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Dublin: 10 °C Wednesday 24 April, 2019

'Crash ball to Kevin Maggs' and the Ginger Pele: 8 cult heroes who make us happy to be Irish

They might not have been the best, but they all entertained us.

WHEN WE TALK about Ireland’s greatest sport stars the same people always get mentioned. But BOD, King Henry, Padraig Harrington and Roy Keane get plenty of praise so this evening we decided to pay tribute to some lesser celebrated sportspeople, cult heroes or just all-round legends who make us chuffed to be Irish sports fans.

1. Kevin Maggs

Kevin Maggs 12/3/2005 Source: INPHO

Head down, arse out and straight forward – that was the Kevin Maggs way. He didn’t do any of this east-west nonsense, Kevin Maggs was a north-south man.

The phrase ‘crash ball to Kevin Maggs’ was in the repertoire of every rugby commentator between 1997 and 2003. Irish fans knew what they were going to get from Maggs and there was something comforting in that.

Source: MottiRugby/YouTube

2. Gary Doherty


Gary Doherty Source: INPHO

The Doc, the Ginger Pele – Gary Doherty was known by many names but no matter what fans called him they always had great time for the defender-cum-striker. Doherty’s time with the Irish team even yielded this catchy tune.

Source: theboysingreen/YouTube

Getting a song named after you is one sign that you’re a cult hero – another is having your exploits discussed on an American news broadcast.

Source: Footy TwentyfourSeven/YouTube

3. Diarmuid O’Sullivan

Diarmuid O'Sullivan Source: INPHO

You don’t need to be a Cork hurling fan to appreciate the ridiculous strength of The Rock. We’re talking about a player so intense that he was somehow awarded a free out here despite barrelling into three Kilkenny hurlers.

Source: Conor Ryan/YouTube

His earthquake of a shoulder against Limerick in 2001 also prompted the greatest exam answer in the history of the Irish education system.

Source: Conor Ryan/YouTube


4. Shane Curran

Shane Curran Source: INPHO

The long-time Roscommon keeper has gone a bit mainstream now but Chris O’Dowd best sums up his contribution to cult heroes below when he says ‘you could see Curran saving a penalty or kicking a 45 but he would be just as happy to ride a bull into a church.’


Curran was doing the Manuel Neuer fly keeper act back when the German’s parents were probably still on their first date at the beer hall.

Source: nemetonSPORT/YouTube

5. Peter Clohessy

Peter Clohessy and Mick Galwey 29/9/2001 DIGITAL Source: INPHO

The Claw embodies the work hard/play hard element of amateur rugby that people loved but was also a damn good professional too. Well, he was a good professional player but the stories of his young room-mates with Ireland tiptoeing around cigarette butts on the hotel room floor indicate that he still enjoyed himself despite the heavier training regime.

And even in retirement he is still great crack… like the time him and Axel enjoyed a post-game refreshment after Munster finally won the European Cup.

Anthony Foley Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

He earns extra marks for being one of the few Irish players to make a Super Rugby appearance (strangely his 1997 ban for stamping only applied to the northern hemisphere meaning he was free to play for the Queensland Reds).

6. Kevin Kilbane

Kevin Kilbane and Antonio Mavuba Source: ©INPHO

It is a testament to how much Irish fans love Kilbane that despite missing THAT chance against Spain in the World Cup we still gave him the supercool ‘Zinedine Kilbane’ nickname. And Killer knows he has a special relationship with the fans.

Exhibit A – This melodious rendition of ‘Ice Ice Baby’.

Source: Gary Ashe/YouTube

7. Gary Breen

Gary Breen 11/6/2003 Source: INPHO

There is something about Irish internationals named Gary that inspires fans to create songs about them. Breen’s one is repetitive but if you say you’ve never sung it you are definitely lying.

Source: roosvelt1984/YouTube

8. John Hayes

Brian O'Driscoll and John Hayes during the national anthem Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

A list about cult heroes wouldn’t be complete without an appearance from The Bull. He taught fans all over Ireland that in fact, it is okay to cry for your country.

Source: enjoyvideoclips/YouTube

He also had one of the all-time coolest nicknames, although the Spanish version is even more masculine and rugged: El Toro.

Who is your Irish sporting cult hero?

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