Jimmy Barry Murphy or Marcus O'Sullivan: Pick your Rebel Legend

The Echo wants you to help decide who the best Cork sports star is since 1970
Jimmy Barry Murphy or Marcus O'Sullivan: Pick your Rebel Legend

Have your say in our Echo Rebel Legends sporting showdown...

JIMMY Barry-Murphy or Marcus O'Sullivan? 

The Echo is running a fun contest from here until March 11 where you can vote for your favourite Cork stars since 1970 and pick the winners in each round until we're left with an overall Rebel Legend winner.

There are 32 contenders, and here it's the dual GAA icon against one of Leeside's greatest athletes.

The poll will be open until 8am on Thursday morning.

Here's the case for each of the Leeside stars.


JBM as he is affectionately known, was the ultimate in the dual player role, a role that has ceased to be where the inter-county front is concerned.

Without any shadow of a doubt, apart from Christy Ring, JBM is probably the best-loved of all Cork GAA players through the ages.

He’s been there, done that as a player of immense ability in both hurling and football, an All-Ireland medal winner in both codes and at the end of a hugely successful playing career he entered the choppy waters of team management to lead Cork to a never to be forgotten All-Ireland SHC triumph in 1999.

Idolised in a red jersey, he had this unique ability to turn a game in an instant, he could be on the fringes for the vast majority of the proceedings before delivering a score that would change the course of a game.

Barry-Murphy first established himself as a dual player with the St Finbarr’s club. He made his debut on the inter-county scene at the age of 16 when he first linked up with the Cork minor teams as a dual player.

An All-Ireland medallist in both codes, he later won a combined total of three All-Ireland medals with the U21 teams.

Barry-Murphy made his senior football debut during the 1973 championship. He went on to play a key role for Cork in attack that year, under the captaincy of Billy Morgan, and won one All-Ireland medal in a memorable victory over Galway; thus ending a 28-year famine on Leeside.

He won Munster medals and one National Football League medal.

Barry-Murphy’s 11-year career with the Cork senior hurlers saw him win five All-Ireland medals, a record-equalling 10 Munster medals and two National Hurling League medals. 

He was an All-Ireland runner-up on two occasions. 

He was a major contributor to Cork’s three-in-a-row of All-Ireland hurling triumphs in 1976, 1977 and 1978.

As a member of the Munster interprovincial team in both codes, Barry-Murphy won a combined total of five Railway Cup medals.

Throughout his inter-county career, he made 57 championship appearances. Barry-Murphy retired from inter-county activity in 1987.

Jimmy Barry-Murphy in action for the Cork hurlers in 1984, when he won his fifth senior All-Ireland, and fourth hurling. Picture: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE
Jimmy Barry-Murphy in action for the Cork hurlers in 1984, when he won his fifth senior All-Ireland, and fourth hurling. Picture: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE

Following a successful tenure as manager of the Cork minor team, culminating in the winning of the All-Ireland title, Barry-Murphy was appointed manager of the Cork senior team in October 1995 for the first time. 

That first tenure saw a return to success for the Rebel County, with Cork winning one All-Ireland Championship, two Munster Championships and one National League in 1998, before stepping down as manager in November 2000.

Barry-Murphy subsequently enjoyed unsuccessful tenures as coach with the St Finbarr’s and Cloughduv club teams.

Over a decade after stepping down as Cork manager, he was appointed for a second tenure as Cork hurling boss in 2011. Once again his managerial reign saw a return to success, with Cork winning one Munster Championship and the county lost to Clare in the replayed All-Ireland final of 2013.

In August of August 2015, Barry-Murphy was inducted into the GAA Hall of Fame, an honour that was so richly deserved for one of Cork’s most iconic sporting figures.

This year he was on the sideline when St Finbarr’s regained the Cork County Premier Minor Hurling after a very lengthy gap.

No doubt his presence was a major contributory factor in that victory alongside the rest of the management team and one is certain his fervent wish is that the victory can act as a launchpad for glory in the senior championship.


WHEN it comes to Irish athletics, there is no doubting that Sonia O’Sullivan is in the pantheon, winning an Olympic silver medal as well as World Championship gold and silver.

Her views carry weight, so it should be taken as a strong endorsement of her namesake Marcus that she classes his victory in the Wanamaker Mile in 1988 as her favourite sporting memory. A student at Villanova — having been shown around there by Marcus, who convinced her to attend there — she travelled up to Madison Square Garden with friends and witnessed a superb performance. While she was familiar with Marcus, in her eyes he still carried an aura.

“To me, Marcus was still in that category of people that you got nervous and shy around, or if you crossed paths in the park, you’d get an extra spring in your step for the rest of the run. Marcus was out there running around just like I was. He was living the dream I was still dreaming about.” 

And a dream it was for much of Marcus O’Sullivan’s teenage years, as he wasn’t amassing the typical medal haul of an athletics phenom. International recognition bypassed him and his times weren’t of the level that had the American scholarships coming through the letterbox.

His story is one of perseverance and squeezing every drop out of himself, guided by coach Donie Walsh. 

After finishing school, he worked for a year in Kinsale making sails; returning home in the evening and logging 10 or 12 miles.

When he ran 3:47 in a 1500m race the following summer, Walsh used his contacts at Villanova to canvass successfully on O’Sullivan’s behalf.

While the initial bedding-in period wasn’t without its challenges — more than once, Walsh had to convince him not to pack it in – slowly he began to develop as an athlete, all while working towards an accounting degree.

He made the Irish team for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles but could only reach the semi-finals of the 800m and 1500m races.

By the time of the next Olympics in Seoul four years later, he was a world indoor 1500m champion as well as having picked up a first Wanamaker Mile title.

He was in form coming into Seoul, having won a second Wanamaker Mile, but finished eighth in the 1500m final, when a podium finish wouldn’t have been fanciful.

The disappointment could have knocked the stuffing out of him but instead he bounced back to win another world indoor title in 1989 and added a third in 1993.

Marcus O'Sullivan on the move.
Marcus O'Sullivan on the move.

There were four more Wanamaker Miles too, in 1989, 1990, 1992 and 1996. There were two more Olympic appearances too, in 1992 and 1996, and in 1998 he became only the third man in history to run 100 sub-four-minute miles. Just to be sure, he added a 101st in case any of the previous century were disputed.

For the past two decades, he has been the men’s track and field coach at Villanova, passing on the wisdom he gleaned from Donie Walsh.

“Coaches are teachers and parents and the beauty of it is seeing a growth in individuals athletically, physically, mentally, psychologically and I’m in the perfect spot. I can help influence it, shape it.”

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