Following in their fathers' footsteps

January 24th, 2017 1:00 PM

By Southern Star Team

Proud parents: O'Donovan Rossa footballer Kevin Davis, who recently featured for Cork's senior footballers in the McGrath Cup, is pictured with his parents Don and Majella. Don himself is a former Cork senior footballer and selector.

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After Kevin Davis emulated his father Don and lined out for Cork’s senior footballers, TOM LYONS look at more father-son combinations


THE appearance of Kevin Davis of O’Donovan Rossa on the Cork senior football team in last Sunday’s McGrath Cup semi-final set us thinking of the father-son connection as regards Cork football. 

How many sons have followed their fathers onto the Cork senior team down the years? 

No research has been done in this area so I was hard-pressed to come up with any pairings off the top of my head as it appears that GAA sons following in their fathers’ footsteps onto the Cork team is rare enough. Just mentioning a few here should open up the debate and, hopefully, we will hear of more in the coming weeks.

Strangely, family footballing dynasties seem to be much more common in neighbouring Kerry than in Cork with the O’Shea’s, Morans, Walshes, etc., springing to mind.   

Kevin Davis, of course, is following in the footsteps of his illustrious father, Don, who starred for Cork at wing forward in the 1990s, playing in two All-Ireland finals without ever winning the elusive Sam Maguire medal. But he did win that famous All-Ireland club title with O’Donovan Rossa. Don’s brother, Anthony, a star wing back, did win an All-Ireland medals with Cork in 1989 and 1990 and his son, Jamie, has played underage with Cork and may yet wear the senior jersey.

My first introduction to the father-son combination came as a 16-year-old corner forward with the Doheny junior team that won the county title in 1966. Playing in the other corner was 45 year-old veteran Eamon Young, arguably Cork’s greatest ever footballer. He won his All-Ireland senior football medal in 1945 to add to the medal won by his father, Jack Young N.T., of Dunmanway, in 1911, who played with Nils in the city. Eamon’s brother, Dr Jim, won numerous All-Ireland senior hurling medals with the great Cork team of the 1940s.  

On that 1945 team was Derry Beckett of St Finbarr’s, also an All-Ireland winning hurler in 1942, whose father Jerry was a star of the 1911 winning Cork team. Jerry, too, was a superb dual player and an athlete of renown, winning the 220yds championship of Ireland. Not surprising when you find out that he was, in fact, a Kerry man, from Kilgarvan.

A third player to note on the 1945 team was Humphrey ‘Small’ O’Neill, of Clonakilty, the youngest player on the team. Not quite father and son, but his nephew, Dave McCarthy, an All-Star in 1976, won an All-Ireland senior football medal with Cork in 1973.

When Dohenys won their only county senior title in 1897, they represented Cork in the All-Ireland championship, losing the final, and playing on the team was Denis Bernard. His nephew, of the same name, was Cork’s outstanding centre back when the county contested two finals in 1956 and 1957.

Also playing for the 1911 Cork team was Edward Barry of the famous Lees, and his great-grandson is none other than legendary rugby player, Brian O’Driscoll, former captain of Ireland and the Lions.

When it comes to father and son connections few have been as effective as the Kerrigans of Nemo Rangers. Jimmy was the outstanding corner back on the 1989/1990 double-winning Cork football team while his son, Paul has been Cork’s outstanding forward for the past decade, winning his All-Ireland medal in 2010. It’s worth noting that in many cases where a father and son have worn the Cork jersey, one has done it as a forward and the other as a defender.  

Castlehaven’s Niall Cahalane is a legend in Cork football, winning All-Ireland senior medals in 1989/1990 and his son Damien looked set to fasten down a spot on the present team until deciding to switch his allegiance to hurling.

Seamus O’Sullivan of Dohenys was an elegant corner back on the outstanding Cork team of 1976, in the best Munster final ever played in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, and his son Jamie, a Bishopstown ace, has frequently filled the same position during the past few seasons.

The Collins clan of Castlehaven could claim the title of the most prolific GAA family in Cork. From the original group of seven brothers, Donal, Francis, Dinty and Christy all wore the red shirt in either football and hurling, or both, with their sons, Brian (Dinty), Bernie and Liam (Christy) and Mark (Francis) also wearing the red football jersey.

Noel Crowley, formerly of Bandon and later O’Donovan Rossa, played senior football with Cork in the early 1970s, following in the footsteps of his father, Seán, chairman and president of the South West Board, who won an All-Ireland junior hurling medal in 1950.

When Cork won the Sam Maguire in 1973 they had a dynamic wing back from Adrigole named Kevin Ger O’Sullivan, whose son, Brendan Ger, wore the red jersey in the early years of the Noughties.

One of the great heroes of that 1973 Cork team was, of course, Declan Barron, whose son, also Declan, was a Cork minor without progressing to senior.

The O’Driscoll brothers of Caheragh, Colm, Kevin and Brian recently made their own bit of history when all three appeared together on the Cork team and their father, Gene, well-known in coaching circles during the past 25 years, was on the Cork senior panel in 1984.  

The fact that the sons of some Cork football stars, like Jimmy Barry-Murphy and ‘Small’ Mick McCarthy, went on to take up other sports and did very well there, indicating that they, too, might have worn the Cork jersey had they concentrated on football, plus the old belief that talent often skipped a generation before again manifesting itself, means there are not as many father-son connections in Cork football as we would have liked.

No doubt we have overlooked many here but at least we have started the debate and would love to hear from anybody who can add to the list. Feel free to phone 087-6425180 and fill me in.

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