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Martin is awarded Corkman of Year honour in San Francisco

January 11th, 2023 5:05 PM

By Jackie Keogh

Martin Connolly accepts the Corkman of the Year award from RCBA Vice-President John Buckley. (Photo: jGuerzonPictorials)

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A DRINAGH man who is living in San Francisco has been named Corkman of the Year 2022.

It was the Rebel Cork Benevolent Association (RCBA) in San Francisco that selected Martin Connolly for the honour.

For 30 years, he and his wife Mary, with the support of their sons Tim and Daniel, have successfully operated the popular bar and restaurant Johnny Foley’s.

Martin is still well known locally for his sporting prowess, and for being the youngest of five children born to Tim and Bernadette Connolly.

As the manager of Drinagh Co-op, Tim was an important figure in the community, while his mother was better known for keeping everyone ‘well fed and on the straight and narrow.’

Sport is something that was an early passion for Martin. It was as a pupil at Drinagh National School that Martin developed his interest in the sport through Coláiste Íosagáin, Baile Mhúirne.

He admits he spent his leisure time at Ballyvourney kicking football from morning to night and rather sacrilegiously says Gaelic football was a second religion in the school.

Of course, the pupils had Ned O’Sullivan, the 1975 All-Ireland winning captain from Kerry, as their inspiration and their PE teacher.

Martin was selected to play minor football with Cork in 1978. He represented the Clann na nGael club and went on to captain the Rebels, which won the 1981 West Cork junior A football championship.

It was in 1982 that he won an All-Ireland U21 Gaelic football medal after the team defeated Galway.

The economic gloom of the 1980s inspired Martin, like many more of his generation, to emigrate. He had the advantage of being a well-known sporting figure. Sporting success was an asset in the USA, especially in the East coast cities like New York and Boston.

Well-financed teams regularly invited footballers and hurlers to come and play and Martin took up an invitation to team up with the Donegal club.

He moved permanently to New York in 1984 where his winning streak continued. Martin won the highly coveted NYC football championship with Donegal in 1985 and 1986 and among his teammates were legends such as Larry Tompkins, Pádraig Dunne, Kevin Madden, Anthony Molloy, Martin McHugh, and Pat O’Toole.

While in New York, Martin worked as a carpenter but by 1989, he and Mary had grown tired of the cold winters and decided to relocate to San Francisco.

There, he worked with Richmond Hill Construction company, which also employed Paul O’Driscoll and James Daly from Drinagh, and Pat Coakley from Dunmanway.

Martin played for Clann na nGael and later with the Michael Cusack Club. He was part of the all-conquering Cusack’s team that won North American titles at junior, intermediate and senior level during the 1990s.

There was another change of direction in 1993 when he took a job as a representative for Guinness. As the sales manager for Northern California, he quickly saw an opportunity to establish Johnny Foley’s, which was named in honour of a former work colleague, and has become something of an institution – a bit like Martin himself – in the city of San Francisco.

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