Cork GAA mourns the passing of Seanie O'Leary, one of the deadliest forwards in hurling history 

The Youghal club man passed away at the age of 69 with his place a Leeside legend long secured, winning four senior All-Irelands as a player and two as a selector
Cork GAA mourns the passing of Seanie O'Leary, one of the deadliest forwards in hurling history 

Seanie O'Leary in action for Cork against Offaly in the Centenary All-Ireland Hurling Final in 1984 when he scored two goals.

THE GAA community is in mourning after the passing of, Seanie O'Leary, a goal-poacher supreme in Rebel red.

A vital member of the three-in-a-row winning Cork forward line from 1976 to '78 and a champion again in 1984 before his retirement, the diminutive attacker pilfered an incredible 30 championship goals in just 36 games. 

His ability to raise green flags, he'd 33 points alongside those 30 goals, four of which came in a brilliant 1982 Munster final display against Waterford, made him a firm fan-favourite in a golden age of Cork hurling.

Due to turn 70 next February, the Youghal native was always in the conversation as one of the best Rebel forwards of all-time.

Gerald McCarthy in conversation with Seanie O'Leary at the function to honour the three in a row team, in 2009. Picture: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE
Gerald McCarthy in conversation with Seanie O'Leary at the function to honour the three in a row team, in 2009. Picture: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE

A NOSE FOR GOAL

He famously broke his nose in the warm-up before the 1977 All-Ireland final win over Wexford but, with a bit of help from Dr Con Murphy and selector Christy Ring, played anyway and scored the winning goal.

“I had to go back into the dressing room to be treated by our team doctor Con Murphy and we were in there longer than anticipated," he told John Coughlan for his book Leeside Legends: 100 of Cork’s Sporting Greats.

“Out of the blue in walked the legendary Christy Ring who looked a little uneasy with the minutes counting down to the throw-in. Ring said: 'Come on it’s time to go out, it isn’t your bloody nose you are playing with'."

O'Leary saved some of his best hurling for his last inter-county season, striking against Tipp in the classic '84 Munster decider and twice in the Centenary Final against Offaly in Thurles.

Seanie O'Leary playing an international match between Ireland and Scotland in shinty in Páirc Uí Chaoimh in 1977.
Seanie O'Leary playing an international match between Ireland and Scotland in shinty in Páirc Uí Chaoimh in 1977.

Those heroic displays gave him his third All-Star, to go with awards in 1976 and '77. He also lined out in All-Ireland finals in '72, '82 and '83, and finished up with nine Munster senior medals and four leagues, to go with his Celtic Crosses.

O'Leary was a prodigious talent in his teens, an All-Ireland minor winner in 1969 and '70, he hurled for the county U21s when he was under 18, a rarity in Cork, and picked up three All-Irelands in that grade as well. 

He'd been only 17 when he helped Youghal to Intermediate success. In 1972 Youghal made the senior final, losing to Glen Rovers, a significant achievement in an era when the Glen, St Finbarr's and Blackrock ruled supreme.

When he graduated to coaching, Imokilly won back-to-back senior counties in '97 and '98.

Seanie O'Leary gives advice as a Cork hurling selector in 1999. Picture: Damien Eagers/SPORTSFILE
Seanie O'Leary gives advice as a Cork hurling selector in 1999. Picture: Damien Eagers/SPORTSFILE

From there, O'Leary stepped up to a Cork management role and again trophies followed: the 1999 All-Ireland, with Jimmy Barry-Murphy at the helm, and in 2004 under Donal O'Grady. He was as shrewd and adept as a selector as he was on the field.

His son Tomás O'Leary captained Cork to All-Ireland minor glory before focusing on a rugby career, excelling for Munster and Ireland, while his sister Mary also picked up four senior medals with Cork, as a camogie star.

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