The late Terry O’Neill has been described by Larry Tompkins as having a great football brain.
O’Neill, who died on Wednesday after a short illness, led Bantry Blues to the 1998 Cork county SFC title, defeating Duhallow in the final. He had been nominated as a Cork selector by Bantry after their 1995 county win (managed by Dr Denis Cotter, who also died recently) and was similarly chosen in the wake of 1998.
Under Tompkins’ stewardship, Cork reached the 1999 All-Ireland final and O’Neill remained as a selector for the following two years. Having been a Cork minor selector, he returned to the senior set-up in 2008 when Conor Counihan took charge and was part of the management team for the 2010 All-Ireland win.
Castletownbere native O’Neill came to Bantry when he took up a post in the post office there, but a club statement on Facebook said that “the post office was only a pastime and the real work was coaching Gaelic football”.
O’Neill’s son Damian played football for Cork in the late 1990s.
Tompkins felt that O’Neill’s infectious passion for football was inspirational.
“I’ve known Terry ever since I first played for Caslehaven,” he said, “and that passion and drive and interest were always clear to see. It was massively infectious, he was a huge character and for the likes of me, who loved talking about football, he was the ideal partner.
“When Bantry nominated him after they won the county, it was a golden period and himself, myself and Paddy Sheehan were like the three wise men, we got on fierce well. I couldn’t say enough about him, he’d never renege of wishing you the best of luck before a big game or congratulating you after.
“I was only talking to him on the phone a few weeks ago and there was a gang of us from my pub hoping to get down to see him next week. It’s heartbreaking that we couldn’t get to do that.”
As a selector, Tompkins felt that O’Neill’s key quality was his judgement of players.
“He had a great football brain and he’d leave no stone unturned,” he said.
“He would have had very strong opinions about guys and he went to a load of games around the county, he had a great knowledge of what was needed for guys to make it at inter-county level.
“He’ll be a massive loss. If I had to pick a top five of people to talk to about football, he’d be one of them.”
O’Neill will be buried after Mass at 12 noon tomorrow in Bantry.