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Knee injury forces Cork All-Ireland winner O'Neill to retire from inter-county game

The 29-year-old made his senior debut for Cork in 2009.

CORK ALL-IRELAND winning forward Colm O’Neill has been forced to retire after his latest knee injury setback.

Colm O'Neill and the Cork players celebrate Colm O'Neill celebrating Cork's 2010 All-Ireland final victory. Source: Cathal Noonan

The 29-year-old has endured plenty injury problems in the past after suffering three cruciate ligament injuries.

His season-ending setbacks occurred in 2008 in a club match, 2011 in the league against Galway and 2013 in the league against Donegal but he battled back on each occasion to line out again for Cork.

This year he picked up another knee injury in the Munster semi-final in May against Tipperary when he tore cartilage in his knee yet recovered to come on as a substitute in the provincial final loss to Kerry.

Another setback occurred after that game to his knee and O’Neill sat out Cork’s championship exit against Tyrone.

Since then O’Neill has reflected and on the advice of medical staff he has decided to retire, informing Cork manager Ronan McCarthy of his decision last Friday.

Colm O’Neill celebrates scoring a point Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

“Unfortunately due to medical advice I have been left with no option but to retire from inter county football,” O’Neill told The42.

“For me it was a huge honor and privilege to represent Cork for the last 12 years. It has not always been rosy and there were many dark days but from the start I have had great support through my family, fiancée Claire and wide circle of friends and colleagues who helped me through those challenging times.

“No stone was left unturned to play for Cork but due to recent recurring problems with my knee, a decision had to be made about my future in the Cork jersey.”

O’Neill retires as an All-Ireland champion, coming on as a substitute in the 2010 final victory over Down. He made a major impact that season, notably when introduced in the semi-final against Dublin as he notched a point and was fouled for the penalty that yielded a crucial goal in Cork’s comeback.

“I count myself extremely lucky to have played on many great teams with great team-mates and friends – the highlight of course in 2010 winning an All-Ireland,” stated O’Neill.

“I’d have to thank all the numerous coaches and managers with Cork & Ballyclough who have helped me develop from a young age.

“With my injuries, I’d brilliant help and support from all the medical teams in Cork over the years.

“I’m looking forward to supporting Cork football teams in the future and want to thank Cork people for the support I received over the years.”

Aside from that 2010 success, O’Neill also won two All-Ireland U21 medals with Cork. He scored a late goal to help Cork succeed in the 2007 final against Laois and then hit 0-5 as captain of the winning side in the decider two years later against Down.

John Cleary celebrates with captain Colm O'Neill Cork captain Colm O'Neill celebrates their 2009 All-Ireland U21 final victory with manager John Cleary. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

2009 also saw O’Neill claim a Sigerson Cup medal with Cork IT and he made his senior championship debut for Cork in that year’s Munster quarter-final, coming off the bench against Waterford.

That September, the Ballyclough man started in Cork’s All-Ireland final loss against Kerry. He smashed home the only goal of that game in Croke Park in the early stages and hit the net as well in his last senior start for Cork in June against Tipperary.

He retires with a Munster senior medal from 2012 along with playing a role in three Division 1 National League triumphs. In his underage days O’Neill was an accomplished hurler on Cork teams, managing to win Munster medals at minor level in 2006 and in the U21 grade in 2007.

Colm O'Neill Colm O'Neill in action for Cork in the 2007 Munster U21 hurling final. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

Recent seasons did not yield success but O’Neill’s individual exploits were recognised in 2012 as he won an All-Star award after a summer where he was Cork’s leading championship scorer, while in 2014 he travelled to Australia with the Irish International Rules squad. He finishes his senior playing career with 35 championship appearances for Cork and a scoring tally of 7-79.

inpho_00866828 Colm O'Neill in action for Ireland in International Rules squad training. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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