Quirke and O’Neill exit as Rebel retirements go on

Long-serving Cork footballers Alan Quirke and Pearse O’Neill have retired from the inter-county game.

Goalkeeper Quirke informed the Irish Examiner yesterday of his decision while O’Neill made his announcement via the Cork website.

Valley Rovers clubman Quirke revealed he had earmarked this season as his last in Cork colours.

“I’ve a couple of niggles I’ve been keeping at bay for a few years but that’s not the reason I’m stepping down. I’ve been very lucky to have outstanding medical care with Cork from Dr Con Murphy, Dr Eanna Falvey and Colin Lane.

“I thought about it long and hard while I was in the Lebanon on Army duty and I knew coming back last May that it was my last season one way or the other. My mind was made up by January or February last year. I’m very happy with my decision.”

Quirke joined the Cork senior panel in 1999 and played in the McGrath Cup final that year before making his league debut later that season, when NFL games were still played in the autumn.

He won an All-Ireland SFC medal in 2010 and collected Munster SFC medals in 1999, 2002, ‘06, ‘08, ‘09 and ‘12.

Quirke also won NFL titles in 1999, 2010, ‘11 and ‘12 and played International Rules for Ireland.

Aghada man O’Neill, 33, made his debut in 2006 and lined out in the half-forward line in the All-Ireland final win over Down three years ago.

O’Neill was an All Star in 2009 and landed four National League titles and a Division 2 honour as well as three Munster Championship medals.

“I came onto the panel in 2006 and have loved representing my family, club and county by wearing the Cork jersey,” said O’Neill.

“I want to thank all the backroom staff that have been involved during my time with Cork, in particular Billy Morgan and Conor Counihan who were the two managers I played under.

“I also want to thank all the players that I played and trained with for all the enjoyment and memories, and I wish everyone involved in 2014 and further on all the very best.”

The All-Ireland win over Down three years ago was a huge highlight for goalkeeper Quirke.

“2010 was great, but 2008 was another very enjoyable year for us. We lost badly in the All-Ireland the year before, then we had the strike and a lot of us thought we mightn’t play again for Cork.

“Because of that, we played with a lot of abandon in 2008, and the Kerry game, when we came back from eight points down at half-time, was unforgettable. I’ll take that to the grave.”

A Tyrone star was Quirke’s top opponent. “I only played against him a couple of times, but Peter Canavan was the complete package for me. He could take care of himself, win his own ball, get his own scores, take frees, defend... I thought he could do everything, the best player I came across, anyway.”

Quirke was warm in his thanks for those who supported him.

“I owe a lot to my club, and I’m still very close to the underage coaches who gave me a passion for football in Valley Rovers. My family have always supported me, even though it can be hard for them to listen to you get abuse while you’re playing. My wife Christina has been unbelievably loyal — and her family, too, they’re a football family as well.”


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