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.”
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.
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.
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.
Seánie O'Leary with the “touch” all the greatest hurlers have pic.twitter.com/yjtz3yVTjq— Ray Boyne (@AnalysisGaa) March 17, 2020
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”.
Just heard of the sad passing of one of Corks greatest - Seanie o Leary - some man to get you a goal - lovely person -— Tomas Mulcahy (@tomas_mulcahy) December 1, 2021
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.