The Leeside legends series: Gerald McCarthy was a hurler supreme

The Leeside legends series: Gerald McCarthy was a hurler supreme
Gerald McCarthy in training in 1978. That season he'd win his fifth and last senior All-Ireland before embarking on a great coaching career too.

GERALD McCARTHY is still rated by many as one of the best midfielders ever to wear a Cork jersey.

In John Horgan's team and our fans' poll in recent weeks, he made the starting 15 in the Cork All-Star selection from 1970 to 2020.

McCarthy is especially revered for his breathtaking skills, his wrists and crisp striking, which made him a hurling icon during the 60s and 70s.

Gerald, who comes from the Bandon Road, was born in 1945 and it was only natural that he would soon be wearing the blue jersey of St Finbarr’s where he showed incredible skills at juvenile level.

McCarthy had no great luck playing Minor hurling or football as the honours simply did not come his way as he failed to win an All-Ireland at this level.

The year of 1966 is one that will always be remembered by Gerald as he created history in the sport of hurling.

First of all he led Cork to an All-Ireland U21 hurling title and in September 1966 he also captained the Cork Senior hurling team to victory over a highly fancied Kilkenny team.

To this day McCarthy stands out in GAA history as being the only player to captain at U21 and Senior levels in the one season to All-Ireland glory.

He reflected on that memorable year.

“I will never forget that particular year as I was winning my first All-Ireland medals and in the Senior final Kilkenny were strongly fancied to win as they had thrashed us in the National league that season but on the day we matched them in every department,” said Gerald.

Achievement...

Looking back on his achievement of captaining two teams to All-Ireland glory in the one season McCarthy was honest in his assessment.

“I do not know if any player will ever captain an U21 and Senior team in my lifetime so I will enjoy the record for now.”

Gerald had to wait for four years for his next senior All-Ireland when Cork captained by Paddy Barry defeated Wexford.

The Rebel side before the 1977 All-Ireland.
The Rebel side before the 1977 All-Ireland.

There was another bleak few years for Cork at Inter-county level but they bounced back in 1976 with another title.

A year later Cork were crowned champions again and in 1978 they achieved the magical treble that culminated in Gerald being awarded man of the match.

Incredibly, McCarthy achieved only one All-Star in 1978 but it’s an issue that Gerald never really worried about.

“I have only one All-Star but that is fine as awards are really for team effort and you should always remember that you are receiving them on behalf of your team.”

The 1969 All-Ireland defeat by Kilkenny is something that still lurks in McCarthy’s mind as one of the saddest day of his career.

“Con Roche hit a wonderful point in the second half that gave us a seven-point lead but amazingly in the last quarter we remained static and ended up losing the game.”

Cork captain Ray Cummins prepares to make his speech after being presented with the Liam MacCarthy Cup, in 1976 after beating Wexford, by GAA president and Leesider Con Murphy. Also pictured are , from left, Cork County Board chairman Donal O'Sullivan, Pat McDonnell, John Horgan, Martin O'Doherty, Charlie McCarthy, 13, Martin Coleman, goalkeeper, Denis Coughlan, Gerald McCarthy, Brian Murphy, Eamonn O'Donoghue, Sean O'Leary, John Allen and Mick Malone. Picture: Connolly Collection/SPORTSFILE
Cork captain Ray Cummins prepares to make his speech after being presented with the Liam MacCarthy Cup, in 1976 after beating Wexford, by GAA president and Leesider Con Murphy. Also pictured are , from left, Cork County Board chairman Donal O'Sullivan, Pat McDonnell, John Horgan, Martin O'Doherty, Charlie McCarthy, 13, Martin Coleman, goalkeeper, Denis Coughlan, Gerald McCarthy, Brian Murphy, Eamonn O'Donoghue, Sean O'Leary, John Allen and Mick Malone. Picture: Connolly Collection/SPORTSFILE

McCarthy’s record at club level is just as impressive as he won his first Senior County championship medal in 1965 and followed up with three more in 1968, 1974, and 1977.

All-Ireland club success with the Barrs came in 1975 and 1978 where his outstanding skills at centre-field always played a huge part in his team’s victories.

People in GAA always seem to compare the modern-day game to the standard in the 60s, 70s and 80s but Gerald reckons that the game is better at the moment.

“I have no doubt the present standard of hurling is a lot better to look at, as players are left to show their true skills.

“In my time the full back’s job was to pin his hurley against the back of the full forward from restricting getting near goal but nowadays the full back must be the complete player on the team.”

Gerald was rather philosophical when comparing the modern-day rules to when he played.

“The rules when I played encouraged physical play and I would have liked to turn the clock back and play with the modern-day players.”

McCarthy was coach of the Cork All-Ireland winning team of 1990 and in 1997 took over as coach of the Waterford Senior team until 2001, helping usher in the modern era for the Déise.

In 2006 he was reappointed as the Cork senior coach but stepped down in 2009. Nowadays McCarthy is enjoying his retirement out of the game and a weekly game of golf helps his relaxation.

Anyone who knows their hurling, they'd agree Gerald was a master and colossus of the game.

Gerald McCarthy in conversation with Seanie O'Leary. Picture: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE
Gerald McCarthy in conversation with Seanie O'Leary. Picture: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE

FACTFILE:

  • Gerald McCarthy is the only player in the history of the GAA to captain an U21 and senior teams to an All-Ireland double in the same year,
  • Gerald won an All-Star award in 1978.
  • He retired from the sport in 1979 but went on to have a rich coaching career, with Cork, the Barrs and Waterford.
  • McCarthy is the holder of five senior All-Ireland medals.
  • He played a key role in the double, coaching the hurlers to land the All-Ireland in 1990.
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