|Irish name||Gearóid Mac Cuinneagain|
30 August 1961 |
Togher, Cork, Ireland
|Height||6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)|
|Occupation||Sports sponsorship manager|
Born in Togher, Cork, Cunningham first excelled at Gaelic games whilst at Sullivan's Quay national school and Coláiste Iognáid Rís. He arrived on the inter-county scene at the age of seventeen when he first linked up with the Cork minor team, before later lining out with the under-21 sides as a dual player. He made his senior debut in the 1981 championship. Cunningham went on to play a key part for almost two decades, and won three All-Ireland medals, seven Munster medals and three National Hurling League medals. He was an All-Ireland runner-up on three occasions.
Cunningham represented the Munster inter-provincial team at various times throughout his career, winning three Railway Cup medals. At club level he won one Munster medal and six championship medals with St. Finbarr's.
Throughout his career Cunningham made 50 championship appearances, a Cork record for a goalkeeper until it was surpassed by Donal Óg Cusack on 29 May 2011. He announced his retirement from inter-county hurling on 15 January 1999.
Cunningham is widely regarded as one of the greatest hurling goalkeepers in the history of the game. Throughout his career he won four All-Star awards as well as Texaco Hurler of the Year in 1986. He has been repeatedly voted onto teams made up of the sport's greats, including as goalkeeper on the Cork Hurling Team of the Century in 2000 and on a special Munster Hurling Team (1984-2009).
In retirement from playing Cunnningham has become involved in team management and coaching. At club level he has taken charge of St. Finbarr's and University College Cork and guided Ballygunner to championship success in Waterford. Cunningham was also an All-Ireland-winning goalkeeping coach and selector with the Cork senior team.
Ger Cunningham was born in Cork in 1961. He was educated locally at Sullivan’s Quay national school where he was first introduced to the game of hurling by Brother Moloughney, a hurling enthusiast from Tipperary. Cunningham later attended Colaiste Íognáid Rís where Billy Morgan nurtured his Gaelic football skills. He currently works as a sales representative with Bord Gáis, an Irish energy company.
Cunningham made his senior championship debut straight out of the minor ranks in 1979, a year which saw St. Finbarr's reach the championship decider. A 2-14t o 2-6 defeat by Blackrock was the result on that occasion.
1980 saw Cunningham collect his first championship medal as arch rivals Glen Rovers were accounted for on a 1-9 to 2-4 score line. He later picked up a coveted Munster medal as Roscrea fell narrowly by 2-12 to 1-14 in the decider. The subsequent All-Ireland final saw the 'Barr's side take on Ballyhale Shamrocks of Kilkenny. On that occasion all seven Fennelly brothers from Ballyhale lined out in an exciting contest. The sides were level on five occasions during the opening thirty minutes; however, the Shamrocks had the edge. At the full-time whistle Ballyhale were the winners by 1-15 to 1-11.
In spite of this setback, Cunningham collected a second consecutive championship medal in 1981 as Glen Rovers were accounted for once again. St. Finbarr's made it three-in-a-row in 1982, with Cunningham winning his third championship medal following a 2-17 to 3-9 defeat of Midleton
Four-in-a-row proved beyond the 'Barr's, however, the team contested a sixth successive championship decider in 1984. A 1-15 to 2-4 defeat of Ballyhea gave Cunningham a fourth championship medal.
It was 1988 before St. Finbarr's contested their next county decider. A 3-18 to 2-14 defeat of old north side rivals Glen Rovers gave Cunningham his fifth championship medal as well as the honour of lifting the Seán Óg Murphy Cup as captain of the team.
A period of decline followed for St. Finbarr's and it was 1993 before the team enjoyed their next success. A narrow 1-13 to 1-12 defeat of divisional side Carbery.
Minor & under-21
Cunningham first came to prominence on the inter-county scene as a dual player of both hurling and football at under-age levels in the late 1970s. He first tasted success in 1978 when he captured a Munster minor title with the Cork hurling team following a victory over arch-rivals Tipperary. Cunningham later lined out in his first All-Ireland final. Kilkenny were the opponents on that occasion, however they were easily accounted for on a score line of 1-15 to 1-8. It was Cunningham's first All-Ireland medal.
In 1979 Cunningham was still a member of the Cork minor hurling team. He missed the Munster final victory over Limerick, however, he returned in time for the All-Ireland final. Once again it was Kilkenny who provided the opposition. A 2-11 to 1-9 score line gave Cork the victory and gave Cunningham a second consecutive All-Ireland medal at minor level.
By 1982 the Cork under-21 hurling team had regained their provincial dominance with Cunningham capturing a Munster title. He later lined out in a close All-Ireland decider against Galway. At the full-time whistle Cork were victorious by 0-12 to 0-11, giving Cunningham an All-Ireland under-21 medal.
In 1979 Cunningham was still a member of the Cork minor hurling team when he joined the county senior panel. He made his senior debut in May 1980, lining out against Kilkenny in a challenge match. Cunningham replaced Timmy Murphy as Cork's first-choice goalkeeper the following year and remained an ever-present fixture for the best part of twenty years.
In 1981 Cunningham enjoyed his first major success at senior level when he won a National Hurling League medal following a victory over Offaly. Success in the championship eluded him until 1982 when he collected his first senior Munster title following a 5-31 to 3-6 drubbing of Waterford. The subsequent All-Ireland final pitted Cork against Kilkenny, with 'the Rebels' installed as the red-hot favourites. All did not go to plan as Kilkenny dominated. Christy Heffernan was the hero of the day as he scored two goals in a forty second spell just before half-time. Ger Fennelly captured a third goal in the second-half as Kilkenny completely trounced ‘the Rebels’ by 3-18 to 1-15.
Cunningham claimed a second Munster title in 1983 as Waterford fell heavily by 3-22 to 0-12 for the second consecutive year. After defeating Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final Cork squared up to Kilkenny in the All-Ireland final for the second year in-a-row. Once again Kilkenny dominated the game, assisted by a strong wind in the first-half, and hung on in the face of a great fight-back by Cork. At the full-time whistle Kilkenny emerged victorious by 2-14 to 2-12. For the second consecutive year Cunningham had ended up on the losing side on All-Ireland final day.
These two defeats only made Cunningham and Cork more determined to bounce back in 1984. That year he claimed a third Munster title in-a-row following a classic victory over an unlucky Tipperary side. This victory allowed Cork to advance to a third consecutive All-Ireland final. It was a special year for followers of hurling and football as the Gaelic Athletic Association was celebrating its centenary year. As a gesture to Thurles, the cradle town of the association, the All-Ireland final was played in Semple Stadium that year. Offaly provided the opposition and, ironically, it was the first meeting of these two sides in one hundred years of Gaelic games. The game was a triumph for Cork, who won by 3-16 to 1-12 courtesy of second-half goals by Kevin Hennessy and Seánie O'Leary. At the third time of asking Cunningham had finally collected his first senior All-Ireland medal. He was later presented with his first All-Star award.
In 1985 Cunningham was appointed captain of the Cork senior hurling team for the first time. That year he guided his team to a fourth successive Munster title as Tipp were defeated once again. Cork were subsequently caught on-the-hop by Galway in a rain-soaked All-Ireland semi-final. In spite of this he was later presented with second All-Star award.
Cork continued their dominance in Munster in 1986 with Cunningham capturing a record-equalling fifth Munster medal in-a-row as Clare were accounted for. A subsequent defeat of Antrim allowed Cork to advance directly to the All-Ireland final where Galway provided the opposition. Galway were the red hot favourites to take the title and defeat Cork for the first time in a championship decider. The pundits and commentators got it wrong as an open game of hurling saw Cork score 4-13 to Galway’s 2-15. A four-point win gave Cork the title and gave Cunningham a second All-Ireland medal. He was later presented with a third consecutive All-Star. Cunningham was also honoured by being named Texaco Hurler of the Year.
Over the next three years Tipperary re-emerged as the kingpins of Munster hurling as Cork's fortunes took a downturn. One of the lowest points in Cunningham's career happened during this drought for Cork hurling. Playing against Waterford in 1989 Cunningham received a heavy knock to the head and spent the remainder of the game in a daze, conceding three goals.
Cork were back in 1990 and, against all the odds, they wrestled the Munster title from Tipperary after Babs Keating's famous 'donkeys don't win derbies' remark. It was Cunningham's seventh provincial title. The subsequent All-Ireland final that year pitted Cork against Galway for the second time in four years. Once again, Galway were the bookies favourites and justified this tag by going seven points ahead in the opening thirty-five minutes thanks to a masterful display by Joe Cooney. Cork fought back with an equally expert display by Tomás Mulcahy. The game was effectively decided on an incident which occurred midway through the second half when Cunningham blocked a point-blank shot from Martin Naughton with his nose. The umpires gave no 65-metre free, even though he clearly deflected it out wide. Cork went on to win a high-scoring and open game of hurling by 5-15 to 2-21. It was Cunningham's third All-Ireland medal and the first of a remarkable hurling and football double for Cork.
Cunningham claimed his seventh Munster medal in 1992, however, Cork faced the old enemy Kilkenny in another All-Ireland final. Prior to the game Kilkenny won the toss, however, 'the Cats' chose to play against the wind. At half-time his side were only two points in arrears thanks to a D.J. Carey goal four minutes before the interval. John Power and Michael Phelan added two second-half goals to give Kilkenny a 3-10 to 1-12 win. It was the third time in his hurling career that Cunningham had been beaten by Kilkenny in a championship decider.
In 1993 Cunningham won a second National Hurling League medal with Cork. Although he would remain as Cork goalkeeper for another few seasons Cunningham would never win another Munster or All-Ireland title. His final winners' medal came in 1998 when he claimed a third National League medal. Following Cork's defeat in the early stages of the championship Cunningham decided to retire from inter-county hurling. At the age of 37 he had donned the famed red and white hooped jersey for almost 20 years, during which time he made 50 consecutive championship appearances while also playing in 111 National League games.
Cunningham also lined out with Munster in the inter-provincial hurling championship where he played alongside his championship rivals from Tipperary, Limerick, Clare and Waterford. He first played for his province in 1983 as Munster were defeated by Connacht in the semi-final of the competition. Cunningham was the Munster custodian again in 1984. That year his province were successful in defeating Leinster to take the Railway Cup title. Cunningham added a second consecutive Railway Cup medal to his collection in 1985 as Connacht were accounted for by 3-6 to 1-11. After defeats by Leinster and Connacht over the next few years Cunningham surrendered his place on the team to Tipperary's Ken Hogan. He was back on the team in 1991, however, it wasn't until 1992 when Cunningham collected his third Railway Cup title. His last outing with the province was in 1994 when Connacht were victorious in the semi-final.
In retirement from play Cunningham maintained a keen interest in the game. The year after he quit the inter-county scene the hurling experts were charged with picking a Team of the Millennium. Cunningham was Cork's best prospect for the goalkeeping position, however, he faced still opposition from such legends as Kilkenny duo Ollie Walsh and Noel Skehan and Wexford's Art Foley. In the end the honour went to Tipperary's three in-a-row winning 'keeper Tony Reddin.
Cunningham later served as a selector and goalkeeping coach to the Cork team under the managerial reigns of both Donal O'Grady and John Allen from 2003 until 2006. During this time Cork captured three Munster titles and appeared in four consecutive All-Ireland finals, winning two. Cunningham was even the favourite to succeed Allen as manager when he stepped down in 2006, however, the position went to Gerald McCarthy instead, without Cunningham even being approached about his intentions. Since retiring from playing he has also coached various St. Finbarr's teams.
In January 2009 Cunningham succeeded Peter Queally as manager of the Ballygunner senior club team in Waterford. His one year tenure saw the club return to success. A narrow 1-17 to 0-19 replay defeat of LIsmore secured the club's first championship crown in four years.
In September 2011 Cunningham was named as a selector, and later as coach, in Jimmy Barry-Murphy's new Cork senior hurling management team. During Cunningham's tenure, Cork reached their first All-Ireland final in seven years. An exciting 3-16 apiece draw with Clare was followed by a 5-16 to 3-16 defeat in the replay. Cunningham stepped down as a selector on 5 November 2013, while his name was linked to the then vacant managerial post with Limerick.
- All-Ireland Poc Fada Championship (7): 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990
- St. Finbarr's
- Munster Senior Club Hurling Championship (1): 1980
- Cork Senior Hurling Championship (6): 1980, 1981, 1982, 1984, 1988, 1993
- All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship (3): 1984, 1986, 1990
- Munster Senior Hurling Championship (7): 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985 (c), 1986, 1990, 1992
- National Hurling League (3): 1980-81, 1992–93, 1998
- All-Ireland Under-21 Hurling Championship (1): 1982
- Munster Under-21 Hurling Championship (1): 1982
- All-Ireland Minor Hurling Championship (2): 1978, 1979
- Munster Minor Hurling Championship (1): 1978
- Railway Cup (3): 1984, 1985 (c), 1992
- Cork Hurling Team of the Century: Goalkeeper
- Munster Hurling Team of the Last 25 Years (1984-2009): Goalkeeper
- Texaco Hurler of the Year (1): 1986
- All-Stars (4): 1984, 1985, 1986, 1990
- Waterford Senior Hurling Championship (1): 2009
- All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship (2): 2004, 2005
- Munster Senior Hurling Championship (3): 2003, 2005, 2006
- "Ger Cunningham". Hogan Stand website. 1 January 2001. Retrieved 11 November 2013.
- O'Keeffe, Jamie (30 January 2009). "Cunningham was a class act". The Munster Express. Retrieved 11 November 2013.
- Scally, Randal (1 January 2001). "Ger Cunningham announces his retirement". Hogan Stand website. Retrieved 11 November 2013.
- "Best Munster team of last 25 years named". Hogan Stand website. 10 August 2009. Retrieved 11 November 2013.
- "Ger Cunningham announces his retirement". Hoganstand. Retrieved 2008-10-25.
- "St. Finbarr's: a history". St. Finbarr's GAA website. Retrieved 1 March 2013.
- Des, Donegan (2005). The Complete Handbook of Gaelic Games. DBA Publications. p. 29.
- The Complete Handbook of Gaelic Games p. 29
- The Complete Handbook of Gaelic Games p. 42
- The Complete Handbook of Gaelic Games p. 69
- The GAA Book of Lists p. 361
- The GAA Book of Lists p. 362
- The GAA Book of Lists p. 363
- "Munster Railway Cup Hurling Teams". Munster GAA. Archived from the original on 2008-07-19. Retrieved 2008-10-24.
- Cahill, Jackie & O'Toole, Fintan (22 January 2009). "Rebel legend Cunningham set to land Ballygunner job". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 16 November 2013.
- "Flynn rescues replay for Ballygunner". Hogan Stand website. 12 October 2009. Retrieved 16 November 2013.
- "Cunningham 'privileged' to be Cork selector". Breaking News website. 8 September 2011. Retrieved 16 November 2013.
- O'Flynn, Diarmuid (9 September 2013). "An emotional, riveting roller-coaster". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 22 September 2013.
- O'Flynn, Diarmuid (30 September 2013). "A day borrowed from the hurling gods". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 1 October 2013.
- Farrell, Seán (5 November 2013). "Ger Cunningham resigns after two years as Cork hurling selector". The Score website. Retrieved 16 November 2013.
- Fogarty, John & Hurley, Denis (6 November 2013). "Cork selector Cunningham resigns as name linked with Limerick job". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 16 November 2013.
- Boyle, Donnchadh (6 November 2013). "Ger Cunningham poised to take Treaty reins after parting with Rebels". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 16 November 2013.
|Cork Senior Hurling Captain
|Cork Senior Hurling Captain
|Cork Senior Hurling Captain
|Interprovincial Hurling Final
|Texaco Hurler of the Year