McCarthy, Gerald

04 September 1992

Gerald McCarthy as Waterford manager
Gerald McCarthy

A CORK HURLING GREAT

And that’s some recommendation

A golden string of memories runs through the fabric that represents my lifetime involving hurling. Including boyhood days, it is a span of thirty-eight years since my late father, God rest him, took me to see Christy Ring arrive back in Cloyne with the Liam McCarthy Cup after beating Wexford in 1954

In that time I’ve been privileged to watch and meet some of the greatest players who have graced the scene and gave outstanding service over a long period of time. First of, of course, there was Ringey, who stayed to become the hero of the nation well into the ’sixties and was forty years of age when he scored 3-4 in the 1960 League final against Tipperary. Sarsfields Paddy Barry was regarded, at his peak, as one of the great forwards and a most influential figure around the same time who inherited the skills from a very distinguished Carrigywohill family. Sadly, both had just departed the scene when a new Leeside squad, still under the tutorship of Jim “Tough” Barry, regained the glory in 1966 – just ten year after Ring and Barry had played in their last All-Ireland final.

That day Cork brought colour and atmosphere to Croke Park and it was probably yet another instance of Kilkenny temperaments not being compatible as they triumphed over the black and amber against all the odds. The secret of Cork’s success that year was the introduction of some new blood especially in attack where Gerald McCarthy, Fr Seanie Barry and Charlie all made their mark in scintillating fashion. The plan worked well and when final day came round they gave the Noreside defence a harrowing time along with John O’Halloran, Colm Sheehan and the wily John Bennett, who had soldiered with Ring and Barry in the ’fifties. That afternoon Gerald McCarthy, like Christy Ring, Paddy Barry, Sean Condon, Mick Kennefick, Jack Lynch and Con Buckley before him, came into the category of inspiring captains able to lift their teams to the pinnacle of success and consequently he became a regular selection for the county until 1979, winning every honour in the game

Fittingly, his farewell and perhaps what you’d call a testimonial match in other sports took place at Pairc Ui Chaoimh in October ’79 when he captained his county against Tipperary in the Christy Ring Memorial Fund game. Approximately, 8,000 spectators turned up and at the finish the Barrsman was given a standing ovation as he left the arena for the last time. “I suppose it was a good way to bow out after Cork won their fifth successive Munster title that Summer and I also made up my mind to retire from club hurling and never regretted it. At the time the Barrs had some good young players coming through and I felt it was the right thing to do,” say Gerald, whose four sons – Derek, Gerald, Alan and Paul – are currently playing for the club at different levels. If my statistics are correct Gerald played in at least eight positions for Cork. He was probably happier in an attacking rather than a defensive role, and by intelligent anticipation was very adept in finding the open space to receive or pass the ball. A brilliant overhead striker he was almost impossible to dispossess and worked untiringly in every game. He must be rated among the outstanding hurlers of his time. His role nowadays is the trainer of the Cork team with Fr. Michael O’Brien as coach and a selection committee consisting of County Secretary Frank Murphy, Fr. Denis Kelleher, Denis Hurley and the former goalkeeper Martin Coleman, who along with Gerald were members of the last Cork team to win three successive All-Irelands.

“I have been involved in the game all my life and in a way owe everything to the Barrs club. I was practically reared with a hurley in my hand as my father David, a great follower of the game, always encouraged me in every way and brought me to the 1956 All-Ireland final between Wexford and Cork. Little did I think that eight years later I would make my Croke Park debut against the Slaneysiders in the League semi-final,” says Gerald, who made his Championship debut against Galway that year when the Tribesman were competing in the Munster Championship.

Gerald’s early years on the Cork Minor teams (1962 and 1963) helped to develop his game to his full potential. He also played Minor and Under 21 football for the county and recalls losing to Kerry with great disappointment, especially in 1963 when the Munster football final went to a replay. For three seasons his hard work, dedication and flair served the Cork Under 21 hurling team superbly and one of his brightest memories is leading them to the 1966 victory over Wexford – some weeks after that glorious victory over Kilkenny.

“I didn’t appreciate it at the time but ’66 was a great year for Cork hurling and I was extremely lucky to be captain on both counts. Peter Doolan was captain of the Senior team for the first round against Clare when I was a sub but as I was skipper of the Barrs team I took over the role after getting back on the team. So it was sheer luck really that I captained both because I missed the first drawn Under 21 match against Wexford and if we had won, somebody else would have been captain,” says Gerald, who owns a stone cutting factory in Tramore Roads and a shop in Princess Street, Cork City where some of the finest sports trophies can be seen.

Interestingly, the 1966 Senior parade shows Gerald leading two other McCarthys, Justin and Charlie, all unrelated in the final against Kilkenny and followed by Denis Murphy, the late Jerry O’Sullivan, Fr. Seanie Barry, John Bennett, Peter Doolan, Tom O’Donoghue, Fr. Michael Waters, John O’Halloran, Colm Sheehan, Tony Connolly, Paddy Fitzgerald and Paddy Barry – the St. Vincents’ goalkeeper, who captained the 1970 All-Ireland winning side.

When Cork and Kilkenny met in the final again three years later, few people were expecting any surprises because this time Cork were the slight favourites following their tremendous win over Tipperary when Yougal’s Willie Walsh scored three goals. However, despite an early Charlie McCarthy goal Kilkenny got sweet revenge with late match winning points front Martin Coogan, Paddy Moran and Eddie Keher and won in unbelievable circumstances. Left wing back was Gerald’s position after playing at left wing forward in 1966 and he played with great abandon on both Claus Dunne an Pat Kavanagh in what was a hard fought showdown. However, Gerald and his Cork collegues that included Tony Maher, Con Roche, Seamus Looney, Charlie Cullinane and Charlie McCarthy from the Barrs club, had plenty of cause to look back on the year 1970 because they finally climbed back up the throne as Kings of All-Ireland by beating Wexford in a very high scoring decider – 6 – 12 to 5 – 10. Their performance against the purple and amber rank in my book as high point of that era, especially after winning the League in devastating fashion earlier that season.

Gerald McCarthy and Seamus Looney deservedly won applause for some spectacular play at midfield against Dave Bernie and Mick Jacob and with Charlie McCarthy and Eddie O’Brien roaming far for scores the contest was decided at the interval after the Leesiders had built up a ten point lead. Whatever else Gerald may achieve – although he admits an All-Ireland victory over Kilkenny is long overdue – he cannot better those great days of three successive years, 1976, 1977 and 1978, which brought consecutive All-Ireland titles.

Lesser teams would have caved in at some stage especially in the opening round of ’76 against Tipp when only one point separated the sides at the final whistle and two years later when Clare had everything going for them in the second half of the Munster final in Thurles. Then when Kilkenny were finally beaten in 1978 it was a marvellous climax to Gerald’s career and along with Charlie McCarthy (the ’78 captain) joined the list of players who had won five “Celtic Crosses”. In the latter two years he was the automatic choice for the centre – forward berth after playing at midfield in 1970 and 1976 and right wing forward in 1972 when Kilkenny came back from the dead to take another All-Ireland. With 13 minutes to go in that final Cork led by eight points, but in a sensational turnabout the black and amber drew level and went on to win by 3-24 to 5-11.

Gerald was also associated with Cork’s four League triumphs in 1969, 1970, 1972 and 1974 and collected a similar number of Railway Cups as well as an All-Star Award in 1975 – the year he captained Cork to win another provincial Championship. Many shrewd judges of the game believes that he reached the height, of his hurling perfection in the 1977 All-Ireland final when pitted against Mick Jacob. The same sides had met in the ’76 final and Cork’s attempts to seal the match had been continuously frustrated by Jacob’s powerful play and his lengthy clearances may well have won the game for his side.

Only a player of Gerald McCarthy’s accomplishments could have done so. He pulled on and connected accurately on every ball that came towards them and in doing so prevented the Wexfordman from asserting his customary dominance. That match was a personal triumph for the man who also masterminded the Barrs to four county Senior final victories in 1965, 1968, 1974 and 1977. He rates Mick Roche (Tipperary) and Kilkenny’s Frank Cummins as two of the “greats” he opposed and if Gerald was the hero for the Barrs on many occasions. Cummins was also the mainstay of another great Cork club – Blackrock – when the teams clashed in the three county finals in of 1971, 1974 and 1979. Indeed, few could play Cummins better.


Taken from Hogan Stand magazine – 04 – 09 - 92