The Leeside legends series: Corcoran was a majestic hurler in every position

The Leeside legends series: Corcoran was a majestic hurler in every position
TWO LEGENDS: Cork's Brian Corcoran clears from Limerick's Ciaran Carey during the Munster SHC in Thurles in 2000. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

THEY named Brian Corcoran ‘Cú Chulainn’ in Caherlag, after the fabled Irish demigod. 

That was a very apt description of one of the greatest-ever Cork hurlers. As a player, Brian Corcoran had few peers. He was an All-Star in three very different positions across two decades, and for good measure excelled at every level of football as well.

For 10 years, no man had given more to the cause of Cork hurling and football than Corcoran, until, at the age of 28, he shocked GAA fans with his decision to retire. Thankfully he returned for another three years, adding two Munster and two All-Ireland medals, and a second senior county, to an already impressive list of honours.

Corcoran hails from Glounthaune and spent many hours as a youngster honing his skills, whether in football or in hurling, with a ball or with a sliotar.

The hard work and natural talent made Brian Corcoran a colossus. Picture: Richard Mills.
The hard work and natural talent made Brian Corcoran a colossus. Picture: Richard Mills.

All his practice was to pay off with his first championship, in 1988, when Midleton won the Dr Harty Cup.

As a young lad, he had joined the Erin’s Own club, but it was not until 1991 that Corcoran was to enjoy a major club success when he helped them win the East Cork U21 hurling championship. They defeated a strong Midleton outfit.

1992 proved to be one of Brian’s greatest years at club level, when Erin’s Own won their first Cork County senior hurling championship, beating Na Piarsaigh 1-12 to 0-12.

Corcoran breaks from Imokilly. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Corcoran breaks from Imokilly. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Along with another great Erin’s Own clubman, Timmy Kelleher, Corcoran almost single-handedly shattered Na Piarsaigh’s dream that historic day.

Corcoran finished the game with 11 points, in a performance that will long be remembered.

And Corcoran was the championship’s top-scorer, amassing 44 points.

Cork captain Brian Corcoran lifts the cup after the 1993 league final replay against Wexford. Picture: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE
Cork captain Brian Corcoran lifts the cup after the 1993 league final replay against Wexford. Picture: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE

His inter-county career makes for fascinating reading. He was selected on the Cork minor football team in 1988, at the age of 15, and he eventually won an All-Ireland minor football medal, in 1991, when Cork defeated Mayo.

When the name ‘Brian Corcoran’ is mentioned by GAA fans, the words ‘burned out’ are also spoken, because the belief is that he played too much hurling and football, at all levels, at too young an age.

However, Corcoran has explained his reason for hanging up his boots.

“At the time, the whole structure of the GAA was mind-boggling, as just take 1991, when I played minor hurling and football with Cork and Erin’s Own and U21 hurling and football with Cork and Erin’s Own,” Corcoran said.

“I was involved with senior hurling with Erin’s Own and Imokilly and also part of the Cork senior football team. That brought my total to 13 teams in the one season,” he said.

In football league action against Cavan. Picture: Richard Mills. 
In football league action against Cavan. Picture: Richard Mills. 

He added: “I was playing all these games, week in and week out, and other players at the top level were lucky to be playing once a month.

“I am not personally blaming anybody, because when I played, I personally enjoyed it, but, in later years, it became a chore and I knew then it was time to say goodbye,” Corcoran said.

Corcoran joined the Cork hurling panel in 1991 and the following year tasted defeat in the All-Ireland final when the Rebels lost to Kilkenny, 3-10 to 1-12. Remarkably for such a young hurler, he still picked up an All-Star at corner-back.

On the inter-county football scene, there was also disappointment for Brian, in 1993, when they lost the senior All-Ireland final to Derry, 1-14 to 2-8. The following season though, he helped the U21s capture the All-Ireland, having landed the big prize at minor with many of the same group three years earlier.

September 12, 1999 is a date that will be long-remembered by all hurling fans. That day, Corcoran rose to new heights when Cork shocked Kilkenny to win the All-Ireland final, 0-13 to 0-12.

Corcoran was later voted ‘Hurler of the Year’, as well as receiving his second All-Star, as well as the Man of the Match award in that dogged decider with the Cats.

One major disappointment for Corcoran came in 2000 when Erin’s Own lost to Newtownshandrum in the Cork senior county championship final.

His skills on the ball, his ability to pick out his man, some breathtaking strikes from dead balls, and his closing down of opposing attackers set the Erin’s Own man a class apart.

Brian shoots for goal against Tipp in '06. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Brian shoots for goal against Tipp in '06. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Cork hurling and football will always be strong, but it was all the poorer for Brian Corcoran’s early retirement. Good guys do come first and Corcoran was as good as they get.

Thankfully he enjoyed a stunning comeback after pulling back on the club colours in a league match he was recalled to the Cork panel for 2004.

The Cork forward line of Niall McCarthy, Joe Deane, Brian Corcoran, Kieran Murphy, Ben O'Connor and Timmy McCarthy. Picture: INPHO/Dan Sheridan
The Cork forward line of Niall McCarthy, Joe Deane, Brian Corcoran, Kieran Murphy, Ben O'Connor and Timmy McCarthy. Picture: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

He came off the bench against Limerick to famously shoot a point from his knees before leading the line in All-Ireland triumphs in '04-'05, getting an All-Star at number 14 to go with awards at corner-back and centre-back.

Though Kilkenny halted Cork's three-in-a-row bid in Corcoran's last game for Cork, he signed off with another county medal after a memorable clash with Cloyne when he shot two crucial points. 

He also published a well-received autobiography: Every Single Ball.

Brian Corcoran and Peter Kelly celebrate Erin’s Own’s county final win over Cloyne in 2006. Picture: Matt Browne/SPORTSFILE
Brian Corcoran and Peter Kelly celebrate Erin’s Own’s county final win over Cloyne in 2006. Picture: Matt Browne/SPORTSFILE

FACTFILE:

Brian Corcoran began playing hurling and football at the age of eight with his club Erin's Own.

Corcoran played hurling and football at minor level for Cork between 1988 to 1991.

Brian’s first senior All-Ireland medal with Cork came in 1999 when they defeated Kilkenny in the decider. He'd add to those in 2004 and '05.

He was part of the Erin’s Own side that won their first Cork Senior Hurling Championship in 1992, scoring 11 points in their 1-12 to 0-12 win against Na Piarsaigh.

Brian retired from hurling in 2001 at the age of 28 before returning to win back-to-back All-Irelands, and another county with Erin's Own.

Brian Corcoran celebrates the last point with Joe Deane in 2004. Picture: Pat Murphy/SPORTSFILE
Brian Corcoran celebrates the last point with Joe Deane in 2004. Picture: Pat Murphy/SPORTSFILE

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