Tributes paid after Cork hurling great Seanie O'Leary dies aged 69

Four-time All-Ireland SHC winner O’Leary was one of the greatest goal poachers in the game
Tributes paid after Cork hurling great Seanie O'Leary dies aged 69

Seanie O'Leary celebrates a goal for Cork against Offaly in the Centenary All-Ireland Hurling Final in 1984. 

Denis Coughlan has paid tribute to his late team-mate and Cork hurling great Seánie O’Leary as “the life and soul of the dressing room”.

One of the greatest goalscorers to have played the game, four-time All-Ireland SHC winner O’Leary passed away on Wednesday at the age of 69.

Coughlan lined out alongside O’Leary in the county’s All-Ireland successes from 1976 to ‘78 and has only fond memories of one of the most popular hurlers ever to wear the red and white.

“He was the life and soul of the dressing room regardless of how big the game was. He had an attitude that we all envied. It was just his way of relaxing but he was always very upbeat about the game and the day.

“He was a great companion too whether it was at training or on the golf course and I’m sure he enjoyed our company too but his was always great. He was a great servant to Cork and Youghal.

“He was on the three-in-a-row teams and was still there in 1984. He mightn’t have looked the fittest but he was an excellent reader of the game and was always fast off the mark. Over 10 yards, he was brilliant and that was one of his greatest attributes.” 

Seanie O'Leary waves to the crowd after being honoured as a member of the 1984 Cork Jubilee team during the 2009 All-Ireland SHC final. Picture: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
Seanie O'Leary waves to the crowd after being honoured as a member of the 1984 Cork Jubilee team during the 2009 All-Ireland SHC final. Picture: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

Thirty goals in 36 senior championship games for Cork speaks to O’Leary’s eye for the net and Coughlan described him as an incredibly shrewd hurler. 

“We played in a different generation in the 1970s, of course, when you played your position and he mastered the corner-forward position. He would lie very far back on the end-line of the pitch and be able to read what was happening and react to it with his speed in those short bursts.” 

After claiming two minor All-Ireland medals, O’Leary made his senior debut in 1971 and won the first of his Celtic Crosses in 1976 on that famous three-in-row winning team. He also claimed two U21 All-Irelands and added his fourth All-Ireland senior medal in the GAA’s centenary year of 1984 following final losses in the previous two years.

In the pre-match puck around prior to Cork's 1977 All-Ireland Hurling final against Wexford, Seanie O'Leary suffered a nose injury as a result of being struck by a sliotar. Only 14 Cork players paraded before the match as Seanie was rushed back to the dressing room by Dr Con Murphy and Frank Murphy. Seanie shrugged off the effects and scored the decisive goal as Cork won 1-17 to 3-8.
In the pre-match puck around prior to Cork's 1977 All-Ireland Hurling final against Wexford, Seanie O'Leary suffered a nose injury as a result of being struck by a sliotar. Only 14 Cork players paraded before the match as Seanie was rushed back to the dressing room by Dr Con Murphy and Frank Murphy. Seanie shrugged off the effects and scored the decisive goal as Cork won 1-17 to 3-8.

He also collected his third All-Star in ‘84 having previously been honoured in 1976 and ‘77. Among his other accolades included nine Munster crowns and four National League titles as well as an intermediate championship with Youghal in 1969.

A selector to Jimmy Barry-Murphy when Cork claimed the Liam MacCarthy Cup in 1999 and assisting Donal O’Grady when they lifted it again in 2004, O’Leary coached Imokilly to senior county success in ‘97 and ‘98.

Imokilly coach Seanie O'Leary with Mark Landers during a break in training at Castlelyons ahead of the Cork SHC final. Picture: Denis Minihane
Imokilly coach Seanie O'Leary with Mark Landers during a break in training at Castlelyons ahead of the Cork SHC final. Picture: Denis Minihane

His goals in the 1984 championship, the late winner against Tipperary in the Munster final and two against Offaly in the All-Ireland final, are regarded as three of his most famous scores.

The county board have confirmed their “One Cork Worldwide” event due to take place this Thursday evening has been postponed until next week as a mark of respect to O’Leary.

Paying tribute to him on Twitter, Taoiseach Micheál Martin wrote: “So sad to hear of the loss of Seanie O’Leary, one of the true greats of the game of hurling. His exploits as a goal poacher lit up stadiums during a golden era of Cork hurling. He always be fondly remembered on Leeside. My deepest sympathies to all his family and friends.” 

O’Leary’s former team-mate Tomás Mulcahy posted: “Just heard of the sad passing of one of Corks greatest - Seanie o Leary - some man to get you a goal - lovely person - Condolences to all his family - RIP Seanie”. 

O’Leary’s son Tomás captained Cork’s minors to All-Ireland success in 2001 before he switched codes to rugby where he enjoyed a successful career with Munster, London Irish, and Ireland.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

More in this section

Puzzles logo
IE-logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day. PS ... We would love to hear your feedback on the section right HERE.

Sport
Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up
Puzzles logo
IE-logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day. PS ... We would love to hear your feedback on the section right HERE.