Cork football dream team 1970-2020: Famous Rebels in mix to be number one

Cork football dream team 1970-2020: Famous Rebels in mix to be number one
Aidan Walsh and Alan Quirke, right, Cork, run out on to the pitch past the Sam Maguire Cup in the 2010 before the win over Down. Picture: Paul Mohan/SPORTSFILE

IN THE last half-century, Cork footballers managed to win the Sam Maguire Cup four times.

They were Munster champions on 17 occasions, six-times winners of the Division 1 league title, as well as a rare Division 2 title in 2009.

And Cork were well represented in All-Star teams, introduced in 1970, more than enough to fill at least a couple of best-of-all-time sides on Leeside.

While the footballers, historically, lived in the shadows of the hurling counterparts, there were pockets, not of resistance, but of a football-first belief, chiefly in west Cork and Duhallow.

So, this week we pick our best 15 footballers of the past 50 years. Why? Why not? Can you think of something else?

Today we start with the goalkeepers, the guys who are different to the rest of the team, if for no other reason that they the jersey they wear isn’t the same as their colleagues.

And the high level of competition is established immediately with the first incumbent.

Billy Morgan (Nemo Rangers): From his debut year in 1966 to his concluding season in 1981, no keeper has made such a profound impression on Gaelic football.

People, today, talk of the huge influence Dublin’s Stephen Cluxton has brought to bear on his own county’s style which has been aped all over the country.

But, Morgan was indeed the first revolutionary of the sport’s goalkeeper fraternity, like introducing a more thoughtful approach to the use of the ball than had previously been the case, whether from kick-outs or in general play.

A crude route one tactic was the norm before Morgan took over, thumping the ball as high and as long as you could the order of the day.

In its place, the Nemo Rangers great introduced more methodology with the main purpose of retaining possession and building intelligently from the back.

Former Cork football manager and All-Star goalie Billy Morgan, lining out for Kerry, at the Alan Kerins GAA Challenge, at Croke Park. Picture: Matt Browne/SPORTSFILE
Former Cork football manager and All-Star goalie Billy Morgan, lining out for Kerry, at the Alan Kerins GAA Challenge, at Croke Park. Picture: Matt Browne/SPORTSFILE

Not only that, but Morgan raised goalkeeper standards with an intense training regime, including unheard of separate one-on-one sessions to help fine-tune his talents.

His crowning year was in 1973, when captaining Cork to the All-Ireland and being one of seven Corkmen to make the All-Star team.

Micheál Creedon (Naomh Abán) had the unenviable task of taking over from Morgan and the Ballyvourney custodian played for two seasons, 1982 and 83.

He was between the posts in the famous 3-10 to 3-9 win over Kerry in the Munster final at Páirc Uí Chaoimh, when Tadhg Murphy wrote his name in football folklore with his last-gasp goal. Cork introduced a new keeper in 1984.

John Kerins (St Finbarr’s): and what an innings he had during the county’s golden spell.

With Morgan in charge, it became a classic case of the master and the pupil and how Kerins turned out to be just as brilliant a keeper as his mentor.

Performing the basic chores was becoming the norm now, but Kerins carried the role of keeper to another level with his quick-thinking.

Remember the 1987 drawn Munster final against Kerry at Páirc Uí Chaoimh with his speedy re-start after Kerry thought they had snatched a dramatic winning goal?

Cork goalkeeper John Kerins follows team captain Larry Tompkins in the parade before facing Meath in the All-Ireland final at Croke Park. Picture: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE
Cork goalkeeper John Kerins follows team captain Larry Tompkins in the parade before facing Meath in the All-Ireland final at Croke Park. Picture: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE

Just as the visitors were celebrating Kerins got the ball back into play immediately, resulting in Larry Tompkins’ levelling free at the other end. Cork won the replay in Killarney.

It began a succession of annual visits to Croke Park for Kerins, who played in four All-Ireland finals in-a-row, winning and losing two apiece.

He was back there again in 1993, Derry defeating 14-man Cork, before Kearns played his last game in the following year’s semi-final defeat by Down.

Kevin O’Dwyer (O’Donovan Rossa): The Skibbereen player’s Cork career started in 1995 and he was one of four players named in the 1999 Allstars after Cork reached the All-Ireland final, losing to Meath.

In all, O’Dwyer served for a decade, challenged initially by Castlehaven’s Michael Maguire and then Alan Quirke from Valley Rovers.

During his time, O’Dwyer helped Cork win three Munster titles, including his maiden season, as well as ’99 and 2002.

Former Cork football goalkeeper Kevin O'Dwyer. Picture: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE
Former Cork football goalkeeper Kevin O'Dwyer. Picture: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE

Alan Quirke (Valley Rovers): He made the position his own from 2006 though Paddy O’Shea (St Vincent’s) challenged him in the early part of the following summer’s championship.

Quirke’s accurate kick-outs to the middle were often the springboard of many a Cork attack and an important weapon in their armoury.

After losing All-Ireland finals to Kerry in 2007 and 09, Quirke savoured a winners’ medal in 2010 with the victory over Down.

Ken O’Halloran (Bishopstown) took over from Quirke in 2013 with Ryan Price (O’Donovan Rossa) also in the frame in 2017.

Another west Corkman, Clonakilty’s Mark White filled the role in 2018, but more lately Nemo Rangers’ Micheal Aodh Martin was emerging as the likely number one with Anthony Casey from Kiskeam, also challenging.

So, the contenders are Morgan, Kerins, O’Dwyer and Quirke.

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