February 01, 1999
Cork and Nemo Rangers favourite Jimmy Kerrigan.
Hogan Stand speaks to former Cork star, Jimmy Kerrigan, about the good times and his faith in the future of Rebel football.
Ten years ago, Cork broke the duck that had plagued the county for 16 years and took the Sam Maguire Cup home. It was their third consecutive All-Ireland football final, the previous two ending with defeat to Meath, a county that had just found its own vein of success after two decades in the wilderness.
That three-point victory over Mayo is one the most memorable in the county's recent sporting history, not just because it ended a famine but because it was earned the hard way. The 1989 final was tense, sure (Mayo snapped at Cork's heels through the entire course of the game), but for the core element of this team, almost a decade of fruitless campaigning had had to pass first: Conor Counihan was 29 and had played senior intercounty football since 1978; Dave Barry was 28 and arrived five years later; corner forward John Cleary was 26; and Dinny Allen, the veteran full forward and team captain, had played 33 championship games for Cork before the final. None of them had a senior All-Ireland medal, and Allen had never played on a winning All-Ireland team at any grade.
At last, by '89, Cork had begun to dominate Munster and All-Ireland football, winning their fourth of five provincial crowns that year, and they would successfully defend their All-Ireland title in 1990.
"We were under a lot of pressure coming into that final," recalls Jimmy Kerrigan, corner back on the '89 team and another of the old warhorses to finally see his efforts come to something. "I think the pressure that was put on us came mostly from ourselves. We had lost to Meath the previous two years and, to be honest, we were afraid of losing for a third time in a row.
"But beating Mayo meant that the pressure was off us the following year when we met Meath again. We had proven we were good enough to win the All-Ireland and the only thing left was to get Meath back after beating us in '87 and '88."
Like Counihan, Kerrigan had played in the senior Cork jersey since 1978, had won an All-Ireland under 21 title in 1980 and was forced to wait until the tail end of a long intercounty career before finally getting his two (he was a sub in 1990) senior accolades. Most of the success he enjoyed as a player was with his club, Nemo Rangers. With them he secured seven senior Cork Championship, six Munster Club Championship and five All-Ireland Club Championship titles in football. It is a record shared only by his club mate Timmy Dalton.
Kerrigan played his last game with Nemo's junior side (a team he trained) in their Cork City final defeat against Brian Dillons at the end of 1998. Kerrigan began his senior intercounty career under Bob Honahan, but it was under Joe McGrath that he won his first Munster Championship, in 1983. When Billy Morgan arrived as manager in October 1986, the last remnents of the great Kerry team were hanging up their boots and Cork took full advantage of the opportunity. When Morgan eventually left in 1996, it was Larry Tompkins, another of that '89 team, who took over the reins.
"At the time, I thought it was good for Billy Morgan to finally step down," says Kerrigan. "He had been there for a long time and done great things for Cork. I thought that it was good for Larry too.
"In his first year in charge, he concentrated on fitness and not so much on football," he testifies. "It has taken him time to learn that there needs to be a balance between the two. Management is so different from playing the game and it takes time to learn a new trade.
Taken from Hogan Stand magazine, February 1999
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