Cork club with most talented list of past players chasing county final glory
Kerry legend John Egan was the St Michael's coach the last time they won the Cork intermediate championship.
His son, the Republic of Ireland international and Sheffield United star, was the team's mascot. Skip on 21 years and St Michael's are back in another decider.
Plenty of water has gone under the bridge since ‘98. Plenty of gifted sports people have slipped through St Michael’s hands but here they are, almost a quarter of a century on and they’re still fighting for their right to dine at the top table in Cork football.
They won’t stop until they’ve settled down.
1998 joyously flowed into ‘99 and things were getting better for the club on the outskirts of Cork city - a sister of one of the most famous hurling clubs in the country - ‘the Rockies.’
Up senior for the first time in a while, St Michael’s were at the big dance once more and they were living large.
The future was blinding too.
The Cork minors were good that year and a St Michael’s man was the best of them all. A certain Damien Delaney was midfield for that year’s Cork crop, winning a Munster medal and hitting 2-2 from play in a head-turning All-Ireland semi-final display.
“He would have been special, he was a super player,” recalls club PRO Michael Morrissey.
Would have been.
Delaney made it alright but this was the glamour game. He’d go onto make over 100 Premier League appearances during his time with Crystal Palace and Leicester City. Everyone at St Michael’s wished him well in ‘99 as he set off with stars in his eyes and a good Gaelic grounding. Now, they can proudly say they’d been a part of his journey.
Small potatoes. Sweet taste. Life goes on in club GAA.
2002 and there’s something special a-brewing again.
The kids are flocking to St Michael’s and some of them are pure naturals. David Meyler is a star of the successful Féile team and Simon Zebo is one with potential too.
That team were always going to make a mark - A fair few of them will have a significant role to play in this Sunday’s premier intermediate final against Éire Óg. They could have gotten more but greed is no good to anyone.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see Zebo over for the final this weekend, he’s still good friends with a lot of those lads. Meyler too, he was a very good minor but you always knew he was going to make it in the soccer…”
The famous faces don’t end there. No end of future stars learned a little on Ringmahon Road. Kevin O’Byrne - the current Munster hooker - played for the club until under-16. Adam O’Reilly is only 18 and he’s highly rated over in Preston. It was only a couple of years ago when he was a buzzy forward for the Michael’s juveniles.
Eoghan O’Connell is still the last Irish man to line out in the champions league - he was Virgil van Dijk’s defensive partner when Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic were well beaten by Barcelona in the Camp Nou. He was the other mascot for that ‘98 winning team. Just this week, the Rochdale star had English fans confused when he dummy soloed the ball in the closing stages of a soccer game.
It never leaves you.
He's also the cousin of Irish rugby legend Paul O'Connell, and is being managed by Brian Barry Murphy - son of the great Jimmy - with Rochdale.
When you're a professional footballer with Rochdale AFC, but really all you want to do is play Gaelic football for Cork.
Eoghan O'Connell of @StMichaelsCork will never forget his Gaelic football roots 👏🤣🤣#ThatShimmyThopic.twitter.com/HBVsHYnVZ9
— GAA JOE (@GAA__JOE) October 24, 2019
Their third Cork intermediate final in a row - they’ve lost the last three - there’s something special in the air this time around. Morrissey senses the good-will and the well-wishes from the past players. The club are also flying it in the junior and juvenile ranks.
“It’s an unbelievable feast,” he says.
Isn’t it great that the club are delighted to see their bright stars doing so well rather than bitter to have lost them?
The connections go far and they go-wide, from all corners, they'll be shouting for St Michael's this Sunday evening.