Conor Counihan

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Conor Counihan
Personal information
Irish name Conchur Ó Cuanacháin
Sport Gaelic football
Position Centre-back
Born (1959-09-28) 28 September 1959 (age 55)
Aghada, County Cork, Ireland
Height 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)
Nickname Miley
Occupation CEO of St. Joseph's Foundation
Club(s)
Years Club
Aghada
Imokilly
Club titles
Cork titles 2
Inter-county(ies)*
Years County Apps (scores)
1980-1993 Cork 26 (0-00)
Inter-county titles
Munster titles 4
All-Irelands 2
NFL 1
All Stars 2
*Inter County team apps and scores correct as of 16:48, 6 August 2013.

Conor Counihan (born 28 September 1959) is an Irish former Gaelic footballer who played as a centre-back for the Cork senior team.[1]

Born in Aghada, County Cork, Counihan first excelled at football during his youth. He arrived on the inter-county scene at the age of twenty when he first linked up with the Cork under-21 team, before later lining out with the junior side. He made his senior debut in the 1980-81 National Football League. Counihan went on to play a key part for Cork in what has come to be known as a golden age for the team, and won two All-Ireland medals, four Munster medals and three National Football League medals. He was an All-Ireland runner-up on three occasions.

Counihan was a member of the Munster inter-provincial team for six consecutive years, however, a Railway Cup medal eluded him. At club level he won two championship medals with divisional side Imokilly, while he also won intermediate and junior championship medals with Aghada.

Throughout his career Counihan made 26 championship appearances for Cork. His retirement came following Cork's defeat by Derry in the 1993 All-Ireland final.

In retirement from playing, Counihan became involved in team management and coaching. He served as a selector and as a backs' coach on the Cork senior football team under both Billy Morgan and Larry Tompkins, while he was also manager of the Aghada senior team. As manager of the Cork senior team for six seasons, he guided the team to the All-Ireland title in 2010.

Counihan is widely regarded as one of the greatest players of his generation. During his playing days he won two All-Star awards. In 2009 he was chosen at centre-back on a special Munster football team of the quarter century.[2]

Playing career[edit]

Club[edit]

Counihan played his club football with Aghada and enjoyed much success.

In 1984 Counihan was captain of divisional side Imolkilly as the team reached the final of the county senior championship for the first time ever. Dual kingpins St. Finbarr's provided the opposition and were installed as the firm favourites. The game went Imokilly's way as the men from east Cork, an area known as a hurling stronghold, claimed their first ever title with a 2-14 to 2-7 score line.[3]

After surrendering their title the following year, Imokilly were back in the championship decider again in 1986. Once again it was St. Finbarr's who provided the opposition, however, on this occasion the Barr's were the reigning county champions. The game was a close, low-scoring affair, however, Imokilly eventually triumphed by 2-4 to 0-9 and Counihan picked up a second championship medal.[4]

In 1989 Counihan won a fourth divisional junior medal of the decade with Aghada. The club later reached the final of the county championship. Knocknagree were the opponents and, after a draw and a replay, Counihan's side triumphed by 0-8 to 0-4, giving him a junior championship medal.

After just two years at intermediate level Aghada reached the championship final with Ballincollig providing the opposition. A narrow 0-9 to 0-8 victory gave Counihan an intermediate championship medal and entry to the top flight of club football in Cork.

Under-21 and junior[edit]

Counihan first came to prominence on the inter-county scene as a member of the Cork under-21 football team in 1980. He won a Munster medal that year following a 3-15 to 0-4 trouncing of Clare. Cork later qualified for the All-Ireland final. Dublin provided the opposition on that occasion, however, a 2-8 to 1-5 score line gave victory to Cork and gave Counihan a coveted All-Ireland medal.

In 1984 Counihan was a key member of the Cork junior football team. That he won a Munster medal following a 1-12 to 0-9 defeat of Kerry. The subsequent All-Ireland final pitted Cork against English side Warwickshire. An absolute rout took place and Cork won easily by 3-20 to 0-7, giving Counihan an All-Ireland medal.

Senior[edit]

Counihan made his senior debut for Cork during the autumn games of the 1980-81 National Football League. He made his championship debut against Waterford in 1981, but was back on the substitutes' bench for the subsequent Munster final defeat by Kerry.

Over the next few years Counihan was on and off the senior panel. He returned to the starting fifteen as captain for Cork's unsuccessful championship campaign in 1985.

Two years later in 1987, Counihan was captain of Cork for a second time as the team made a long overdue breakthrough in the championship. After a 1-10 to 2-7 Munster final draw with four-in-a-row contenders Kerry, Cork triumphed in the replay by 0-13 to 1-5, giving him a first Munster medal. Counihan lined out in his first All-Ireland final on 20 September 1987, with Meath providing the opposition. Midway through the first-half Cork had a goal chance blocked by Mick Lyons when Jimmy Kerrigan looked to be through for a seven-point lead. Instead, it was Meath who led by 1-6 to 0-8 at half-time, courtesy of a Colm O'Rourke goal. Cork’s Larry Tompkins's radar was also off course as he missed six out of eight free-kicks. At the full-time whistle Meath were the winners by 1-14 to 0-11.[5]

Cork retained the provincial title for the first time in fourteen years in 1988, following a narrow 1-14 to 0-16 defeat of Kerry. The game was famous for an incident in which Counihan grabbed Jack O'Shea by the testicles.[6] It was his second consecutive Munster medal. Counihan later lined out in a second All-Ireland final against Meath on 18 September 1988. Cork got off to a good start with a Teddy McCarthy goal, however, as the game entered the dying moments with "the Rebels" leading by a point, Brian Stafford scored the equaliser to secure a 0-12 to 1-9 draw. The subsequent replay on 9 October 1988 was a controversial affair, with Meath's Gerry McEntee being sent-off after just seven minutes. In spite of being reduced to fourteen men, Meath hung on for a narrow 0-13 to 0-12 victory.[7]

1989 began on a more positive note for Counihan as Cork faced New York in the final of the National League at Gaelic Park. An aggregate score of 3-21 to 2-14 in favour of Cork gave Counihan a coveted National League medal. Cork later made history by securing a third successive Munster title following a 1-12 to 1-9 defeat of Kerry. Mayo faced Cork in the subsequent All-Ireland final on 16 September 1989, as Counihan's side aimed to put an end to their losing streak in All-Ireland finals. The game was a close affair for much of the opening half. An Anthony Finnerty goal after thirty-eight minutes gave Mayo a brief lead, however, the Connacht champions failed to score for the last nineteen minutes. Teddy McCarthy took control and Cork secured victory by 0-17 to 1-11.[8][9] It was Counihan's first All-Ireland medal and Cork's first championship title since 1973. At the end of the year Counihan was presented with his first All-Star award.

Cork dominated the provincial championship again in 1990. A 2-23 to 1-11 defeat of old rivals Kerry gave Counihan a fourth successive Munster medal. On 16 September 1990 Cork had the chance to retain their All-Ireland title when they faced Meath in the All-Ireland decider. Cork suffered a blow in the first-half when Colm O'Neill was sent off; however, Shay Fahy was playing a blinder at midfield. In spite of only having fourteen men Cork won the game by 0-11 to 0-9.[10] It was a second consecutive All-Ireland medal for Counihan and it was the first time that Cork had achieved back-to-back championships. This victory was all the more special as the Cork hurling team had already won their respective All-Ireland title a fortnight earlier. It was the first time in the modern era that a county had won the hurling and football double. A second consecutive All-Star award quickly followed for Counihan.

Three All-Ireland titles in-a-row proved beyond Cork and Counihan was later confined to the substitutes' bench.

In 1993 Cork regained the Munster title, however, Counihan was an unused sub in the 1-16 to 1-8 defeat of Tipperary. He was later named in the substitutes for the All-Ireland final showdown with Derry on 19 September 1993. Things did not go to plan as "the Rebels" were reduced to fourteen men when Tony Davis was harshly red-carded. Counihan was introduced as a substitute, however, Séamus Downey scored the winning goal as Derry secured their first All-Ireland with a 1-14 to 2-8 victory.[11] Counihan retired from inter-county activity following this defeat.

Inter-provincial[edit]

Counihan also lined out with Munster in the inter-provincial football competition, however, he enjoyed little success. He played with Munster for six seasons between 1986 and 1992, however, he ended up on the losing side on each occasion and finished his career without a Railway Cup title.[12]

Managerial career[edit]

Cork selector[edit]

In retirement from playing Counihan maintained a strong interest in the game. Immediately after his inter-county retirement his services were employed as a selector in 1994 with Cork manager Billy Morgan. That year Cork retained their Munster title following another convincing victory over Tipperary. Cork, however, were subsequently defeated by eventual champions Down in the All-Ireland semi-final.

Five years later in 1999 Counihan played a vital role alongside Larry Tompkins as a specialist backs coach and as a selector. The year was a successful one, beginning with the capture of the National League title following a two-point defeat of Dublin.[13] Cork later reclaimed the Munster title after an absence of four years. An All-Ireland final appearance beckoned, with old enemies Meath providing the opposition. Ollie Murphy scored a goal in the first-half that proved decisive for Meath. Graham Geraghty missed a penalty for ‘the Royals’ immediately after the interval, before a Joe Kavanagh goal gave Cork a brief lead. At the full-time whistle Cork were beaten by 1-11 to 1-8.[14]

Counihan returned as a backs coach again in 2003, however, Cork were humiliated in the championship. Following the resignation of manager Larry Tompkins, Counihan was, at one point, installed as the favourite to succeed him in the position. On that occasion the job went to former manager Billy Morgan.

Aghada manager[edit]

Counihan also enjoyed a successful stint as coach of the senior football team with his own Aghada club. Counihan’s side won the All-Ireland Sevens title in 2003 and reached the semi-final of the county championship in 2005. Following that defeat Counihan resigned as coach and became involved in the underage sections of the Aghada club.

Cork manager[edit]

In 2007 when Billy Morgan left as Cork senior football manager Counihan was one of the favourites to take the post. He was, however, overlooked again and the post went to Teddy Holland. Following a lengthy strike by the players Holland was removed as manager without overseeing a single game and Counihan was installed as manager in February 2008.

Counihan was appointed manager at a time when Cork were facing a relegation battle in the National Football League. This occurred as a result of the team forfeiting their first few games because of the strike. Cork fought back immediately under Counihan and put up a respectable display in their remaining games, ensuring their position in Division 2 for the following year. Cork's first outing in the Munster Championship was a semi-final appearance that was less than convincing. The game saw Cork score two late goals to narrowly defeat Limerick. The subsequent provincial decider saw Cork take on reigning All-Ireland champions Kerry for the fourth successive year. Few pundits and commentators gave Counihan's side any chance and at half-time Kerry were cruising by eight points. Cork, however, stormed back in the second-half as Kerry could only muster three points and Cork secured a 1-16 to 1-11 victory. It was a huge turnaround for Cork and a huge boost for Counihan. Due to the format of the championship both sides met again in the All-Ireland semi-final, however, after a thrilling draw and a replay Kerry were the team that advanced to the championship decider.

A strike by the Cork hurling team in late 2008 and early 2009 posed a headache for Counihan. Cork and Galway have been touted as two teams that could possibly break the stranglehold that Kerry and Tyrone have on the All-Ireland title, however, Cork’s football team vowed to withdraw from the championship if the strike by their hurling counterparts was not resolved. In the end all difficulties were resolved with the resignation of hurling manager Gerald McCarthy, and Counihan’s plans for his team were back on track. A good National League campaign saw Cork reach the final of Division 2. Monaghan provided the opposition on that occasion, however, Cork secured a well-earned 1-14 to 0-12 victory and promotion to the top flight of the football league.[15] Cork later qualified for the Munster final against Limerick. The game looked to be going away from Cork, however, ‘the Rebels’ fought back. Cork went on to win by a solitary point on a score line of 2-6 to 0-11.[16] Comprehensive defeats of Donegal and Tyrone saw Cork reach a second All-Ireland final in three years. Old rivals Kerry provided the opposition and, while Cork were the slight favourites, Kerry had the trump card of having never lost a game to Cork at Croke Park. Kerry stuttered in the opening period and trailed by 0-1 to 1-3 early in the first-half. The Kerry team stuck to their gameplan while Cork recorded fourteen wides. At the full-time whistle Kerry were the champions again by 0-16 to 1-9.[17]

Cork recovered from the previous year's All-Ireland defeat by having a successful National League campaign in early 2010. A defeat of Mayo gave Cork their first Division 1 title since 1999.[18] It was another milestone on Counihan's managerial curriculum vitae, however, he still faced criticism over his team selection and relaxed managerial style. A defeat by Kerry in a replay of the provincial semi-final resulted in Cork being exiled to the All-Ireland qualifiers. After negotiating their way through a difficult series of games, Cork defeated Dublin to qualify for their third All-Ireland final in four years. Down provided the opposition on that occasion in the first meeting between these two teams since 1994. Cork got off to a lightning start, however, they eased off and trailed by three points at the interval. It took Cork fifty minutes to regain the lead which they surrendered in the fifth minute and, following that point by Paul Kerrigan, the team never looked back. Cork stretched the lead to three points, however, Down fought back. At the full-time whistle Cork were the champions by 0-16 to 0-15 and Counihan had finally guided his native county to the All-Ireland, a first in twenty years.[19] This was the end of his first term as manager of the team; however, it was confirmed on 27 October 2010 that he would remain in charge for another two-year term.[20] However, he left in 2013.[21][22]

Honours[edit]

Team[edit]

Player[edit]

Aghada
Imokilly
Cork

Manager[edit]

Cork
Honours
  • Munster Football Team of the Last 25 Years (1984-2009): Centre-back
  • All-Star Awards (2): 1989, 1990

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Conor Counihan". Hogan Stand website. 22 May 1992. Retrieved 6 August 2013. 
  2. ^ "Munster football team of the last 25 years". Munster GAA website. 24 October 2009. Retrieved 21 September 2010. 
  3. ^ "1984 Cork county senior football champions". East Cork GAA website. Retrieved 7 August 2013. 
  4. ^ "1986 Cork county senior football champions". East Cork GAA website. Retrieved 7 August 2013. 
  5. ^ "Cork v Meath: Latest chapter in an old rivalry". Irish Independent. 15 August 2007. Retrieved 6 August 2013. 
  6. ^ O'Keeffe, Jamie (14 March 2009). "Whacko Jacko". The Munster Express. Retrieved 6 August 2013. 
  7. ^ Geoghegan, Jimmy (29 October 2008). "Flynn remembers the famous two-in-a-row". The Meath Chronicle. Retrieved 6 August 2013. 
  8. ^ Carey, Daniel (14 September 2009). "1989: One that got away for Mayo". The Mayo News. Retrieved 6 August 2013. 
  9. ^ Breheny, Martin (21 September 2012). "Mayo's nearly men". Irish Independent. Retrieved 6 August 2013. 
  10. ^ Lyons, Tom (18 August 2007). "Cork v Meath here we go again!". The Southern Star. Retrieved 7 August 2013. 
  11. ^ Nolan, Seán (17 February 2010). "Rising from the Ashes: Derry 1993". Eircom Sports website. Retrieved 7 August 2013. 
  12. ^ "Munster Railway Cup Football Teams". Munster GAA. Retrieved 2009-04-06. [dead link]
  13. ^ The Complete Handbook of Gaelic Games p. 178
  14. ^ The GAA Book of Lists p. 410
  15. ^ "Rebels ready for main event". RTE Sport. 2009-04-27. Retrieved 2009-07-30. 
  16. ^ "Cork 2-06 Limerick 0-11". RTE Sport. 2009-07-05. Retrieved 2009-07-30. 
  17. ^ "RTÉ Sport: GAA - Kerry 0-16 Cork 1-09". RTÉ Sport. 2009-09-20. Retrieved 2009-09-21. 
  18. ^ "Cork 1-17 Mayo 0-12". RTÉ Sport (RTÉ Sport). 2010-04-25. Retrieved 2010-04-26. 
  19. ^ "Cork are crowned All-Ireland champions". RTÉ Sport. 2010-09-20. Retrieved 2010-09-21. 
  20. ^ "Counihan commits to the Rebels". Irish Times. 2010-10-27. Retrieved 2010-10-27. 
  21. ^ "Video :: Conor Counihan steps down as Cork manager live on Saturday Game". 3 August 2013. Retrieved 3 August 2013. 
  22. ^ "Cork’s Conor Counihan: ‘Now was the time to get a change of voice’". The Score. 4 August 2013. Retrieved 4 August 2013. 
Achievements
Preceded by
Jack O'Connor
(Kerry)
All-Ireland Senior Football Final
winning manager

2010
Succeeded by
Pat Gilroy
(Dublin)
Sporting positions
Preceded by
Jimmy Kerrigan
Cork Senior Football Captain
1985
Succeeded by
John Kerins
Preceded by
John Kerins
Cork Senior Football Captain
1987
Succeeded by
Tony Nation
Preceded by
Teddy Holland
Cork Senior Football Manager
2008-2013
Succeeded by
Brian Cuthbert