ONE of the most famous names in Offaly football, a mere mention of the legendary ‘Iron Man from Rhode’ is enough to conjure up sweet memories of a time when the Faithful County were a dominant force.
He made a massive contribution to Offaly football, representing the county for well over a decade at senior level.
Born in 1939, he burst onto the scene at a stage when Offaly football was finally beginning to awaken from its long slumber. After playing minor football for Offaly for two years, he made his senior championship debut against Kildare in 1958
Ironically, considering that he became one of the greatest defenders of his time, he made his debut when coming on as a sub at corner forward, scoring a goal and a point in a memorable win.
He wasted little time in establishing himself on the Offaly team and by 1960 he had nailed down a place at right corner back. 1960 of course proved to be a famous year as Offaly ended years of hard luck stories and misery by winning the Leinster Senior Football Championship for the first time, beating Louth in the final.
The hall of fame recipient played a big part on a great team, and a year later he won his second Leinster Senior Football Championship medal. They went on to reach the All-Ireland final for the first time but were beaten by Down in a famous decider played in front of a record 90,000 crowd in Croke Park.
For the next decade plus, the Rhode man continued to give great dedicated service and along with Greg Hughes and John Egan, he formed part of a fabled full back line that was feared and admired throughout the country.
Inspired by the feats of the 1960/’61 team, a new generation of footballer begin to emerge in Offaly. Back boned by players from the 1964 All-Ireland minor winning side, Offaly began to compete at the highest level once again. A third Leinster senior football title was won in 1969 with Offaly losing to Kerry in the All-Ireland final and by 1971 when the ultimate breakthrough was made, the great Iron man had moved to full back.
A teak tough player who knew no fear, he provided great leadership to the young players on the team as Offaly beat Galway in the 1971 All-Ireland final and retained it a year later with a replay win over Kerry.
A bad eye injury in late 1972 effectively ended his intercounty career though he remained on the panel until 1974. He was a hugely important part of that legendary Offaly team and ensured that the zone in front of Martin Furlong’s goal was a no go zone for opposing attackers. He also gave tremendous service to Rhode GAA Club and won Senior Football Championship medals for them in 1958, 1966, 1967 and 1969. A very dedicated player, his attitude to games and training provided a glowing example to everyone else.
Later familiar as a publican in Edenderry and Tullamore, he trained Offaly senior footballers for a spell in the mid ‘70s, as well as various club teams down the years. Still a familiar figure at games and a great greyhound enthusiast, the latest inductee into the hall of fame is Paddy McCormack.