CORK’S number of All-Star forwards in football stands at a baker’s dozen, 13, and one name in particular is emblazoned in gold.
The great Mick O’Dwyer had reason to be rightly concerned at Larry Tompkins’ decision to uproot from his native Kildare and set up camp in Cork.
His move served Cork football no end and forced Kerry folk and many others up and down the county plenty of restless nights.
For three consecutive years Tompkins was honoured by the All-Star selectors, all at centre-forward, a sure reflection of the great player’s standing in the game during the 1980s.
He had it all, strong, forceful and skilful on the ball, Tompkins was both creator and finisher and, of course, the countless hours honing his free-taking paid off handsomely time and again.
It’s amazing that Tompkins was far from being the only Cork centre-forward decorated since the All-Stars inception in 1971.
Another great, Ray Cummins, was the first Corkman to be bestowed with an Allstar in 1971 and he was also selected at centre-forward.
The same year the legendary Blackrock-man was also honoured with the full-forward All-Star in hurling, as he was in ’72 and 1977.
Jimmy Barry-Murphy was Cork’s next football All-Star in 1973 and he followed the same path as Cummins in that the St Finbarr’s wizard was five-time hurling All-Star.
Cummins picked up his second football gong that year as well, at full-forward, contributing generously to Cork’s famous All-Ireland triumph over Galway.
Barry-Murphy was honoured a second time in 1974, again in the right corner-forward slot, along with Declan Barron from Bantry Blues who became the second centre-forward representative.
And his standing in the game was recognised on a second occasion in 1978, again in the number 11 role.
They were among the leading forwards in the county in 1970s along with the Nemo Rangers pair of Jimmy Barrett, who completed a lethal inside line along with Cummins and Barry-Murphy, and Dinny Allen, an FAI Cup winner with Cork Hibernians in 1973.
Allen was Cork’s fourth attacking All-Star in 1980, again in the centre-forward position, but the county had to wait seven years for the next.
The end of the 80s, though, was one of the great eras in Cork football, when All-Ireland final appearances almost became the norm.
Although on losing sides in ’87 and ’88, Tompkins was recognised for his brilliance, just as he was in ’89, when Allen captained Cork to the Sam Maguire, 17 years after his debut.
That year two other forwards joined the pantheon of All-Stars, Dave Barry from the Barrs and Bishopstown’s Paul McGrath, right half-forward and right corner-forward respectively.
McGrath was honoured again in the historic double winning year of 1990, but he was the only Cork forward to make the team which must have been a puzzle.
Tompkins captained the team that season, but played much of his football at midfield while Barry orchestrated the attack from centre-forward in a number of games.
There were other notable Cork forwards during the 1980s, such as John Cleary, Colm O’Neill (Midleton), John O’Driscoll, Mick McCarthy and Tadhg Murphy. Teddy McCarthy often operated in the half-forward too, as well as at midfield, and he made an impact where ever he was deployed.
After the euphoria of the double, Cork football’s fortunes nosedived though they made it to Croke Park for the All-Ireland finals in 1993 and 1999, losing to Derry and Meath, respectively.
Two forwards made the ’93 All-Stars, the Nemo pair of Joe Kavanagh at centre-forward, scorer of a wonder goal in the final, and Colin Corkery in the right corner.
Like centre-forward, the right corner-forward position was another popular slot for Cork players with the 1999 captain, Philip Clifford from Bantry earning his All-Star at 13.
Other notables during the 90s were Clifford’s club colleague Damien O’Neill, Ballincollig’s Podsie O’Mahony and Aidan Dorgan from Grenagh.
The noughties were equally bleak in terms of national glory with only the 2009 team showing any Cork faces at all.
Pearse O’Neill became the sixth Cork attacker to fill centre-forward with Daniel Goulding honoured in the right corner, the fifth Rebel to wear the 13 jersey.
Others were starting to emerge, though, players like Fionán Murray, Conor McCarthy, James Masters, John Hayes, Donncha O’Connor, Paul Kerrigan, Pa Kelly, Colm O’Neill (Ballyclough) and Kevin MacMahon.
Cork’s 2010 All-Ireland wasn’t recognised with a representative in the attack though O’Neill made it two years later.
It’s six from: Tompkins, Cummins, Barron, Barry-Murphy, McGrath, Teddy McCarthy, Allen, Barry, Kavanagh, Corkery, Clifford, Kelly, P O’Neill, Goulding, C O’Neill.
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