The definite history of the Ban and Cork GAA, 50 years on from Rule 27 ending

Plunkett Carter looks at how Cork greats from Jack Lynch and Mick Kenefick to Dinny Allen and JBM were impacted
The definite history of the Ban and Cork GAA, 50 years on from Rule 27 ending

Cork Hibs and Dinny Allen celebrate after winning the FAI Cup in 1973. From left, John Brohan, Frankie Connolly, Carl Humphries, Declan O'Mahony (goalie slightly behind), John Lawson, Sonny Sweeney, Dave Bacuzzi, Gerry Coyne, Dave Wiggington, Dinny Allen, Noel O'Mahony (in suit), Martin 'Fada' Sheehan. 

FIFTY years ago, on Easter Sunday, April 11, 1971, in the space of a minute, at 11.45am, in the improbable setting of the Sir William Whitla Hall, at Queen’s University, Con Short of Armagh formally moved, and Tom Woulfe (Dublin) seconded, the removal of the Ban.

No show of hands was taken on Rule 27. There was near unanimity as only two counties, Antrim and Sligo, voted for its retention.

The most controversial rule in Irish sport was removed without emotion or discussion, as was the rule barring foreign dances.

Uactharán Pat Fanning, a supporter of the Ban, by steering the rules through without discussion, defused a potentially explosive situation.

Loud applause greeted his remarks when he said: “Today let there be no sounding of trumpets as a rule disappears. Nor should there be talk of defeat”.

In what was perhaps the most traumatic moments in its history, the GAA had produced a man equal to the occasion; its President Pat Fanning. A delicate formula was needed to reconcile diehards to a momentous change.

In addressing the delegates, he said: “Since only two counties, Sligo and Antrim, now supported the Ban, there was no point in discussion.”

He then suggested that the motion to delete the rule be formally proposed, seconded, and declared passed.

For one man more than any other, the deletion of Rule 27 might well have been accepted as a personal triumph. However, Ballybunion-born Tom Woulfe, a Dublin delegate, talking to the press, said he got no personal satisfaction from its removal.

In 1948 as a member of the county’s vigilance committee, Woulfe reported a top inter-provincial Gaelic footballer for playing soccer. Sadly, that man never played Gaelic football again and was lost to the game.

Woulfe told the Cork Examiner’s Val Dorgan during a lull in the convention at Queens: 

I felt unclean coming out of Dalymount Park that day and from that point onwards I was committed to opposing the Ban."

The removal of the Ban also meant an armistice for all players suspended under exclusion rules, including Mick O’Connell. The Kerryman, one of Gaelic football’s greatest players, was banned after his picture appeared on the Irish Independent six weeks earlier watching Cork Hibs and Waterford in the FAI Cup at Flower Lodge. Mick, an ardent supporter of other field sports, had evaded the Ban on numerous occasions during his career.

Mick O’Connell in the grandstand at Flower Lodge during the Cork Hibs v Waterford FAI Cup tie in 1971. Picture: B McGill.
Mick O’Connell in the grandstand at Flower Lodge during the Cork Hibs v Waterford FAI Cup tie in 1971. Picture: B McGill.

Six years earlier the Annual Congress of the GAA firmly rejected all motions aimed at removing the Ban on foreign games. The most comprehensive of these motions, tabled by Dublin and designed to allow GAA players and members play or attend foreign games, received only 52 votes. It would have required a two-thirds majority (188) of the 282 to gain approval. Tom Woulfe in moving the motion, listed Dr Croke (in his second letter) Maurice Davin, the most important person in the founding of the GAA, and Pádraig Pearse as supporting his approach: No Ban, just support and priority for Irish games.

He also told delegates that in 1924 the Cork Co Board unanimously passed a motion supporting the Ban’s removal which was backed by Tom Dooley, the man who proposed the introduction of the Ban in the early days of the GAA.

It was ironic that it was Pat Fanning who then moved a direct negative saying: “The motion at Congress was the end of a campaign which was waged for a long time in which the bones of the dead were rattled and uncorroborated statements made.”

Cork delegate Weeshie Murphy said: “If one allowed members to attend foreign games they were promoting and supporting them,” while Gene Fitzgerald, also of Cork, in seconding a direct negative to the removal of Rule 29 regarding foreign dances remarked: “In Cork the rule was enforced. 

Clubs had been reprimanded and players suspended for advertising or attending foreign dances.”

GAA people everywhere will recall divisive cases where the controversial rule impacted on their own clubs. It goes without saying that when you join an organisation you agree to abide by and be bound by its rules. Here we will look at the bigger picture in reminiscing on some high-profile affairs that made the news headlines during the Ban’s 70-year history, beginning with the Tom Irwin case which brought the Cork County Board into conflict with Central Council.

Tom Irwin, holder of two All-Ireland senior hurling medals, was the original all-round sportsman and represented Cork in hurling, Gaelic football, cricket, rugby, and soccer at a time when the enforced Ban rule prevented some of the county’s best sportsmen from participating in national past-times.

Tom Irwin, second from right, seen here just months before he disappeared, prior to refereeing a Cork v Clare football match in 1920. Also in picture from left M P O’Sullivan (Treasurer Cork GAA), J Foran (Clare), Sean McCarthy (Chairman Cork GAA), Tomás Mac Curtain (Lord Mayor) and Mick Murphy (Cork capt).
Tom Irwin, second from right, seen here just months before he disappeared, prior to refereeing a Cork v Clare football match in 1920. Also in picture from left M P O’Sullivan (Treasurer Cork GAA), J Foran (Clare), Sean McCarthy (Chairman Cork GAA), Tomás Mac Curtain (Lord Mayor) and Mick Murphy (Cork capt).

Tom was expelled from the Association by the County Board in 1896 for playing rugby. He appealed his expulsion to the National Executive and it was upheld as the Ban rule had been quietly discarded at the adjourned Congress of 1896 from which Cork was denied representation as it had not paid its affiliation fee.

Cork was furious as its convention had voted overwhelmingly for the retention of the Ban. Cork chairman Michael Deering, later to become President of the GAA, warned that they would employ all their strength towards the reintroduction of the Ban rule.

Deering died in 1901 and it was a Dublin proposal at the 1902 Congress which brought the Ban back in force.

By now Tom Irwin, who had always been anti-Ban, was secretary of Cork County Board and delegate Matt O’Riordan moved an amendment at Congress in 1903 which was carried: “That the enforcement of the ban be at the discretion of county committees.”

The 1904 GAA convention (held in January 1905) brought back the Ban as an obligatory rule which stated: “That players and patrons of rugby, soccer, cricket, and other alien games be refused admission into the ranks of the GAA.”

Cork proposed an amendment that sought to maintain the status co, ie that the enforcement be at the discretion of county committees. It was unsuccessful and the motion was carried by 46 to 32. It was now written in stone and for the following 66 years it became an immovable object.

Cork came back the following year when another delegate, Walter Parfrey, a prominent soccer star and possibly not the ideal choice, proposed at Congress: “That players suspended under Rule 28 during the past year be reinstated.” was also defeated. Two years later the same delegate proposed another failed motion: “That the Rule relating to police, soldiers, etc, be rescinded.”

Cork, previously stringent enforcers of the Ban, seemed to be adopting a very liberal attitude towards the administration of the rule which, in hindsight, was not too surprising, as apart from Tom Irwin’s illegal playing practices, other leading GAA figures, Walter Parfrey and Billy Mackessy, were well-known exponents of the Garrison Game.

Parfrey was top class and won a Munster Senior Cup medal with Cork Celtic. Cork’s liberal attitude was challenged when a coup engineered by JJ Walsh succeeded in 1909 in having most of the senior officers replaced by his own supporters.

Matt O’Riordan (chairman), Jim Harrington (treasurer), Tom Dooley and William Curtain were ousted, but Tom Irwin defied all attempts to move him out or dilute his powers and continued in office until 1921.

However, under JJ Walsh’s watch, there were no further challenges to the Ban but during the War of Independence, the Cork County Board became more intolerant of foreign sport.

They demanded that Christian Brothers College, where Gaelic games were then strong, withdraw from rugby if they wished to continue playing national games. The Christian Brothers would not be dictated to and decided to continue playing rugby. It was with delight that CBC were welcomed back to the fold in 2015.


Tipperary had been disqualified from the Munster Hurling Championship in 1938 due to “illegally” fielding a player against Clare — Jimmy Cooney, whose suspension for attending a rugby match was deemed not to be over by the Central Council.

In February 1938 he accompanied his brother, who was on holiday from his priestly duties in New Zealand to a rugby international in Dublin.

He received three months suspension and in due course was reinstated. Tipperary were delighted that he would be available for duty in the Munster Championship. But, alas, their dream was shattered!

Ten days before attending the rugby game, Cooney forwarded his requisite declaration form to the Tipperary Board, but for some reason it was not sent to Central Council until Easter and the then President of the GAA, Padraig McNamee, ruled the declaration invalid because Cooney was debarred from all GAA activities (even making a declaration) while suspended and would thus be unable to play in the Munster Championship.

The Tipperary Board were furious and threw caution to the wind by playing Cooney in the Whit Tournament in London and in the Munster semi-final against Clare.

Clare duly objected to Cooney and were awarded the game. Tipperary counter-objected on the grounds that a member of the Clare team also attended the same rugby match.

The only evidence was a statement by Jimmy Cooney which was not admissible because of his status as a suspended player.


One of the most controversial episodes in the GAA’s history was the removal of Ireland’s first president, Douglas Hyde, as patron of the GAA.

He had attended a soccer match accompanied by Taoiseach Eamon De Valera between Ireland and Poland just months after his inauguration as president and this breached the GAA’s Ban on “foreign games”.

Dev too came in for criticism, but he could not be sanctioned as he was not a member of the GAA, the Ban being the reason he had not taken the option.

Tens of thousands of words were written on the controversy and in his thesis, An Astounding Moment of Aberration, Cormac Moore wrote: “A decision to attend was made regardless of the consequences as soccer was seen by the President, according to his secretary Michael McDunphy, as a popular sport amongst a very large section of the Irish people, a big number of whom are earnest workers in the National Movement.

“McDunphy also expressed the view that the President did not want: ‘to ally himself with the narrow parochial outlook of those who regard it as an offence against nationality to play or even look at any healthy game of which they did not personally approve’.

“It is hard to see how the President could have come to any other conclusion. Did the GAA expect the President of the State to refuse every invitation received for every event organised by one of the “foreign games” for his seven years as President?

“For the President to do so would have been a gross dereliction of his duties. He could not have called himself impartial and above politics.”

The GAA firmly believed they were taking the only course open to them when Hyde attended the soccer match. They argued that the rules were absolute and no one could breach them regardless of their station in life.

Despite the universal criticism the controversy, rather than weaken, strengthened the resolve of the supporters of the Ban, suggesting that one would need to have lived in the early decades of that century to appreciate their reasons for once more digging their heels in.

Today, the attendance of the Irish president at sporting matches is the norm. Few complain about it when the president steps out onto the Aviva pitch to greet players in green shirts no more than they do when he/she attends Croke Park in September. The president represents all people in the nation, regardless of what they play and his visit to the Aviva for the soccer international against Poland in 2015 was in stark contrast to Dr Douglas Hyde’s inaugural attendance when Poland visited our country for the first time in 1938.


Cork won the second of their four in a row All-Ireland Senior Hurling titles in 1942, captained by Jack Lynch.

Early in 1943 Lynch, a student in UCC, watched the final Irish rugby trial from the pavilion at the Mardyke. TP O’Mahony recalls the sequel in his little gem, Jack Lynch A Biography. Cork were playing a National Hurling League game the following week and eyebrows were raised when Lynch was omitted. Without being informed, Lynch had been suspended and TP informs us that Lynch wrote an appeal to the Munster Council which he was forced to withdraw because he had not signed his name in Irish.

Jack Lynch captain of Cork when they won the McCarthy Cup in 1942 was suspended for attending a rugby match.
Jack Lynch captain of Cork when they won the McCarthy Cup in 1942 was suspended for attending a rugby match.

Two years earlier, according to TP, the future Taoiseach was involved in another controversy when he refused to attend a Railway Cup medal presentation ceremony in support of his friend and teammate Jim Young who was barred from the event because he attended a rugby club dance at the Metropole Hotel. Young received a three-month suspension.

Limerick hurling legend Mick Mackey’s weekly attendance at rugby matches posed major problems for the GAA; no way could they suspend their greatest ever player so they made him a vigilante whose job it was to report Gaels for rules transgression such as watching rugby at Thomond or Dooradoyle where himself was a permanent fixture.

Derry Beckett, a dual All-Ireland senior medallist and also a member of the four-in-a-row team, suspended himself by playing soccer with the famous Cork Utd.

Soccer International Liam O’Neill (Sars) led a charmed life winning a Harty Cup with Jack Lynch’s North Mon team in 1934 and a Munster Schools Rugby medal with PBC the same year when he was photographed on the Cork Examiner scoring a try.

In 1934, Ireland drew 4-4 with Belgium in the World Cup at Dalymount Park and the team included Miah Lynch, Fox Foley, and Timothy Jim O’Keefe, all “former” members of the Geraldines GAA club from the Albert Road area.

Fox and Timothy Jim concentrated on soccer but Miah, who always had a grá for the national games, couldn’t resist the occasional opportunity to drive the sliotar; a player as well known as he couldn’t be disguised and was suspended when reported to have played for Geraldines under an assumed name.

When his soccer days ended his application for reinstatement was accepted and he was magnificent on the Barrs team which defeated the Glen in the 1946 County final.

Foley, O’Keeffe, and Burke were all on the Cork FC team which won the FAI Cup in 1934 along with Bobby Buckle who was reinstated and helped St Nick’s win the County Senior Football title in 1941.

A few of the international stars who led 'double lives' included internationals Jackie Carey, Con Martin, and Martin O’Neill. Carey, who was capped 29 times by Ireland and skippered Man Utd to FA Cup victory in 1948, was expected to play with the Dublin junior footballers until it was discovered that he was a prominent soccer youth star and was shown the exit door.

Con Martin’s one great sporting regret was that he missed out on a Sam Maguire Cup medal. He was in line for that honour as he starred on the Dublin team which won the Leinster title in 1942, but a vigilante spotted him playing with Drumcondra and he was expelled. Dublin went on to beat Galway in the All-Ireland final. Martin captained the North as well as the Republic and was the last Republic international to play for the North.

Former Ireland manager Martin O’Neill, a Derry GAA starlet, was destined for a glittering career, but he breached Rule 27 when he signed for Distillery FC and was on a collision course with the Antrim County Board. When his school team St Malachy’s, Belfast, reached the 1970 McRory final, the blue riband of the Ulster Colleges football, the Antrim Board refused to allow the game to go ahead at Casement Park.

The colleges involved switched the venue to County Tyrone to enable O’Neill to play and he inspired them to victory. However, ultimate glory was not theirs as they came up short against Coláiste Chríost Rí in the All-Ireland Colleges final.

Incidentally, the first Cork-born international to score for Ireland was the former Cobh GAA senior county winning medalist Jack O’Sullivan (Fordsons) who netted against Belgium in 1928.

Arguably the highest-profile of all the dual code stars was Kevin Moran who scaled the summit in two different codes, Gaelic football and soccer.

Kevin was a signed player with Bohs before making his debut with Dublin’s Heffo’s Army. Kevin, a GAA All-Star in 1976, won-back-to-back All-Irelands with Dublin in 1976 and 77 before signing for Man Utd in 1978. He won FA Cup medals with United in 1983 and 85.

Wembley Stadium in 1985 was a bitter-sweet occasion for the Dubliner as he made history by being the first player ever to be sent off in an FA Cup final after fouling Everton’s Peter Reid.


It has become fashionable to declare that one once played Gaelic football; here is how Wikipedia profiles Spanish international superstar Xabi Alonso, “at the age of 15, Alonso went to the Irish town of Kells, County Meath on a school exchange programme to learn English. There, he helped the local Kells junior football team to win an All-Ireland junior club title in Keating Park”.

“I watched the Gaelic football but it was too quick. At that moment I wasn’t ready to play,” Alonso told Mirror Sport.

“Of course I like Ireland. I have played there one summer when I was young and I really like it,” he told the Irish Daily Star.

When asked by a Madrid magazine, “Is it true that you played Gaelic football there?” He answered “Yes, I did play that. It was very different, and has nothing in common with football.”

The big question here is, 'do you believe the story'?

Chelsea's Damien Duff and Liverpool's Xabi Alonso in action. Picture: Rebecca Naden/PA.
Chelsea's Damien Duff and Liverpool's Xabi Alonso in action. Picture: Rebecca Naden/PA.

In the early 1930s, the GAA vigilantes were on the warpath and at every meeting of the county board matters relating to violations of the Ban rule had to be dealt with as well as regular requests for reinstatement.

Of course, dozens slipped under the radar including a Lough Rovers sextet of Ginger McCarthy, Mick O’Keeffe, Dinny Browne, Paddy Ring, Jimmy Corcoran, and Florry Kelly, all of whom played with Greenmount Rangers AFC — newsworthy only as a result of that soccer team winning the inaugural Free State Minor Cup in 1935.

Another blatant example of the rule’s transgression was the appearance of international rugby player Tom Clifford, wearing his Garryowen socks, starring for St Barry’s at the old Athletic Grounds.

The inevitable subsequent objection from the losing team (Brian Dillon’s) was ruled out of order as a result of a technicality.

Eventually, St Barry’s did pay the price for their regular breaches of the rules and were suspended.

Tom Cheasty, remember him, the great Waterford hurler was another to bite the bullet after attending a foreign dance.

However, every cloud has a silver lining. If it weren’t for the Ban, Glen’s Dave Creedon, All-Ireland medallist in 1941 and '46, would have ended his career with just those two Celtic crosses.

In 1952 goalkeeper Mick Cashman was injured and replacement Jim Cotter (Barrs) was ill. Third choice keeper Sean Carroll (Sars) was suspended for playing inter-firm soccer so veteran Creedon responded to the emergency and starred on the team which defeated Dublin in the final.

He went on to win two more medals in 1953 and '54.

Former soccer super-star Liam Brady was one of many schoolboy internationals to be discriminated against for representing his country rather than play in colleges GAA games.

Liam was, reportedly, expelled shortly before he was due to sit his Inter Cert. Age did not guarantee immunity from suspension although the ban rule was rarely implemented at primary school level and players switched from foreign to national games without penalties. However, soccer starlets weren’t popular with some teachers in the schools run by the Presentation and Christian Brothers.

Needless to say in those dark ages, pupils being chosen to represent their country at soccer was never a cause for congratulation or celebration as were similar re-occurring cases on Leeside.

In one southside establishment Jerry O’Brien, Pat Murray, and Pat O’Mahony, after having been chosen to represent Ireland, instead of being congratulated, were threatened not with a GAA ban which would have been fine, but with expulsion.

In another case of gross over-reaction, the School Shield Committee (1949) being concerned that their football competitions were becoming a breeding ground for soccer dispensed with their U13 grade altogether.

Br Mel of Greenmount NS and a member of Cork County Board withdrew his team (prolific winners) from all football competitions. The school returned to action in 1957 after his departure.

How many of you have noticed the soccer team photos of the Ban era where individuals with something to hide appeared to be looking for shamrock?

This was a regular feature of photos published in the newspapers and reminds us of an incident involving another of Cork hurling’s four-in-a-row captains Mick Kenefick who didn’t do a great job of concealing his identity in a juvenile soccer team photo from 1938.

Celtic Utd, MFA Schoolboys Cup and Shield winners 1938. Back: F Cahilane, J Bickerstaffe, Con 'Brasso' McCarthy, Mick Kenefick, Dave McGrath, J Power, Freddie Richmond, S Furlong, C Rea, T Foley or T Cahilane, P Bickerstaffe. Front: D Buckley, B Murphy, S Mulcahy, Paddy Noonan (c), M Murphy, Christy Quinn. The lad with his hand up to his face, Mick Kenefick, was then a hurler with North Mon and captained Cork to win the 1943 All-Ireland title. Freddie Richmond another Harty Cup winner smiled for the camera.
Celtic Utd, MFA Schoolboys Cup and Shield winners 1938. Back: F Cahilane, J Bickerstaffe, Con 'Brasso' McCarthy, Mick Kenefick, Dave McGrath, J Power, Freddie Richmond, S Furlong, C Rea, T Foley or T Cahilane, P Bickerstaffe. Front: D Buckley, B Murphy, S Mulcahy, Paddy Noonan (c), M Murphy, Christy Quinn. The lad with his hand up to his face, Mick Kenefick, was then a hurler with North Mon and captained Cork to win the 1943 All-Ireland title. Freddie Richmond another Harty Cup winner smiled for the camera.

Mick deserved a medal for his attendance alone as his father, a great Gael and nationalist, was then a member of the Cork GAA Vigilant Committee whose task it was to report on members contravening the rules.


The banned sports included rugby, soccer, cricket, and hockey. Does anyone remember members being suspended for supporting or playing cricket and hockey?

Why wasn’t squash (founded in Harrow, England in 1830), a proscribed sport?

If it had, two of hurling and football’s greatest ever exponents Christy Ring and Eamon Young would have been on the naughty list!

In 1934 the Camogie Association responded to the threat posed by 'foreign' hockey by imposing a six-month suspension on camogie girls found to be playing the game of hockey. This approach inevitably damaged camogie and, under pressure from the Dublin County Board, within a few years, the Camogie Association removed the ban on foreign games.

However, the Ulster Camogie Council reacted against this move and maintained its hockey ban, refusing to play matches against counties that had lifted it.

Within months, in its determination to be Irish at all costs, the Ulster Council along with other detractors had established its own rival 'National Camoguidheacht Association'.

It took more than two years, and the input of GAA officials as mediators, to achieve amalgamation and the formation of a new All-Ireland Camogie Association.

Anyone who followed Cork soccer in the '60s will have heard of four-goal McCole. Just years before arriving on Leeside to play with Cork Hibs John McCole was leading scorer with Leeds. He scored four goals on his debut in Flower Lodge and in an article published around that time told journalists that while on holidays in Donegal, he played centre-field for Gweedore Gaelic football team and his partner was none other than Pat Crerand of Man Utd and Celtic.

GAA all-star Brian McEniff was another with a story to tell and he still loves nothing better than regaling listeners with tales of his appearances with Cork Hibs in the League of Ireland.

Brian maintains that he took the assumed name Rooney after the Dublin dustman of that name, played by John Gregson in the film Rooney, lined out in the All-Ireland hurling final with Kilkenny.

McEniff definitely played with Hibs but the Cork team wouldn’t be so naive as to play him under an unregistered name so he lined out against Sligo using the name of a signed player.

Irish soccer international Miah Dennehy won a provincial GAA championship medal with Warwickshire while playing professionally in England.


In 1965 Clonakilty star Flor Hayes was the central figure in one of the most controversial internal disputes to have dogged Cork GAA over the years.

Flor was working and living in Waterford and his sporting prowess brought him to the attention of Waterford AFC, then the leading soccer team in the country.

Flor’s involvement with Waterford returned to haunt him in dramatic circumstances — in the dressing room in Killarney minutes before the start of the Munster senior football semi-final against Limerick.

With the Cork team already togged out Flor suffered the humiliation of being told to tog off again as he was being dropped. He was told that an objection would be raised if he played and Cork would be disqualified.

In the event, a deeply divided and disillusioned Cork side was defeated by Limerick in the most sensational shock result of the decade.

Well-known soccer players Johnnie Vaughan, Johnnie Moloney, and Frankie Cantwell (to mention but a few) were illegal when winning GAA county medals with well-known city clubs.

There was no let-up in the 1960s to illegal trafficking and those who evaded the vigilantes included Cork footballers Eric Philpott, Seamus Coughlan, and Jimmy Barry-Murphy.

Years later after the lifting of the ban JBM annoyed the Barrs’ management by playing with Cork Celtic and was omitted from their team.

The Barrs had greater reason to be annoyed when star player Con Roche was forced to miss the 1965 county final against the Glen when reported for attending a rugby match at Musgrave Park.

Con Roche was suspended three times.
Con Roche was suspended three times.

He was again reported for watching another oval ball match at the Mardyke and received a second ban. Roche was tried in circumstances tantamount to a 'star chamber', the identity of his accuser was not revealed. But members of his 'fan club' managed to identify the informer who was unceremoniously cleansed in the River Lee after a Eucharistic Cup hurling match at the Mardyke.

Roche 'sinned' a third time when, after the ending of the ban, he played inter-pub soccer contravening a Barrs club rule and received an internal ban.

Derry Hayes was also an All-Ireland senior medallist to breach the ban rule, not once but twice.

Tom Furlong another dual inter-country star was reported for watching a junior soccer match at Church Road near his home in Blackrock.

John Coughlan recalls being selected for the first Cork Schoolboys’ League team to play Bradford in 1949 and having to withdraw as he had been chosen for the Cork minor hurling team to play Tipperary in the Munster Championship.

I noticed from an old Nemo photo that prominent soccer stars like John Sutherland (Everton) who won an FAI Minor medal with Evergreen before transferring to Everton, Patons Keating (who signed for Sheff United) and Tommy Ryan (Cork Athletic) all were trophy winners with the South Douglas Road Gaels.

Dunbar Celtic star Donie Leahy who later went on to become one of the League of Ireland’s all-time greats was selected for and played on both the Cork U15 hurling (representing Glen Rovers) and schoolboys soccer teams.

Donie, however, was deprived of an opportunity of playing in Croke Park as he was removed from the selected Cork side after Fr Nessan OFM was given a photo of him in a soccer team.

In the 1950s, Cork and Glen Rovers star Johnny Clifford tasted the forbidden fruit when playing an international trial as a member of St Mary’s. Noel Lynam was one who appeared to have a charmed life managing to play with some of Cork’s top soccer teams and his beloved Glen.

Others who avoided detection after taking several bites were Cork and Barrs teenagers Derry O’Driscoll and Willie Walsh.

Donie Wallace, in recalling his schoolboy days, spoke of the difficulties encountered in mixing both codes. Donie was a gem of a hurler and as well as captaining the Barrs juveniles also played soccer, very successfully, with Glasheen.

While with Glasheen there were many occasions when fixtures clashed and Donie chose to play soccer which put him in the Barrs bad books — a totally understandable reaction.

Barrs underage selectors weren’t ones to cut off their nose to spite the face and the team star was notified for the championship final. Conveniently, however, he wasn’t notified when the boys assembled for their eagerly awaited victory photocall.

Hurling legend Gerald McCarthy was another who in his juvenile days (and years later while under suspension) briefly sampled the dribbling code.

While playing in a street league fixture with Clarke’s Road he noticed that a few familiar faces among the spectators were from a rival GAA club which the Barrs boys were to meet in a Lucey Shield football final at the Cork Athletic Grounds on the following Saturday and, unwisely, fearing an objection which was highly unlikely, opted out of the final.

Another 'famous man', Timmy Murphy, who was a schoolboy colleague of Gerald’s actually managed to play internationally with Ireland U15s against England and with Redmond’s as well, and months later became one of the youngest players ever to play with the Cork minor hurlers when selected for the Munster Championship.

Cork senior footballer Eric Philpott also risked suspension when lining out several times at weekends with the Barrs and South End with whom he got an international trial.

Greenmount NS U12 relay winners 1960: Noel Connolly, Tony Kenneally, Eric Philpott and Donie Doolan.
Greenmount NS U12 relay winners 1960: Noel Connolly, Tony Kenneally, Eric Philpott and Donie Doolan.

Not so lucky was Liam Good, Crofton, who after extreme pressure from school authorities declined the honour of playing for Ireland and instead lined out with Coláiste Chriost Rí.

Tom Cashman availed of the deletion of Rule 27 when helping Avondale and attracting the attention of the Irish Youth selectors.

Similarly, Tony O’Sullivan showed in his brief spell with Albert Rovers that he was capable of playing at a higher level,

With the ban’s demise, the much-feared transfer of players from the GAA to soccer or rugby and vice versa never materialised.

Clubs all over the county introduced their own rules requiring members to give allegiance to their code insisting that they refrain from participating in other sports for a requisite number of weeks or days before representing their own team.


The enforcement proved problematic in many cases and tough choices had to be made by clubs and players. In Cork players who made the back pages included Dinny Allen and Dave Barry.

The former, an outstanding dual player, displayed latent soccer expertise and in accordance with Nemo club rule could no longer be considered for selection following his signing for Cork Hibs in 1973.

It was a momentous year for Cork as the footballers brought the Sam Maguire back to Leeside for the first time since 1945 and Allen missed out on a coveted Celtic cross.

However, he was compensated by being a stand-out performer when Hibs won the FAI Cup and was chosen for Ireland U23s. As years slipped by it looked as if he would lose out on an All-Ireland medal, but in the twilight of a magnificent career, he got what he richly deserved when captaining the Cork team which defeated Mayo in the 1989 All-Ireland final.

One of Dinny’s teammates on that glorious day was Dave Barry who, two years earlier, also encountered problems as he tried to juggle soccer with Cork City and Gaelic with Barrs and Cork.

Dave is famously remembered for scoring the goal that put Cork City 1- 0 up against giants Bayern Munich at Musgrave Park in the 1991-92 UEFA Cup. His FAI Cup triumph in 1998 carried on a family tradition as his grandfather Bobby Buckle won it in 1934 with Cork FC and his father had won it with Fordsons in 1926.

In 1987 difficulties arose when Cork GAA wanted greater commitment and when that allegiance wasn’t forthcoming he was omitted from the panel and missed out on the All-Ireland final versus Meath. A compromise acceptable to both parties was later agreed upon and he returned to the panel and won two All-Irelands (1989 & 90) and an All-Star award in 1989.

The issue of dual commitments arose again in 1991, this time at club level, and Barry received a three-month suspension from the Barrs for breaching their code of conduct.

The Barrs, Cork, and Cork City all had very professional outlooks, as had Dave Barry, so the question of loyalty was bound to cause problems.

After the lifting of the Ban many high profile LOI players availed of opportunities to rediscover their old national games; including John Brohan and Billy Field who starred with St Michael’s; Frankie Connolly, Mick Tobin, and Jimmy Nodwell helped Brian Dillon’s; Deccie O’Mahony returned to the Barrs; Declan Daly (Piarsaigh) and Miah Dennehy (St Vincent’s).

Several Cork City players couldn’t resist the call to return to their Gaelic roots including John Caulfield, Liam Kearney, George O’Callaghan, and Neil Horgan.

Newtown keeper Paul Morrissey saving from the Barrs' Neil Horgan during the Cork County Premier Hurling final. Picture: Richard Mills
Newtown keeper Paul Morrissey saving from the Barrs' Neil Horgan during the Cork County Premier Hurling final. Picture: Richard Mills

Inter-county GAA players, and even All-Stars, openly tasted the once forbidden fruit again, mainly with teams from their locality; among them were Ger Cunningham and Tony Leahy (National Cup winners with Tramore), John Kerins; Jerry O’Sullivan, Patsy Harte, Frankie Sullivan, Tom Collins, Teddy Owens and Frankie Cunningham (Glen); Finbarr Delaney (Rockies); Barry Egan (Delanys); Stephen O’Brien (Nemo); Denis Mulcahy (Midleton); Ken O’Halloran (Bishopstown).

Most of our elite sports stars would have played Gaelic football in school and in recent years you would have heard commentators, during the Rugby Six Nations, talking up the Gaelic football expertise being displayed by Irish players in the Aviva, Cardiff Arms and Murrayfield arenas.

Here is a tip of the tongue list of stars who have interchanged between foreign codes and the GAA and vice versa: Tomas O’Leary (Cork & Munster/Ireland), Moss Keane, Rob Kearney, Lee Chin (Wexford & Waterford Utd), Shay Fahy, Stephen Hunt, Anthony Twohill, Ciarán Fitzgerald (Galway & Ireland capt), Keith Wood (Clare & Ireland), Mick Galway (Ireland and Kerry), Terry Moore (Highfield, Ireland and Brian Dillon’s), Donal Canniffe (Cork Con, Ireland and St Finbarr’s), Cathal Naughton (Notts Forest & Cork), John Meyler, David Meyler, Denis Irwin, Damian Delaney, Shane Long, Eoin Quigley (Sars, Wexford &; Bohs), Charlie Nelligan, Niall Quinn, Micky Niblock (Derry, Nemo & Cork Hibs), Jason Sherlock, Ciarán Lyng (Preston & Wexford), Shane Supple (Ipswich & Dublin), Kevin Nolan (Bohs & Dublin), Darren Sweetman (Cork & Munster), Dessie Hutchinson (Waterford and Brighton), Jason Molumby (Waterford, Brighton and Preston).

There are many, many more. Maybe you can expand the list.

A defiant message delivered by Pat Fanning at the conclusion in his Presidential address on that momentous occasion in Belfast 50 years ago was: “The future is ours to shape. Let’s move towards it with confidence.”

And they certainly did.

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