Local sportspeople tell us who their favourite West Cork sports star is

May 31st, 2020 11:50 AM

By Kieran McCarthy

Skibbereen rower Paul O'Donovan is a four-time world champion.

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‘It has to be Jennifer O’Leary – she was a speedy and athletic half forward with an incredible engine. I was just starting out and she had this ability to make you feel so welcome and relaxed. She used to bring me to training and I always wondered how she kept going. She may have been quite petite on the pitch but her work-rate and ability was hugely evident. A talented individual, a team player and a Cork camogie legend – Caroline Sugrue (Cork, Carbery & Ballinascarthy camogie player)


‘I'd go with Paul O'Donovan because he’s a world champion at what he does, he has done so much for his sport and because he's known countrywide and probably further as being a West Cork man. Honourable mention too for Darren Sweetnam for opening the door to something bigger for West Cork rugby players’ – Tom Ferguson (Bandon RFC)


‘I’ve two. I grew up in the same general area as All-Ireland football winning captain Graham Canty. As a nine-year-old I watched him lift Sam Maguire in person and I found him really inspiring. Also, there’s Phil Healy – to have an athlete breaking records in the same sport as myself, I can appreciate fully everything Phil has achieved. Additionally she is always a class apart on the national athletics scene and competes with an air of class – Darragh McElhinney (European U20 5000m bronze medallist)


‘My favourite West Cork sportsperson is Ian Kingston. He’s competed and coached at international level (coached both the junior and senior Irish teams) which can be said for very few. He’s been dedicated to his sport for over 30 years and has nurtured one of the most successful kickboxing clubs in the world. He’s the only coach I know that does all his own demonstrations and completes fitness tests alongside his elite athletes (often beating their scores). Above all else, Ian is a true sportsperson. He runs a business but always puts the needs of his students before anything else. He is dedicated, selfless and extremely modest. Ian is the very reason so many of us have achieved what we have and continued to come back for more year in year out – Lily de la Cour (former World and European kickboxing champion)


‘That’s a tough one, but I’m going for two – Gary and Paul O’Donovan because they won a silver medal at the Olympics and that was the first time that Irish rowers ever brought home a medal from the Games. It was an unbelievable achievement’ – Josh Wycherley (Munster rugby)


‘It’s Graham Canty. When I was growing up he was one of the best footballers (whether it was at centre back or midfield) in the country and I always wanted be as good a footballer as he was in his prime' – Melissa Duggan (Dohenys & Cork)


‘It’s a tough choice between John Caulfield and Conor Hourihane. Look at what John did with Cork City in his playing and managing career but at the same time it’s unreal seeing a West Cork man lining out in the Premier League every week – it just shows that dreams can become a reality if you put the hard work in. Caulfield just about edges it for me, seeing how he transformed the City team when he took over as manager and became double-winning champions within a few seasons. He is Cork City’s all-time top scorer which shows his success on the pitch but playing under him it was clear to see why he’s become such a successful manager – Ronan Hurley (Cork City FC defender)


‘I'd have to go with Paul O'Donovan because of his consistent success at the highest level. It’s serious going to get to the Olympics and World championships but to win medals at them is another level’ – Laura Sheehan (Munster & Ireland rugby)


‘I rate Small Mick McCarthy as the greatest sportsperson from West Cork that I've ever seen. I played my underage GAA with Ballincollig but Dad always brought us to the Skibb games. Mick's talent was just exceptional. He could literally win a game on his own. I was in Croke Park for the drawn All-Ireland Club final against Éire Óg and what he did in the last ten minutes to force the draw was unforgettable. He was equally impressive for Cork, but often suffered from if-there's-a-problem-take-off-the-corner-forward. He was a real character of the game and was sadly taken from us too early’ – Alan Foley (O’Donovan Rossa hurler)


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