Sport

Class really is permanent

August 16th, 2016 1:00 PM

By Kieran McCarthy

A good week's work: John Cullinane and Sharon O'Leary pictured with the Cork JCFC cup and the West Cork Sports Star monthly award.

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JOHN Cullinane is single-handedly disproving the theory that age catches up with everyone.

Less than two weeks ago, the 45-year-old Goleen veteran showed that his boots are still sprinkled with stardust when he inspired the club to the greatest day in its history – winning the first-ever Cork junior C football championship final against Abbey Rovers in Brinny.

The 1-13 to 3-5 triumph sparked celebrations like Goleen has never seen before, and Cullinane more than played his part with a man-of-the-match performance from midfield, scoring 0-6 and inspiring his teammates.

In honour of his and Goleen’s heroics, Cullinane was presented with the Celtic Ross West Cork Sports Star of the Month award for July last week where he was accompanied by his county-winning teammates, enjoying the ongoing celebrations.

‘This award is for the club, not just for me, and this has been an unbelievable few days for the club, the parish and our supporters,’ Cullinane said.

‘Winning the county title was a long time coming, it’s the first adult county title that we have won so it’s huge for everyone, and now to get the latest West Cork Sports Star monthly award is an added bonus and further recognition of what we have achieved.’

Goleen, one of the smaller clubs in West Cork, had many heroes on that night in Brinny, and while Cullinane is eager to salute the team effort, his bravery and display can’t be overlooked either.

It’s over 30 years ago since he first played football for Goleen – away against Timoleague, he recalls – and, injuries apart, he has been an ever-present. The good news for Goleen is that there is no end in sight for him either. Turning 46 in July 2017, he’s vowed to come back again next season.

‘I broke a bone in my pelvis last year (in a championship game against Grange in Bandon), I got injections into my ankle before the game against Abbey Rovers and I twisted my ankle during the game, so the body is battered and worn, but if we’re going junior B next year, which we are, then I’ll keep going for one more year anyway. I couldn’t leave this bunch of lads,’ he pledged before revealing the secret to his longevity.

‘I love football. I absolutely adore it. If I didn’t have something to do during the week, I’d lose the plot! I am pretty determined, whether that’s playing GAA with Goleen or soccer with Mizen, and it’s with the same lads.

‘I’m a farmer myself, and I always feel that you need some other outlet and some other interest besides your job. It’s good for the mind.

‘I look at Pat Nolan there with Gabriels, who I’ve soldiered alongside; he’s the same age as myself. He came out there recently in a South West junior A game against Castlehaven and by all accounts steadied the ship, and that’s at a higher level.

‘When I talk of Pat, I need to mention his father, Luke Nolan. I have an unbelievable regard for Luke, he brought me into the Carbery set-up. I haven’t met him since we won the county, but I know he’d be happy for Goleen,’ said John, who comes from a large family with four brothers (Jerry, Noel, Dinny and Tim) and two sisters (Bridget and Catherine). 

Gaels across West Cork and beyond were thrilled when the news spread of Goleen’s county football final win as this is a rural GAA club on the Mizen peninsula that has struggled over the years. The club even went dormant in the mid 1960s to the late ’70s, and success has been rare apart from recent times when the club won the West Cork junior B championship and junior B league earlier this decade.

Cullinane, living in Corelacka, Goleen, has soldiered on regardless, through the good days and the bad, and he knows more than most what this county title means to the club, its fans and the parish.

‘It’s been unbelievably hard to keep the show on the road over the years,’ he admitted.

‘Even this year, I rang a father to see if his son would play with us for in the championship semi-final because we had a fella with a broken ankle, another with a broken jaw (John Scully) and another fella was out fishing (Paudie Scully) – and this is from a team that had 18 players at the start of the year. We had 23 or 24 togging out for the county final, and that’s because more come on board when things progress well.’

‘We’re an unbelievably tight group. These are the fellas that you are training with in the lashing rain in February and that you have suffered through the hard times with, so to be able to look in their eyes and see their joy in Brinny after we won the county final is something that will always stay with me.

‘In a small club, successes like this mean more. In a small place like Goleen it’s all tied up, every parent and every child knows every other parent and child. I was training the underage teams before, and you could see all those kids at the county final, and the happiness in their eyes coming onto the field at the end – that made it all worthwhile.’

Two of Cullinane’s four brothers, Jerry and Noel, flew home from San Francisco the Thursday before the county final and the Wednesday morning after. Both had the same message for John as they headed across the Atlantic: it was a weekend that they’ll never forget. John’s nephew Tadhg Cullinane, son of Tim, was also on the victorious Goleen team, and also there to soak up the celebrations and watch her father’s heroics was John’s daughter, Clíodhna, as was his partner Sharon O’Leary.

His sister Bridget’s husband, Olan, said the celebrations in Goleen were the biggest outpouring of emotion that he had ever seen in his life, and that it will never be topped. Great days in Goleen, indeed. What’s rare is wonderful.

Son of Teresa and the late Dermot Cullinane, John credits current Castlehaven manager James McCarthy for the role he played in laying the foundation for this current success when he put in place a structure when he was in charge of the team, while the Goleen hero paid a special tribute to current manager Pat Connolly.

‘Pat brings out the best of us,’ he said.

‘He has been involved in the club for five or six years, and we’ve won trophies in three of those. Before that we last won in 1959 (the West Cork junior B football championship), so you can see what that man does for us. He has a passion to win. 

‘At half-time in Brinny, he steadied the ship, not by ranting or raving, but by sitting down and telling us that we weren’t doing it as a team. When you buy into what he has created, there was fellas ready to burst out through the door for the second half.’

A former Cork junior in his heyday, Cullinane was involved in the Carbery set-up for several years, when he played alongside Michéal O’Sullivan, Fachtna Collins, Pat Hegarty and Eoin Sexton, and he was a second-half sub in the 2000 Cork SFC final defeat (1-14 to 0-7) against Nemo Rangers.

His latest county final went a lot better, and it’s certain never to be bettered.

JOHN Cullinane is single-handedly disproving the theory that age catches up with everyone.

Less than two weeks ago, the 45-year-old Goleen veteran showed that his boots are still sprinkled with stardust when he inspired the club to the greatest day in its history – winning the first-ever Cork junior C football championship final against Abbey Rovers in Brinny.

The 1-13 to 3-5 triumph sparked celebrations like Goleen has never seen before, and Cullinane more than played his part with a man-of-the-match performance from midfield, scoring 0-6 and inspiring his teammates.

In honour of his and Goleen’s heroics, Cullinane was presented with the Celtic Ross West Cork Sports Star of the Month award for July last week where he was accompanied by his county-winning teammates, enjoying the ongoing celebrations.

‘This award is for the club, not just for me, and this has been an unbelievable few days for the club, the parish and our supporters,’ Cullinane said.

‘Winning the county title was a long time coming, it’s the first adult county title that we have won so it’s huge for everyone, and now to get the latest West Cork Sports Star monthly award is an added bonus and further recognition of what we have achieved.’

Goleen, one of the smaller clubs in West Cork, had many heroes on that night in Brinny, and while Cullinane is eager to salute the team effort, his bravery and display can’t be overlooked either.

It’s over 30 years ago since he first played football for Goleen – away against Timoleague, he recalls – and, injuries apart, he has been an ever-present. The good news for Goleen is that there is no end in sight for him either. Turning 46 in July 2017, he’s vowed to come back again next season.

‘I broke a bone in my pelvis last year (in a championship game against Grange in Bandon), I got injections into my ankle before the game against Abbey Rovers and I twisted my ankle during the game, so the body is battered and worn, but if we’re going junior B next year, which we are, then I’ll keep going for one more year anyway. I couldn’t leave this bunch of lads,’ he pledged before revealing the secret to his longevity.

‘I love football. I absolutely adore it. If I didn’t have something to do during the week, I’d lose the plot! I am pretty determined, whether that’s playing GAA with Goleen or soccer with Mizen, and it’s with the same lads.

‘I’m a farmer myself, and I always feel that you need some other outlet and some other interest besides your job. It’s good for the mind.

‘I look at Pat Nolan there with Gabriels, who I’ve soldiered alongside; he’s the same age as myself. He came out there recently in a South West junior A game against Castlehaven and by all accounts steadied the ship, and that’s at a higher level.

‘When I talk of Pat, I need to mention his father, Luke Nolan. I have an unbelievable regard for Luke, he brought me into the Carbery set-up. I haven’t met him since we won the county, but I know he’d be happy for Goleen,’ said John, who comes from a large family with four brothers (Jerry, Noel, Dinny and Tim) and two sisters (Bridget and Catherine). 

Gaels across West Cork and beyond were thrilled when the news spread of Goleen’s county football final win as this is a rural GAA club on the Mizen peninsula that has struggled over the years. The club even went dormant in the mid 1960s to the late ’70s, and success has been rare apart from recent times when the club won the West Cork junior B championship and junior B league earlier this decade.

Cullinane, living in Corelacka, Goleen, has soldiered on regardless, through the good days and the bad, and he knows more than most what this county title means to the club, its fans and the parish.

‘It’s been unbelievably hard to keep the show on the road over the years,’ he admitted.

‘Even this year, I rang a father to see if his son would play with us for in the championship semi-final because we had a fella with a broken ankle, another with a broken jaw (John Scully) and another fella was out fishing (Paudie Scully) – and this is from a team that had 18 players at the start of the year. We had 23 or 24 togging out for the county final, and that’s because more come on board when things progress well.’

‘We’re an unbelievably tight group. These are the fellas that you are training with in the lashing rain in February and that you have suffered through the hard times with, so to be able to look in their eyes and see their joy in Brinny after we won the county final is something that will always stay with me.

‘In a small club, successes like this mean more. In a small place like Goleen it’s all tied up, every parent and every child knows every other parent and child. I was training the underage teams before, and you could see all those kids at the county final, and the happiness in their eyes coming onto the field at the end – that made it all worthwhile.’

Two of Cullinane’s four brothers, Jerry and Noel, flew home from San Francisco the Thursday before the county final and the Wednesday morning after. Both had the same message for John as they headed across the Atlantic: it was a weekend that they’ll never forget. John’s nephew Tadhg Cullinane, son of Tim, was also on the victorious Goleen team, and also there to soak up the celebrations and watch her father’s heroics was John’s daughter, Clíodhna, as was his partner Sharon O’Leary.

His sister Bridget’s husband, Olan, said the celebrations in Goleen were the biggest outpouring of emotion that he had ever seen in his life, and that it will never be topped. Great days in Goleen, indeed. What’s rare is wonderful.

Son of Teresa and the late Dermot Cullinane, John credits current Castlehaven manager James McCarthy for the role he played in laying the foundation for this current success when he put in place a structure when he was in charge of the team, while the Goleen hero paid a special tribute to current manager Pat Connolly.

‘Pat brings out the best of us,’ he said.

‘He has been involved in the club for five or six years, and we’ve won trophies in three of those. Before that we last won in 1959 (the West Cork junior B football championship), so you can see what that man does for us. He has a passion to win. 

‘At half-time in Brinny, he steadied the ship, not by ranting or raving, but by sitting down and telling us that we weren’t doing it as a team. When you buy into what he has created, there was fellas ready to burst out through the door for the second half.’

A former Cork junior in his heyday, Cullinane was involved in the Carbery set-up for several years, when he played alongside Michéal O’Sullivan, Fachtna Collins, Pat Hegarty and Eoin Sexton, and he was a second-half sub in the 2000 Cork SFC final defeat (1-14 to 0-7) against Nemo Rangers.

His latest county final went a lot better, and it’s certain never to be bettered.

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