I’ve had a fair innings, says retiring Cork ace O’Leary

Long-serving Cork footballer Noel O’Leary has retired from intercounty football.

The Cill na Martra clubman won a minor All-Ireland title in 2000 and a senior Celtic Cross 10 years later.

“I have no complaints,” said the wing-back yesterday.

“I’ve had a fair innings with Cork. I’m there 14 years, believe it or not.

“I came in first when there were still league games played before Christmas. I was brought in for a game against Limerick (in 2000), I remember. “It went pretty okay that day. I got a goal, which didn’t reflect the way things panned out afterwards, to be honest.”

Unsurprisingly, O’Leary pointed to the Cork win over Down in the All-Ireland senior final three years ago as the high point of his career. “The senior All-Ireland was the highlight, obviously, though winning the minor was great crack as well. Having played for so long, and to come so close a couple of times before that, it was great to win it.

“But there were other highlights, too. It might sound like a cliche, but making the friends I did with Cork, and with other counties, that was great. Seeing the world with the team was a great privilege too — I certainly saw places I’d never have seen otherwise.”

O’Leary was a firm favourite with the Rebel faithful over the years, something he was always thankful for.

“I’d have appreciated the support down the years. That never went unnoticed by me — or by the other players. People’s loyalty and support for you in good times and bad is not something you’d ever forget.

“I want to thank my club, Cill na Martra, and my family for all their support, and I can’t leave out my fiancée Eimear. We’re getting married in December so we’ve something to look forward to.”

Part of the reason O’Leary was such a favourite with the Cork support was his long-running battle with Kerry star Paul Galvin, with the two players getting involved in several skirmishes over the years.

“He texted me after we won the All-Ireland, in fairness,” said O’Leary.

“Look, we had a few clashes over the years but I think in reality a lot of those were blown slightly out of proportion by the media.

“I’d have nothing but respect for Paul as a player and I’d hope he’d feel the same way about myself.

“Yes, we had our battles in various games, those are memories I won’t forget, but I wouldn’t have a bad word said against Paul.

“I’d appreciate everything he did and achieved as a player, and hopefully down the road we could meet up and have a few drinks and a chat.”

And a chat about fashion, given Galvin’s well-known interest in cutting-edge clothing? “You never know, but he’d have a fair job on his hands sorting out my fashion sense.”

With Cork Rebel Week in full flow, it’s appropriate that one of Leeside’s most popular heroes bows out with a nod to those he represented.

“Wearing the senior jersey for Cork was the ultimate for me, something I dreamed of as a child and which came true for me as an adult. I’ll always appreciate the honour of representing the people of Cork.”

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