Irish football is mourning one of Cork’s favourite adopted sons, following the sad news of the death of Paul Bannon at the age of 59.
As a centre-back who’d originally made his name as a striker, you could say the Dublin-born Bannon really knew the game from back to front, amassing huge experience over the course of a long playing career which saw him turn out for clubs in England, the Netherlands, and Greece, before returning to Ireland to line out for both Cork City and Cobh Ramblers.
And after his retirement in 1995, he applied his knowledge to coaching, helping to bring through a new generation of footballing talent on Leeside.
As a player, he will probably be best remembered for scoring the winning goal in a pulsating 3-2 play-off victory against Shelbourne at the RDS which saw Cork City lift the club’s first league title in 1993, just one year after he had been on the losing side in a 1-0 FAI Cup final defeat to Bohemians.
Recalling him as “an integral part” of that history-making team, City yesterday offered their “sincerest condolences” to the Bannon family, while Cobh Ramblers, describing him as a player who became “a well-known and much-loved coach” also extended their deepest sympathies.
And along with many other individuals paying tribute, both in Ireland and overseas, Cobh Ramblers manager Stephen Henderson said he was “absolutely shocked” to hear of the passing of a “superb player and character”.
In England, Carlisle United were among the clubs to mark the death of a player they described as “a favourite at Brunton Park” between 1978 and 1983, a richly productive period during which he made 140 appearances and scored 45 goals for the club.
Chairman Andrew Jenkins said: “We were all shocked to hear this news as Paul was still a young man. He spent close to five seasons with us and scored his fair share of very good goals.”
The FAI also said it was saddened to learn of Bannon’s death and said that, between FAI/FAS courses in Cork and the Emerging Talent programme, he had spent 17 years working for the association before retiring four years ago.
Recalling Bannon’s career, former team-mate and fellow coach Mick Conroy said: “Paul was a great servant to Cork City, Cobh Ramblers, the FAI and football in the Munster region.
“He had great observation skills for players. He worked with the likes of Liam Miller, Colin Healy, and Damien Delaney, and played a part in their development.
“I’ve had lots of people around the country getting in touch as they had great time for him. He’d great experience in the game from playing in England, Holland and Greece. He was a very strong centre-forward who developed into an excellent centre-back. He will be sadly missed.”
Also paying tribute, FAI chief executive John Delaney said: “It was with great sadness that I heard of Paul’s death. He was a great football man and was an outstanding player.
“His work for the FAI was greatly appreciated. He made a great contribution to the development of many players and will always be remembered for doing so much for so many footballers through the years,”
Paul is survived by his wife Helen, daughter Heather and mother Sally.
His father Seamus was a celebrated hurler with Tipperary, winning three All-Ireland titles in the 1950s.
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