McCarthy, Teddy

03 July 1992

Dual star Teddy McCarthy
Cork’s Teddy McCarthy likes doing things on the double

When Teddy McCarthy trots out onto Pairc Ui Chaoimh to face Limerick next Sunday it will mark his 11th Munster Senior Final appearance in both codes – a truly splendid achievement for a player who is just on the verge of his 27th birthday. And if sheer guts is the quality that will win another provincial title for the Leesiders then the Sales Rep with Beamish and Crawford has it in abundance.

“The first thing that always struck me about Teddy was his physical power”, said Cork football selector Eamonn Young – himself the winner of an All Ireland football medal in 1945. “There have been bigger and heavier men playing gaelic games but few have had the compact power and energy the Glanmireman shows when he is in good form and travelling well. The shoulders are square and well padded, the head is set firmly on strong neck and the face shows a solid determination that reflects a manly intention to walk life’s path in his own way”.

Even in his younger days the Sarsfields supremo, who collected two county senior football medals with Imokilly in 1984 and 1986, was being earmarked as a player destined to reach the top and once he achieved that goal the awards began to roll in. McCarthy’s achievement of first establishing, and then rehabilitating himself at the top called for a great deal of sacrifice because of his involvement with numerous underage teams before he turned 21 in 1986. The winning of an All Ireland senior hurling medal that year certainly put the icing on the cake after he originally found his way on to the substitutes bench for that year’s Munster final against Clare at Killarney.

Some of the old traditionalists will tell you that he had it in him from the age of ten or eleven and at the tender age of fourteen was drafted into the North Monastery team to play in the Dr. Harty Cup competition. He was only 16 when he played for Sarsfield in the county senior hurling championship and it was fairy-tale stuff when the respective Cork minor selectors quickly spotted his talents in both codes. Between 1982 and 1986 he certainly got around and played in four All Ireland underage football finals with Cork and with phenomenal success.

He had that stamp of class in 1983 when the footballers went all the way to the All Ireland Minor final where they went under to a strong Derry fifteen. It was a crucial blow for players like Michael Slocum, Mick McCarthy, Barry Coffey and Teddy when the Northerners triumphed by 0-8 to 1-3 but through diligent work all were awarded with three successive All Ireland under 21 awards during the 1984-1986 period. Following a typically cautious win (0-9 to 0-6) over Mayo in 1984 Cork went flat out to defeat Derry by 0-14 to 1-8 the following year. Then in 1986 when Teddy partnered Paddy Hayes in the middle of the field, Cork were inspired against Offaly in Thurles and ended up winning convincingly by 3-16 to 0-12. The team was captained by Mick Slocum and paraded the other East Cork dual star Denis Walsh at centre back.

During that time he played for four years with the Cork under 21 hurlers and made his senior football championship debut on the ’forty’ in 1985 but Cork again failed to break Kerry’s duck and suffered another Munster Final defeat. Nevertheless, Teddy had the lustre of celebrity about him and this probably stemmed from the fact that Imokilly were going places at the time and were good enough to defeat the mighty Barrs in two County finals. It is significant that his major breakhrough came before the All Ireland hurling final of 1986 when he was surprisingly given the righthalf forward berth to face Galway. Marked by the speedy Gerry McInerney, Teddy struck it particularly rich over the 70 minutes and as Cork triumphed by 4-13 to 2-15 he took his first step towards joining the distinguished number of players that have won All Ireland senior medals in both codes.

At the age of 21 Teddy Mac’s energy seemed boundless and it’s this energy that has established him as an entrepreneur and player in Ireland, the United States and as far away as Australia where he played in the deciding test match for Ireland against the Aussies in the Autumn of 1986. Ironically, he was sent off after scoring a great point but Ireland held out to win the series by 55 points to 32.

With Cork taking a back seat in hurling for three seasons due to Tipperary’s dominance it came as no surprise when the footballers ended Kerry’s magnificent reign in a replay at Killarney in 1987. Before the drawn game in Pairc Ui Chaoimh the odds were still stacked in the Kingdom’s favour but they didn’t get anything like the freedom they expected and a draw was an equitable result. With Teddy McCarthy again at midfield alongside Shay Fahy, the green and gold champions were again favourites to progress at Killarney but at the finish were totally outclassed by a brilliant Cork side who won, 0-13 to 1-5.

Consequently, Teddy, Dennis Walsh and substituteColm O’Neill joined the large band of Corkmen who had won Munster Senior medals in both codes. They include Dinny Allen, Ray Cummins, Jimmy Barry Murphy, Brian Murphy, Teddy O’Brien, Seamus Looney, Martin Doherty, Denis Coughhlan, Gerry O’Sullivan, Eamonn Goulding, Tom Furlong, Joe Hartnett and Jimmy Lynam since the ’fifties.

From there on McCarthy and Fahy formed an imposing midfield partnership and after Galway were beaten in the All Ireland semi final that went to another replay Cork met the mighty men from Meath on the third Sunday of September. It was the first final meeting with the Royal County in exactly 20 years but they vanished quietly from the scene after Colm O’Rourke’s first half goal and were beaten, 1-14 to 0-11.

One of eight children Teddy, who helped Glanmire to win the Cork Intermediate football title that year when his brother Denis played in goal, has the distinction of being the only Corkman to score a goal in the county’s five Senior Football Finals between 1987 and 1990 (including the 1988 replay). That came very early in the 1988 draw against Meath when he collected a high cross from Dinny Allen and ushered the leather under Mick McQuillan’s diving body. Gradually, the Royal County fought back to draw and won the replay by 0-13 to 0-12.

Many argue that McCarthy’s best display was in this year’s Championship against Kerry when he was a doubtful starter through illness, but back in the Spring of 1989 he gave what was to my mind a truly great display against Dublin in the ’home’ League Final and as well as scoring three points from play, showed exceptional mastery around midfield and half forward. Indeed, that year he made the most of every opportunity and guided the Rebels to their first ever League/All Ireland double. In retrospect, it was an eventful end to the year when Teddy joined 13 other players who were proud holders of All Ireland senior hurling and football medals won on the field. It also ended years of disappointment for the footballers who made the inevitable break with great passion and pride. This time Mayo were their final opponents but before an attendance of 65,519 spectators they came from behind to forge an 0-17 to 1-11 victory.

The 1990’s began as the 1980’s ended for Teddy, more honours to cherish and surely a proud place in the annals of our ancient games. Even before a ball was struck in any competition he was on the rostrum in Dublin collecting that coveted Texaco Award Trophy and so became only the second Cork footballer to do so since it’s inauguration in 1958. In fact, there were two major bonuses during 1990. First Cork won the historic All Ireland “double” for the first time in 100 years and Teddy became the only player to win two All Ireland Senior medals in one year. It was a welcome sign of the times and celebrations went on well into 1991.

Later he talked about giving up one of the games after a gruelling season but he is playing as well as ever in both codes, so who knows. The only frustrating aspect of his career to date is failing to win a County Senior medal with Sars who were again eliminated by Milford in the first round a few weeks ago. Three years ago the club showed real character in reaching their first final since 1957 but they had to give second best to Glen Rovers who finished five points to the good. Again Teddy will provide a very stern barricade to Limerick this weekend and he makes no secret of his ambition to win another All Ireland medal.

Taken from Hogan Stand Magazine 03/07/92.