The Leeside legends series: John Kerins was destined to be a goalkeeping great

The Leeside legends series: John Kerins was destined to be a goalkeeping great

Cork goalkeeper John Kerins during the win over Mayo in the 1989 All-Ireland final at Croke Park. Picture: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE

THE late John Kerins was one of the best goalkeepers Cork has produced and his passing in 2001 left a huge void for his wife Ann, children Paul, John and Suzanne and his many friends.

John was a commanding figure between the posts for his beloved St Finbarr’s and of course for the Rebel County making plenty of match winning saves for both.

Kerins was born in 1962 and grew up in the Lough area of Cork and as most of his peers did, joining the famous St Finbarr’s at a very young age.

John was educated at St Joseph’s National School in the Mardyke and later at the famous Gaelic nursery of Coláiste Chríost Rí where he played in many games for the Cork school.

Ironically John was a prominent hurler in his early teens and played in goal with the Cork Minors in the 1980 Munster championship against Tipperary.

The opposing goalkeeper in that game was Ken Hogan who later went on star for Tipperary as did midfielder that day Nicky English who had an illustrious career for various Premier County Senior hurling sides.

In the same year, John was part of the St Finbarr’s side that won the Cork Minor hurling championship.

The Barrs before the 1985 final. Back: Mick Slocum, Christy Ryan, Jimmy Barry Murphy, John Kerins, Kevin Scanlan, Declan O'Mahony, Brendan Searls, Damian Philpott, Tony Leahy. Front: Paddy Hayes, John Cremin, Gene Desmond (c), Dave Barry, John Meyler, Mick Carey.
The Barrs before the 1985 final. Back: Mick Slocum, Christy Ryan, Jimmy Barry Murphy, John Kerins, Kevin Scanlan, Declan O'Mahony, Brendan Searls, Damian Philpott, Tony Leahy. Front: Paddy Hayes, John Cremin, Gene Desmond (c), Dave Barry, John Meyler, Mick Carey.

His career in hurling after that included playing as number one choice with Barrs Intermediate side and reserve to Ger Cunningham for five years.

In 1980 he also played with the Cork minor footballers that lost to Kerry in the Munster final and a year later he was reserve keeper to Michael Creedon after Cork had defeated Galway in a replay to win the U21 All-Ireland football championship.

Kerins was now an integral part of the Cork Senior football team and was part of the team that defeated Kerry in the 1982 Munster football final before bowing out to Roscommon in the All Ireland semi-final.

His senior championship debut was against Clare and with the one exception he played in every championship game up to the All-Ireland semi-final of 1994 a record few can boast in the sport.

When Cork finally did make the breakthrough in 1987 under Billy Morgan’s management Kerins was to play a significant part.

His reflexes and quick thinking were seen at their best when Cork were trailing by a single point against Kerry after Mikey Sheehy had scored a late goal.

The end result saw Cork get a free kick from the huge Kerins kick out which Larry Tompkins put over for a point to force a replay in Killarney.

While Cork suffered back to back defeats to Meath in the All-Ireland football finals of 1987 and 1988 (in a replay) the county won four provincial titles back to back for the first time.

Following two years of sheer disappointment for Kerins and his Cork teammates All-Ireland success finally came their way in 1989 when the Rebels defeated Mayo in the decider.

At club level Kerins was also making his mark as he helped St Finbarr’s win the All-Ireland when defeating a highly rated Clann Na Gael from Roscommon and also received the first of his two All-Stars in 1987.

Former Cork goalkeeper John Kerins takes a kick-out against Mayo at Croke Park in 1989. Picture: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE
Former Cork goalkeeper John Kerins takes a kick-out against Mayo at Croke Park in 1989. Picture: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE

The second All-Star came in 1990 and he also represented Munster in the Railway Cup final of 1991.

In the '90 showdown, Kerins played a major part in the Cork success as he made a crucial save early in the second half of that decider.

Kerins alertness in coming off the line to cut out a low shot from Brian Stafford when Meath were trying to dictate the game with their extra man was a defining moment in the game.

There was a major sadness in the world of GAA when John Kerins lost his battle with cancer in 2001.

Such was his popularity, Cork footballers and GAA fans in many corners of Ireland turned out to pay tribute to the man.

Among those to pay their respects were Meath greats Colm O’Rourke, Mick Lyons and a number of Kerry players.

Admired as much for his unassuming nature as his skill and sportsmanship John was simply a gentleman both and off the pitch.

Stories of the character and qualities of John Kerins will be told for many years to come and Cork fans will always remember him with special affection.

FACTFILE:

John Kerins was played a pivotal part with stunning second half save when Cork won the 1990 All-Ireland Senior football final when defeating Meath.

Kerins played his entire career with St Finbarr’s.

John played in the 1980 Munster Minor hurling final against a Tipperary team that included Ken Hogan and Nicky English.

Kerins won football All-Stars in 1987 and 1990.

He won an All-Ireland club medal with St Finbarr’s in 1987 when they defeated Clann na Gael of Roscommon.

John Kerins died at the age of 39 in August 2001.

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