Gerald McCarthy v Seán Óg Ó hAilpín: Vote for Cork's best city hurlers

In the Battle of the Bridge, the Echo is asking you to pick your favourite players since 1972 north and south of the River Lee
Gerald McCarthy v Seán Óg Ó hAilpín: Vote for Cork's best city hurlers

Have your say in The Battle of the Bridge.

WITH your help, we’re looking to pick the best hurler from either side of St Patrick's Bridge from the last 50 years of action.

The Echo has pitched some of Cork’s finest hurling stars from the northside and southside of Cork city together for a series of fun head-to-head battles. Your votes will decide who goes through and you can see the full list of 16 northside and 16 southside players here.

We're now down to the last eight. 

Today's match-up is Gerald McCarthy v Seán Óg Ó hAilpín. 

SEÁN ÓG Ó HAILPÍN (Na Piarsaigh):

WHERE do you start with one of the most iconic GAA players of all time?

Unique in so far as he was not of Irish descent, being born in far-off Fiji before his parents arrived in Ireland and, as they say, the rest is now history.

He won every major honour that the game could offer, an outstanding Na Piarsaigh and Cork hurler, he was also a renowned Gaelic footballer, winning a Munster and national league medal with the county but it’s as a truly great hurler that he is best remembered.

Again, Seán Óg was one of those players who could fit in comfortably in a number of positions but it’s as a left wing-back that he played some of his finest hurling He was a product of the Gaelcholáiste section of the North Mon where he began his hurling career and was a key component of the school’s teams, winning a Harty and Croke Cup medals. 

He is a fluent Irish speaker, probably more comfortable with that language and when he led Cork to All-Ireland glory in 2005, his after-match speech on the podium of the Hogan Stand captured the imagination of the entire country.

One of the most stylish hurlers of his or any era, he was a tremendous reader of the game, a brilliant distributor and his clearances out of defence on many occasions led to scores being secured at the other end.

Na Piarsaigh was his club and his immense contribution to the great Northside home has remained immense and the pride that he has in that jersey has never diminished.

His two county senior medals in 1995 and 2004 are among his most cherished achievements and alongside John Gardiner and Tony O’Sullivan, he ranks as a true Piarsaigh great of which there have been so many down the years.

The Cork half-back line of the winning years of 2004 and 2005 was so often the launch pad for scores that made the difference between winning and losing.

Ó hAilpín was GPA hurler of the year in 2004, and Texaco Hurler of the Year in that year as well and to add further gloss, RTÉ named him as their star player as well. He has three All-Stars, in 2003, 2004 and 2005 to accompany a very lengthy list of honours collected in both codes.

One of the most popular players ever to line out for Cork, he has inspired so many youngsters to try and follow in his footsteps and he is now giving back to the club that gave him so much when he wore the Piarsaigh jersey.

Seán Óg Ó hAilpín in the Na Piarsaigh colours. Picture: Larry Cummin
Seán Óg Ó hAilpín in the Na Piarsaigh colours. Picture: Larry Cummin

With his playing days now long over, the very mention of his name still generates great excitement.

GERALD McCARTHY (St Finbarr's):

GERALD McCarthy is the holder of a special piece of GAA history that will never be matched – but his Cork hurling career almost ended before it properly began.

The St Finbarr’s man was still a teenager when he was named as a sub for the 1964 national hurling league semi-final against Wexford in Croke Park. The night before the match, some of the players went to the cinema but, with the Phoenix Park closed, they had to take a longer route back to the hotel and missed curfew. Trainer Jim ‘Tough’ Barry was not happy.

“I stood at the back, trying to stay out of the way,” Gerald says, “but he pointed straight at me and said, ‘As for you – this is your last time ever travelling with the Cork team!’ I was rooming with Mick Archer and I could hardly sleep that night with the worry.

“The following morning at breakfast, Tough came up to the table. ‘I want to apologise to you,’ he said, ‘I thought you were the taxi driver!’” 

Having overcome that early bump in the road, Gerald developed into a top player for the Barrs and Cork. 

In 1965, he helped his club to win the county title and the Togher club chose him as county captain for 1966. It would prove to be a year to remember.

The Rebels claimed a first Munster title in a decade as Waterford were beaten and they made it to the All-Ireland final against Kilkenny, seeking to end a drought dating back to 1966. Any nerves within the young squad were doused on the bus journey in from the West County Hotel as they sang rebel songs and McCarthy lifted the cup named for his namesake Liam as Cork won by 3-9 to 1-10.

Later that year, Gerald captained the Cork U21s to win that All-Ireland as they beat Wexford after two replays. With players in the U20 grade now prevented from playing in the senior championship, his record cannot be equalled.

Four more All-Ireland medals followed, in 1970 and the three-in-a-row from 1976-78, while he helped the Barrs to three more county hurling titles as well as three Munster wins and two All-Irelands.

Hurling legends Brian Cody and Gerald McCarthy. Picture: Matt Browne/SPORTSFILE
Hurling legends Brian Cody and Gerald McCarthy. Picture: Matt Browne/SPORTSFILE

Later, he was in charge for three Barrs county wins and he was trainer as Cork won the 1990 All-Ireland, later going on to manage Waterford and his native county as well as helping the Cork camogie side to win Munster in 2006.

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