September 17, 1993
Danny Culloty - The Yank in the Cork camp
The old hunger and will to succeed is back for the towering Newmarket midfielder
One of the more notable aspects of the 1993 Championship has undoubtedly been the return from exile to Croke Park of the Corkmen. After two years of inexplicable failure the Rebels are back with a bang. As they marched emphatically to the All-Ireland final their experienced players have excelled, the young pretenders have blended in harmoniously and midfielder Danny Culloty, a graduate from the classes of '89 and '90 was ready and willing when his services where most urgently called upon by manager Billy Morgan in his hour (or seventy minutes to be precise) of need. That was for the semi-final clash with Connacht's cream, Mayo. With classy centrefield talent such as Tompkins, McCarthy and Fahy to draw from, the Cork mentor couldn't even find room for Culloty amongst the six subs during the course of their Munster campaign, but when injuries took their toll on players forced to play in both local and national Championships simultaneously, the Newmarket man was swiftly called into the fray. He put in a towering display, kicking two points in the process to stake his worthy claim for a place in the starting line-up for Sunday. The American-born midfielder has been a little unfortunate up to now in that he is surely a talented enough player to get into just about any other team in the country. One thing is certain however: If his gutsy 6'2 frame is called into action during any stage of this weekend's proceedings he won't let the side down.
Danny Culloty was born in sunny San Francisco on March 15th 1964 and he lived there until his family packed their suitcases and returned home to Cork in 1982. Despite his apparent geographical disadvantage he was quickly indoctrinated to a Gaelic football way of thinking. "Over in the states my Dad took us out to the park and taught us how to play. Also we were to come back to Cork every other summer since we were born and I got to play a bit that way. There were three Junior teams in San Francisco and I was a big lad so I played there since I was fifteen. We had a fairly handy team and as there were only three teams competing at the time I 'd say we won a Championship or two. There are twelve teams is San Francisco now," he explains.
On settling in the scenic town of Newmarket the young midfielder was quick to make his mark with the local club and grab the attention of the county selectors. He was subsequently drafted into the Cork U-21 panel, meeting with instant success. In 1984 the Rebels captained by Niall Cahalane beat Mayo by 0-9 to 0-6 in the All-Ireland decider. That victorious side also included such household handles as Anthony Davis, Mick Slocum, Barry Coffey, Colm O'Neill and Teddy & Michael McCarthy. Cork's victory in the final the following year as they successfully defended their title was perhaps more significant. Culloty wore the number 8 jersey again as the Leesiders triumphed on a scoreline of 0-14 to 1-8, the opposition that day being provided by none other than a Derry side which included Damien McCusker between the posts, Johnney McGurk at wing back, Damien Cassidy as pivot of the attack and Dermot McNicholl as a roving corner forward. A good omen for the Corkmen?
The Newmarket clubman who also plays for divisional side Duhallow made his Senior debut for Cork when he appeared briefly at the end of the 1987 Munster final replay victory over traditional rivals Kerry. His next appearance for his county came in 1989 when he again came on for the closing minutes - this time in the All-Ireland final triumph over Mayo. The following year Culloty formed an invincible centrefield partnership with Shay Fahy, outshining the much celebrated Meath duo Liam Hayes and Gerry McEntee as the Rebels cemented their purple patch by recording back to back All-Ireland victories. "We had some great clashes with Meath," recall the Duhallow man. "When Colm O'Neill was sent off in the final we had a fierce struggle on our hands in the second half. It was tough, but not dirty by any means." As well as the two All-Ireland medals Danny has now won five Munster Championships with Cork. Add to that an All-Ireland Junior in '84, a Munster Junior in '87, a National League in '89 and county Championships with Duhallow in '90 and '91 (captaining them to success in 1991) and it is clear that the big midfielder has got the winning way. He captained his county in 1991 and also skippered his province in the Railway Cup that same year. Having won almost every honour in the book he played Railway Cup football for four years, reaching the final on all four occasions.
Culloty has also played basketball, soccer and baseball over in the States and his brother Sean, who plays alongside him for both Newmarket and Duhallow, was reputedly an excellent baseball player before leaving America. As far as memories go 1990 would be the zenith of the Rebel midfielder's career. "It's was a fantastic year", he agrees. "We won the All-Ireland and then one month later Duhallow won their first county title in 54 years. It had been a long wait but we made up for it. I put on a bit of weight over the winter!" Before the Cork team for this year's final was selected Danny told us that he was "hopeful" of getting a place in the starting line-up even though his chances were still hanging precariously in the balance. Duhallow have bowed out of this year's Cork Championship to St. Finbarr's, who went on to reach the final, but Newmarket (with Culloty as captain) have had better fortunes and will be contesting the Junior divisional final on Sunday week just seven days after the Croke Park showdown.
A company rep with Shreelawn Oil in Newmarket responsible for such duties as giving quotes on prices and collecting cheques, Danny is married to local girl Catherine. He explains how Cork have rediscovered their winning touch this season: "Over the last two years the hunger was gone. The great run from '87 to '90 took it's toll on the team. The new lads who have come in this year have rejuvenated the team. A new hunger is there and we're improving in every game". The West Corkman feels that their semi-final victory wasn't as decisive as the scoreline might suggest and refutes allegations that his team haven't been tested to date this year. "Mayo came at us for fifteen or twenty minutes at the start of each half and then sat back and we pulled away. It was a test for us. The score didn't justify Mayo's game. We did stroll through a lot of our games but we played good teams. Mayo were the Connacht champions, Clare had a good run last year and Kerry are never easy," he stresses. Danny admits that he hasn't seen Ulster's finest in action too much this year but he was impressed with their performance against Dublin. Realising that Derry's main strengths lie in the midfield sector and in their half back line, he says that "like any other team they play, Cork will respect them but won't fear them".
Culloty is reasonably confident of a Cork victory on Sunday. "Going into any game you have to be confident and hopefully things will go well. If you don't expect to win then you shouldn't be playing," he reasons. Nor is he over-concerned about the prospect of coming up against Anthony Tohill and Brian McGilligan in a potentially difficult midfield exchange. "I've marked McGilligan a couple of times before. They're two very big strong players but I'll worry more about my own game and take it as it comes." Billy Morgan will be looking to John O'Driscoll for a performance pulled straight from the top drawer. "He's playing well and getting a lot of scores at the moment. If he can keep it up he'll be a vital cog in our team," predicts the man of San Franciscan origin. Acknowledging that the public in Cork were disappointed with the team's performances in recent Championships he states that they badly needed a good run this year and adds that a major plus from their point of view is that the younger players are picking up priceless experience in this campaign.
Unlike a number of his team-mates Danny has been lucky in his career as far as injuries go. He has never had a major injury but did go through a bad patch from last March until this May finding it hard to shake a number of small problems with a resultant loss of form. Cork have proved their worth once again this year but what went wrong in '91 and '92? "The hunger just went. People talk about us getting tired, but it's more a mental tiredness than anything. The break has brought the hunger back," he pointed out. Should Cork win on Sunday Culloty's celebrations will be put on ice for a week (or so he claims!). "I'll have to take it easy because of the club final coming up the following Sunday. Newmarket haven't won the title for 23 years so it'd be great if we could do it this time." In less than two weeks time the powerfully built high fielder could have yet two more medals to add to his already impressive collection and due cause for the mother of all double celebrations.
Written by The Hogan Stand Magazine
17 Sept. 1993
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