Crossing the river for the love of the game, Des Cullinane's passion for GAA remains 

Glen Rovers and St Nick's club man has also given a huge amount to Delanys, UCC and Cork
Crossing the river for the love of the game, Des Cullinane's passion for GAA remains 

Des Cullinane with the Glen Rovers senior hurling management Richie Kelleher and Ian Lynam. Picture: George Hatchell

FEW Cork southsiders have their first taste of sport across the bridge.

That was the case for St Nick’s and Glen Rovers' Des Cullinane though, well-known now for his involvement at club and county level in Cork, as well as his work with hugely successful UCC football teams. 

While he lived in Clareville on the Pouladuff Road, through the persuasion of Delanys stalwart Mick Barry, Des was recruited at underage level.

“There were about eight or nine of us, that included Dave Barry, and we are all transported in the back of Mick’s van on a weekly basis. We were a fairly successful team, winning the Féile. 

"At times, we would get the bus to Blackpool and walk up Dublin Hill to Delanys' pitch, but, looking back, they were very enjoyable days.”

Cullinane played with Delanys up to the age of 17, but attending University College Cork changed his direction in the GAA.

“I ended up spending 15 years as player, mentor, and coach with UCC. While attending Coláiste Chríost Rí, I was coached by Brother Colm and Kevin Cummins and that was a great experience for helping me play but also coach Gaelic football.”

Sadly, that schools team, which included Dave Barry, Liam Murphy, Ephie Fitzgerald, John Kerins (RIP), and Tony Leahy twice lost All-Ireland semi-finals.

In UCC, despite not making their Sigerson Cup teams, Cullinane went into coaching Fresher teams and was subsequently involved in the management of three Sigerson Cup-winning teams. He was also the coach of the UCC team that won the 1999 Cork senior football championship and had 16 years in Croke Park representing the high-level colleges at council level.

Des Cullinane presenting the Higher Education League trophy to the captain of the victorious Garda Training College team Michael Cussen. Picture Des Barry
Des Cullinane presenting the Higher Education League trophy to the captain of the victorious Garda Training College team Michael Cussen. Picture Des Barry

For all the glory days with the College, there were missed opportunities as well, including the 1996 defeat to Clonakility in the Cork SFC.

“We had a star-studded team that included Seamus Moynihan and Ronan McCarthy, but, on the day, Clon were simply far hungrier and ran out deserving winners.”

After marrying a Glen Rovers lady, Anne Twomey, daughter of Vincie, it was inevitable that he would end up getting involved with the club, particularly when they were residing on the northside.

“We had one son, Cathal, and it was always the Twomey dream for him to play with Glen Rovers and, from the age of four, I started dropping him up to the club nursery."

The inevitable happened: Des was approached by Finbarr McCarthy to help St Nick’s and 17 years later Des is still involved with the Blackpool club.

“To be honest, it’s a labour of love, as they are a great group of lads involved in St Nick's club and, despite a reasonable start, it goes without saying recent years have been disappointing."

While more noted for his grá for football, he joined the Glen Rovers hurling selectors, when approached by Ritchie Kelleher and Ian Lynam.

“That was a tremendous experience in the end. Despite getting hammered by Sars in a county final, we bounced back to win two in a row."

The passion shown in winning the county was an eye-opener as to what hurling means to the Blackpool club.

HONOUR

“As an outsider and not a Glen native, I could see what it meant to the players, club, and parish, and it was absolutely an honour to be involved with this team. 

“I decided to take a break after we lost to Imokilly in 2019, but I stayed involved in Nick’s and it has become very hard in recent years.”

UCC coach Des Cullinane after a training session at the Mardyke. Picture: Denis Minihane.
UCC coach Des Cullinane after a training session at the Mardyke. Picture: Denis Minihane.

The viability of dual clubs is a thing of the past, he explains.

“It is impossible, with the new format, as, if the Glen get to a quarter-final in hurling, players cannot mix both codes and losing our senior status last season was hugely disappointing, but we have regrouped and, hopefully, we can make an impact in the Premier intermediate football grade.”

Hurling has become the number one code in most city clubs and Des spoke about his friendship with former Cork dual star, Denis Coughlan.

“Denis believes when Glen Rovers and St Nick’s were winning county titles, it was, basically, the same group of players, but the problem now is that from training twice a week, they are now training four times and it’s impossible to get the balance right."

The modern players are very different in their expectations.

“It’s all about systems and, nowadays, players judge coaches on their sessions and, for me, the days of playing with raw passion have almost disappeared.

In football, kicking the ball is no longer important and at inter-county level players are so fit that you get little or no time on the ball, as space is at a premium.”

He was defeated for the vice-chairman position in the Cork County Board last year, but he wished Midleton stalwart, Pat Horgan, the very best of luck.

“Pat has worked very hard for his club and county and is an excellent officer that put in a huge effort after losing out in a previous election.

“I do think the city should be represented at the top table and if you look at the population within the city, it needs looking after, as Dublin proved with their Blue Wave model.

Cullinane has taken over as chairman of the underage at Glen Rovers/St Nick’s and is looking forward to the challenge and he is also a member of the national safeguarding committee in GAA.

“We are back in the Glen this week and that will be enjoyable, because, as a club, we have to be ready, as keeping the conveyor belt going is the secret to producing quality players.”

His vast experience is sure to benefit the up-and-coming stars of Glen Rovers and St Nick’s.

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