CORK’S 1990 ALL-Ireland winning boss Archdeacon Michael O’Brien was laid to rest today after he died last Friday following a long illness.
‘The Canon’ was an iconic figure in Cork hurling who enjoyed huge success as a hurling coach with the county, college side UCC and various clubs.
Cork radio station C103 ran a tribute piece to him yesterday evening and here’s a flavour of some of the recollections from Cork GAA figures like Tomás Mulcahy, Frank Murphy, Gerald McCarthy and John Grainger.
Tomas Mulcahy – 1990 Cork winning captain
“When you hear of it, all the good memories come flooding back. But I suppose for the Canon himself, the last couple of years have been a very difficult part of his life really. He’s at ease now, he’s at peace.
“People would look at Canon O’Brien and say he was a tough man. But when you knew the guy and you were very close, there was another side to him as well. He was just a caring guy.
“The religion side was very big with him. He brought that in to the team ethos in Cork, when he was first involved in 1984. After the All-Ireland final in 1984, we all went away celebrating off our tree on the Sunday night above in Thurles in Dundrum House. But there was mass on Monday morning and I’d say nearly every one was present.
“You look at him as a coach and as a leader, he was just a different breed to everyone else. He probably was old style but he was ahead of the posse back in that day as well. He loved the players he was working with and he never had a bad word to say about anybody.”
Frank Murphy – Cork GAA secretary
“Archdeacon O’Brien, we knew him as the Canon and as Father O’Brien before that, he was a great family friend. He was an outstanding priest. He’d great time for people who were ill or who were in difficulty. The amount of good work that man did was astounding.
“He gave great service to Cork teams and to Blackrock and to many clubs. Any club that wanted assistance, he was prepared to give it. He brought the club team (Blackrock) to four county finals, winning two, and of course he had an amazing record at inter-county level. He was responsible for nine All-Ireland winning teams in different grades.”
Gerald McCarthy – former Cork hurling coach
“I had the pleasure of working with Canon for four or five years. He was a gentleman. He could be very tough when he wanted to be. He was a great coach as he proved with so many various teams in UCC and with Cork at various levels.
“He had the rare ability as a coach to be able to see into a players’ mind. He inspired so many players. That really was his over riding ability as a coach. He was particularly good at the pre match speeches, he put an awful lot of thought into it and could size up the situation.
“I did visit him a couple of times and it was sad to see him suffer so badly, a man that had such a sharp mind over the years. To see him struggling with Alzheimers wasn’t good really to see. The battle that he put just showed the spirit of him really.”
John Grainger – UCC GAA Officer
“He gave a lifetime of work to the GAA. The Canon came in in 1981 and I feel he was the start of making the Fitzgibbon Cup what it is today. It’s now a major competition in the GAA calendar, it’s looked at by inter-county managers as a good breeding ground.
“It’s treated very seriously. I think the Canon brought that kind of aura back into the competition again. He was the start of reinventing the Fitzgibbon Cup I think. He was a big man, he had that kind of respect from people in UCC and outside UCC.”