scene with Blackrock.

The Rockies won the Cork Senior Hurling Championship in 1971, ’73, ’75, ’78, and 1979.

Action from the 1973 final at the Athletic Grounds between Glen Rovers and Blackrock. Pulling on the ball are Martin O'Doherty (2), Ray Cummins and Eamonn O'Donoghue. 
Action from the 1973 final at the Athletic Grounds between Glen Rovers and Blackrock. Pulling on the ball are Martin O'Doherty (2), Ray Cummins and Eamonn O'Donoghue. 

While attending UCC, Cummins also helped them to a Cork senior championship title in 1970.

The Rockies were a force to be reckoned with in the seventies as they were crowned champions in 1971, 1973, and 1978.

The genius of Cummins was recognised when he won a hurling and football All-Star in 1971 and 1972.

In 1973 Cummins scooped another football All-Star, with his final All-Star coming in 1977 when he was selected on the hurling panel.

Ray Cummins surges past Dublin's Sean Doherty in 1974. 
Ray Cummins surges past Dublin's Sean Doherty in 1974. 

Ray had the honour to line out with some outstanding players but in his own words, he always respected the players who consistently gave 100% and who played the game in a fair and sporting manner.

Ray named Derry Cremin and Joe McGrath, both stalwarts at the famous Blackrock club, as the two most influential people in his career.

Playing the game in a sporting manner as well as the friendships he made during his career were more important than winning medals for the big Blackrock man.

“I enjoyed the camaraderie between the players and the spirit that was built up, whether you won or lost,” said Ray.

Cummins added: “To me the most important thing was the friendships but as a player, I would like to think that I always gave it everything on the pitch.

“I look back with most satisfaction on the games I played directly against like Limerick’s Pat Hartigan who I had a lot of battles with on the field but we always shook hands at the final whistle.”

The Blackrock man looks back on Cork winning the All-Ireland football championship in 1973 as a very special moment in his career.

“There was a tremendously loyal football following in Cork and it was only when we brought the trophy to different places that we could appreciate what it meant to people.”

Ray Cummins fisting the ball past Clare full-back Gerry Crowe in 1978.
Ray Cummins fisting the ball past Clare full-back Gerry Crowe in 1978.

The standard of football in modern times worries Cummins as he gave his assessment and advice to the people who coach the youth of today.

“In comparison to when I played there is now more emphasis on the physical side of the game and I would like to see more coaching given to quick and accurate kicking of the ball as it would make the game more entertaining.”

Ray Cummins on a special stamp.
Ray Cummins on a special stamp.

The curtain came down on Ray Cummins’ hurling and football career when he retired in 1982.

Married to Bernadette and residing in Kinsale there is little doubt that Cummins will rank among the all-time greats of Gaelic games.

In hurling, he was credited with giving a new fluidity to the game.

GROUNDED: Ray Cummins, Eamon O’Donoghue and Jimmy-Barry Murphy in action during the 1976 All-Ireland against Wexford.
GROUNDED: Ray Cummins, Eamon O’Donoghue and Jimmy-Barry Murphy in action during the 1976 All-Ireland against Wexford.

Winner of almost every honour in the game and twice a captain of All-Ireland winning teams he will surely be never forgotten by his legion of Cork fans who simply loved his style and sheer class.

FACTFILE: 

  • Ray Cummins is the holder of four All-Ireland Senior hurling medals and one All-Ireland football.
  • He won five senior hurling championships with Blackrock and one with UCC.
  • Cummins is also the holder of three All-Ireland Senior club medals with Blackrock.
  • He was awarded two football and two hurling All-Stars during his illustrious career.
  • Cummins retired from hurling and football in 1982.
  • Cummins was the only player selected on both GAA teams of the Millennium.
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