John Horgan reveals his Cork hurling dream team 1970-2020

John Horgan reveals his Cork hurling dream team 1970-2020

Diarmuid O'Sullivan before the All-Ireland final. He's included in our Cork All-Star hurling 15, 1970-2020. Picture: Dan Linehan

OVER the past number of days we have listed players throughout the field who have contributed generously to Cork’s hurling cause over the past 50 years.

That’s a very long time, a half century when the Liam McCarthy Cup was a welcome visitor to Leeside on 10 different occasions.

In total we listed nearly 70 players in the different areas and the task was to select what we might consider the top 15.

Ben O'Connor celebrates scoring past Tipperary goalkeeper Brendan Cummins in the 2006 Munster hurling final at Semple Stadium, Thurles. Picture: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE
Ben O'Connor celebrates scoring past Tipperary goalkeeper Brendan Cummins in the 2006 Munster hurling final at Semple Stadium, Thurles. Picture: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE

You can use as many words as you like to describe that task, impossible, gargantuan, immense, and so on, but we did it anyway and for every position on the team that we filled there was an equally viable alternative, in a lot of cases two, three, and four players whose selection would have been justified.

We start, obviously, with the goalkeeper and here the choice was down to three, Ger Cunningham, Donal Óg Cusack, and Anthony Nash.

All quality netminders who all brought their own dimension to the game. In the end it was a choice between the Barrs man and the man from Cloyne.

Both were two of the best of all time on a national level but we came down on the side of Cunningham by a nose but really and truly it was a spin of a coin.

The full-backs that we selected were Diarmuid O’Sullivan in the right corner, not his natural position but one that he played in before going on to be great number three.

The Rock. Picture: Denis Minihane
The Rock. Picture: Denis Minihane

At full-back the choice is Martin O'Doherty ahead of Pat McDonnell and Donal O’Grady.

All three fitted the bill perfectly.

On the left, the late, great John Horgan gets the nod for the contribution he made in the late 70s and his inspirational deliveries out of defence.

He shades it ahead of the two Brian Murphys.

On to the three half-backs and on the right the choice is Tom Cashman, an absolutely brilliant hurler who was a also a top midfielder, he shades it ahead of John Gardiner.

Cork hurling All-Star Tom Cashman in action in 1987. Picture: INPHO/Billy Stickland
Cork hurling All-Star Tom Cashman in action in 1987. Picture: INPHO/Billy Stickland

In the centre few could argue with Brian Corcoran who would also be contender for corner-back and full-forward.

His inclusion surely brooks no argument but Johnny Crowley and Ronan Curran would have been very viable alternatives.

The choice at left half-back comes down to three, Denis Coughlan, Dermot McCurtain and Seán Óg Ó hAilpín.

We must mention too Wayne Sherlock, who also excelled at corner-back.

Nobody could argue with any of those but three or four into one does not fit and we came down just on the side of Denis Coughlan for his value in ’76, ’77 and ‘78. 

To midfield and we narrowed it down to five, Gerald McCarthy, Justin McCarthy, Teddy McCarthy, John Fenton and Jerry O’Connor.

Again, little or nothing to separate them but we selected Gerald and John Fenton, both were different types of players, one with a great cutting edge, the other a great stylist.

Cork legend Gerald McCarthy had great wrists, highlighted here as he cuts stone for St Finbarr's Hospital in 1970.
Cork legend Gerald McCarthy had great wrists, highlighted here as he cuts stone for St Finbarr's Hospital in 1970.

Ben O’Connor has to be included in the forward sector, like his brother Jerry, his contribution was immense in 2004 and 2005, a true artist of the game who delivered some brilliant scores.

At centre-forward you had a number of choices, going back to 1970 and the great Willie Walsh from Youghal, a fearless operator who made a huge impact even if his career was not as long as others. Mick Malone was a similar type of player, who did an immense amount of work.

Fergal McCormack made a vast contribution in 1999, a contribution that maybe wasn’t recognised at the time, but he was one of those unsung heroes as was Timmy McCarthy. Tomás Mulcahy operated on the 40 too and was a very important contributor. Again, you could select any one of them.

And then there was Timmy Crowley, who was also a very strong midfielder, another with a real cutting edge to his play. Seamus Harnedy had to be included in the long list as well. We’ll give a narrow vote to Willie Walsh even if the present generation of supporters might not have a great memory of him.

On the left it’s fairly clear that Jimmy Barry-Murphy has to be in the team, one of the true hurlers who could change the course of a game in an instant, he gets it ahead by a close margin from Tony O’Sullivan. And it was so difficult to omit the Na Piarsaigh man.

JBM hit Cork's third goal against Offaly in the '84 final.
JBM hit Cork's third goal against Offaly in the '84 final.

Of the three full-forwards, there is one obvious choice and that is Ray Cummins, a man who brought a whole new dimension to full-forward play and whose distribution set up so many big scores.

In one of the corners we are going with Charlie McCarthy, small in stature but a giant in what he was able to do.

The last spot is arguably the most difficult of all and we have three that would grace any team in any era, Seanie O’Leary, Joe Deane and Patrick Horgan, the latter maybe not as decorated as the others but a supreme artist who would fit in during any era.

Again, a toss of a coin and Horgan nicks it just by an inch ahead of Deane.

Patrick Horgan hit Kilkenny for a hat-trick last season.
Patrick Horgan hit Kilkenny for a hat-trick last season.

So that’s it. We could have named two more starting 15s that would be equally as good.

In these dark days it’s just something to merit a bit of debate and one totally accepts that the opinions of others would be more than justified.

JOHN HORGAN’S BEST CORK 15 SINCE 1970

Ger Cunningham; 

Diarmuid O’Sullivan, Martin O’Doherty, John Horgan; 

Tom Cashman, Brian Corcoran, Denis Coughlan; 

Gerald McCarthy, John Fenton; 

Ben O’Connor, Willie Walsh, Jimmy Barry-Murphy; 

Charlie McCarthy, Ray Cummins, Patrick Horgan.

Cork's three in a row captains: 1976 Ray Cummins, '77 captain Martin O'Doherty and '78 captain Charlie McCarthy with the Liam McCarthy Cup. Picture: INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan
Cork's three in a row captains: 1976 Ray Cummins, '77 captain Martin O'Doherty and '78 captain Charlie McCarthy with the Liam McCarthy Cup. Picture: INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan

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