BRIAN CORCORAN’S former intercounty managers were warm in their praise for the Erin’s Own legend last night. Donal O’Grady was the man who brought Corcoran back into the Cork senior hurling fold for the 2004 season.
It wasn’t a complicated decision.
"It’s quite simple — he became available," says O’Grady.
"I’d asked him to play for Cork the previous year (2003), because there was some talk at the time that he was might come back. I rang him that year but he wasn’t interested. When I heard the following year that he was coming back to play for the club, I asked him to see how things were going, that we might give him a shout if he became available. Then he came back, and I was delighted — Setanta O hAilpin and Alan Browne were both gone, two big men, so he was the ideal replacement. He brought great presence to the field and great experience to the set-up."
Playing up front was always the preferred option.
"Brian said to me that he wasn’t interested in playing in defence," said O’Grady.
"I said I had no interest in playing him there, and he was happy enough to come back and see how things went up front.
"At the time we didn’t know how it would work out, he was playing a bit part in games and was doing well enough, but we had a practice game against Clare before the 2004 Munster
Final and he did very well — his fitness was good and he was back to his best.
The Cork squad welcomed Corcoran back.
"They were delighted when he came back," said O’Grady. "The kind of character he is, he has a quiet, steely presence, he was never for shouting and roaring, but when he spoke the players listened. They certainly weren’t thinking ‘someone’s been parachuted in here’. They were delighted and it worked out well."
As for Corcoran’s decision to retire, O’Grady pointed out that nobody could judge that better than the player himself.
"He’s working up the country, he has a young family and there’s a lot of travel involved. You’d class him as one of the great players, and they always know when to quit. For him, playing for the last couple of years has cemented his position as one of the greatest Cork hurlers of all time.’’
Going further back, Canon Michael O’Brien, Cork’s All-Ireland winning coach in 1990, handed a 19-year-old Brian Corcoran his Cork senior debut against Tipperary in the 1991 Munster hurling championship. The Erins Own teenager marked the great Tipp forward, Pat Fox, that afternoon, but the Cork man picked up the man-of-the-match award after a masterful performance from his left corner back position.
"He was just 19 but we knew he was good enough," said O’Brien yesterday. "We said we’d start him at corner back because he was young — there no point putting him into central position. So we said we’d start him corner back because he’d be facing _the ball and he had strength, agility and hurling.
"He had great mobility and he was well able to anticipate a ball."
"He’d a great eye, a great block-down and that was one of the great features of the man. Plus he was one of the finest fellows I ever met. He was a great man to take a free. He was tough but never dirty. He doesn’t like any dirt. There was never that in his play. I would pick him as a fellow who played the game as it should — he always played the ball."
The Canon says Corcoran will miss the intercounty scene.
"That he returned from retirement — it takes someone special to do that. But he has done his stint- he won’t come back twice. He’ll miss the Cork scene, that’s a guarantee. He built on his success, it never went to his head and he was totally focused.
"He was what you’d call a master tradesman — he had everything you could wish for in a player."