Ger Cunningham

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Ger Cunningham
Personal information
Irish name Gearóid Mac Cuinneagain
Sport Hurling
Position Goalkeeper
Born (1961-08-30) 30 August 1961 (age 53)
Togher, Cork, Ireland
Height 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Occupation Sports sponsorship manager
Club(s)
Years Club
1979-1999 St. Finbarr's
Club titles
Cork titles 6
Munster titles 1
All-Ireland Titles 0
Inter-county(ies)
Years County Apps (scores)
1981-1999 Cork 50 (0-00)
Inter-county titles
Munster titles 7
All-Irelands 3
NHL 3
All Stars 4

Gerard "Ger" Cunningham (born 30 August 1961) is an Irish retired hurler who played as a goalkeeper for the Cork senior team.[1][2]

He is the current Dublin hurling manager after taking over in October 2014.

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.[3]

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).[4]

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.

Biography[edit]

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.[5]

Playing career[edit]

Club[edit]

After an indifferent underage career as a dual payer, Cunningham was barely out of the minor grade when he became first-choice goalkeeper with the St. Finbarr's senior hurling team in 1979.[6]

After giving a magnificent goalkeeping display but ultimately losing out to Blackrock in the championship decider in 1979, Cunningham lined out in a second successive final in 1980. A narrow 1-9 to 2-4 defeat of northside rivals Glen Rovers gave him his first championship medal. Cunningham later picked up a coveted Munster medal as Roscrea fell narrowly by 2-12 to 1-14 in the provincial decider. The subsequent All-Ireland final saw the Barr's 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.[7][8]

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 Blackrock, in spite of a hat trick by veteran Ray Cummins.

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 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 gave Cunningham a sixth championship medal.[9]

Minor & under-21[edit]

Cunningham first came to prominence on the inter-county scene as a dual player at minor levels, however, it was with the hurling team that he enjoyed the greatest success. In 1978 he won a Munster medal following a 1-14 to 3-6 defeat of Tipperary. The subsequent All-Ireland final pitted Cork against Kilkenny, however, the Cats 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 one of six players from the previous year who were still eligible for the minor grade. After missing the provincial decider victory over Limerick because of injury, he was restored to the starting fifteen in time for the All-Ireland final. Kilkenny provided the opposition once again, however, Cork were triumphant for the second successive year on a score line of 2-11 to 1-9. In his last game in the grade Cunningham collected a second All-Ireland medal.

Cunningham subsequently joined both the Cork under-21 hurling and football teams. He collected a set of Munster and All-Ireland medals with the under-21 footballers as an unused substitute in 1981, following respective provincial and All-Ireland decider defeats of Kerry and Galway.

The following year Cunningham added a Munster medal with the under-21 hurlers to his collection. Galway were the opponents in the subsequent All-Ireland decider on a day when both defences gave superb displays. Cork came from behind in the closing stages to win by a single point, scored from long range by Kevin Hennessy. It was yet another underage All-Ireland medal for Cunningham.

Senior[edit]

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.[10] 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.[11]

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.[11] 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.[11] 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.[12] 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.[5]

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.[13] 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.[13] 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.[5]

Provincial[edit]

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.[14]

Coaching career[edit]

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.

Cork (2003-2006)[edit]

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.

Ballygunner[edit]

In January 2009 Cunningham succeeded Peter Queally as manager of the Ballygunner senior club team in Waterford.[15] 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.[16]

Cork (2011-2013)[edit]

In September 2011 Cunningham was named as a selector, and later as coach, in Jimmy Barry-Murphy's new Cork senior hurling management team.[17] 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.[18][19] Cunningham stepped down as a selector on 5 November 2013, while his name was linked to the then vacant managerial post with Limerick.[20][21][22]

Dublin[edit]

In October 2014, Cunningham was named as the new Dublin hurling manager on a three-year term.[23][24]

Honours[edit]

Player[edit]

Participant
St. Finbarr's
Cork
Munster

Individual[edit]

Honours
  • 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

Coach/Selector[edit]

Ballygunner
Cork

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Ger Cunningham". Hogan Stand website. 1 January 2001. Retrieved 11 November 2013. 
  2. ^ O'Keeffe, Jamie (30 January 2009). "Cunningham was a class act". The Munster Express. Retrieved 11 November 2013. 
  3. ^ Scally, Randal (1 January 2001). "Ger Cunningham announces his retirement". Hogan Stand website. Retrieved 11 November 2013. 
  4. ^ "Best Munster team of last 25 years named". Hogan Stand website. 10 August 2009. Retrieved 11 November 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c "Ger Cunningham announces his retirement". Hoganstand. Retrieved 2008-10-25. 
  6. ^ "St. Finbarr's: a history". St. Finbarr's GAA website. Retrieved 1 March 2013. 
  7. ^ Power, Cliona (1 December 2009). "'Cha' signals Ballyhale's ambition for famous five". Irish Independent. Retrieved 3 September 2014. 
  8. ^ "Teams stand on brink of history". Kilkenny People. 11 March 2010. Retrieved 3 September 2014. 
  9. ^ Woods, Mark (26 March 2014). "Hurling manual aims to get Barrs back on track". Evening Echo. Retrieved 3 September 2014. 
  10. ^ The Complete Handbook of Gaelic Games p. 69
  11. ^ a b c The GAA Book of Lists p. 361
  12. ^ The GAA Book of Lists p. 362
  13. ^ a b The GAA Book of Lists p. 363
  14. ^ "Munster Railway Cup Hurling Teams". Munster GAA. Archived from the original on 2008-07-19. Retrieved 2008-10-24. 
  15. ^ Cahill, Jackie & O'Toole, Fintan (22 January 2009). "Rebel legend Cunningham set to land Ballygunner job". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 16 November 2013. 
  16. ^ "Flynn rescues replay for Ballygunner". Hogan Stand website. 12 October 2009. Retrieved 16 November 2013. 
  17. ^ "Cunningham 'privileged' to be Cork selector". Breaking News website. 8 September 2011. Retrieved 16 November 2013. 
  18. ^ O'Flynn, Diarmuid (9 September 2013). "An emotional, riveting roller-coaster". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 22 September 2013. 
  19. ^ O'Flynn, Diarmuid (30 September 2013). "A day borrowed from the hurling gods". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 1 October 2013. 
  20. ^ Farrell, Seán (5 November 2013). "Ger Cunningham resigns after two years as Cork hurling selector". The Score website. Retrieved 16 November 2013. 
  21. ^ Fogarty, John & Hurley, Denis (6 November 2013). "Cork selector Cunningham resigns as name linked with Limerick job". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 16 November 2013. 
  22. ^ Boyle, Donnchadh (6 November 2013). "Ger Cunningham poised to take Treaty reins after parting with Rebels". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 16 November 2013. 
  23. ^ "Ger Cunningham becomes latest Munster man leaving for Dublin as he takes over from Anthony Daly". Irish Independent. 9 October 2014. Retrieved 9 October 2014. 
  24. ^ "Cunningham’s capital delight". Irish Examiner. 9 October 2014. Retrieved 9 October 2014. 


Sporting positions
Preceded by
John Fenton
Cork Senior Hurling Captain
1985
Succeeded by
Tom Cashman
Preceded by
Denis Mulcahy
Cork Senior Hurling Captain
1989
Succeeded by
Kieran McGuckin
Preceded by
Brian Corcoran
Cork Senior Hurling Captain
1994
Succeeded by
Pat Kenneally
Achievements
Preceded by
John Fenton
(Munster)
Interprovincial Hurling Final
winning captain

1985
Succeeded by
Noel Lane
(Connacht)
Awards
Preceded by
Eugene Coughlan
(Offaly)
Texaco Hurler of the Year
1986
Succeeded by
Joe Cooney
(Galway)