Dominic Foley to swop green of Ireland for red of Cork for All-Ireland decider

Former Republic of Ireland player hopeful Rebels can cause an upset against Limerick

He was one of the Boys in Green but as he heads to Croke Park on Sunday, former Irish soccer national Dominic Foley (45) will be wearing his colours on his sleeve as befits a son of Cork's frontier town of Charleville.

As a former Cork minor hurler playing alongside Seán Óg Ó hAilpín and Joe Deane, he missed out on an All-Ireland final appearance in 1994 when, as a triallist with Liverpool, he was asked by the club not to play in the final.

But Foley’s allegiance to the Blood and Bandage was never in doubt.

"Even though I was born in Charleville town, the family home is in Creggane so we're right on the border with Limerick but there was never any divided loyalty - I hurled with Charleville and I was playing with Charleville when I got selected to join the Cork minor panel under Jimmy Barry Murphy.


“I was on the panel when I went to Liverpool and they asked me not to play any more hurling to concentrate on the soccer, so I missed out on the All-Ireland final - it’s the one regret I have because we lost by a point or two to Galway and you’d always wonder, you’d surely be worth a point or two.”

Foley returned to Ireland when it didn't work out with Liverpool and rejoined the Cork Under 21 panel, where he linked up with hurlers like Seanie McGrath and Donal Óg Cusack before heading back to the UK to Wolverhampton Wanderers and a 17 year long career as a professional footballer.

‘Exceptional team’

He played for Wolves and Watford, and also played in Greece, Portugal and Belgium in a career that saw him earn six international caps and score two goals for the Republic of Ireland, before he returned to north Cork where now works as manager of Cavanaghs Car Sales in Mallow.

So what does Foley, who is heading to Croke Park with his brothers James, Bryan and Ross, think of Cork's chances on Sunday? Will his fellow Charleville clubman Darragh Fitzgibbon be collecting a Celtic Cross or does he think Limerick will prove too strong?

“I think Cork have had great year to get to the final - I feel we’re just a little behind Limerick. Limerick just have an exceptional team at the moment, they look like a professional team, that’s the way I would describe them. They are all big and strong and they are all well able to hurl.

“A lot of the Limerick lads coming into town are very confident and I would think Limerick are rightly strong favourites, but you never know on the day. Any given Sunday anything can happen and if nothing else, it’s another year’s experience for our young guys.

“We might catch them in a year or two but the one thing I notice living on the border, some Limerick lads are sleeping a bit uneasy - the red jersey is spooking them. Of course, we’re all telling them they have nothing to worry about, that they’re brilliant and we have no chance of beating them .”

Club trumps county

Allegiances in a frontier town like Charleville can often be fraught - just ask Aileen Browne, chair of the local GAA club and a proud Limerick woman who will, come Sunday afternoon, find herself in Croke Park with among others, her Limerick cheering brother Eoin, as she shouts for the Rebels.

"I'm from just outside Charleville but I went to school in Charleville and my mother Kathleen is Charleville and my uncle is the secretary of the club and my cousin is the captain but my late father Michael was from Castlemahon and I was always Limerick," she said.

“Back in 2018, I put up my Christmas tree in August and decorated it in green and white when Limerick got to the All-Ireland. It was totally OTT but we can’t be greedy and club trumps county, particularly when you have a man on the team as we have with Darragh, so I’ll be cheering Cork.”

There are no such issues of identity and allegiance troubling folk back in the Rebel heartland of Blarney where the local GAA club, founded in 1884 and one of the oldest in the country, is celebrating the appearance of its first players in a senior All-Ireland final.

Mark Coleman is starting at centre back and Shane Barrett is among the subs after already winning the 2020 All-Ireland U20 title in July with Cork. Their clubmate Paudie Power was also part of that U20 team and was man of the match on Wednesday when Cork won the 2021 U20 title.

Buzz is incredible

Club chairman Jim McCarthy said the past week has been unprecedented in Blarney, as along with other officers in the club, he found himself inundated with a demand for tickets that he had never ever experienced before.

"The buzz is incredible - the Cork flag was hoisted up on Blarney Castle which was a first - the owner of the castle, Sir Charles Colthurst gave the club permission to put it up and then he posted a video clip online wishing Mark and Shane the best of luck and congratulating Paudie on his U20 win.

“That was the start of the excitement and then all the businesses followed suit, putting up flags and bunting but that led the way - it’s been great - there’s huge credit due to all the mentors and coaches who’ve worked with these three Blarney lads over the years.

"We've had lads play minor with Cork - Jamesie Coakley, John Mitchell and Davy 'Rocket' O'Brien in the 1960s and Brian Sheehan, Ray Coleman, Darragh McSweeney and Joe Jordan all played senior with Cork in the 1990s and 2000s but no Blarney man has ever played in an All-Ireland final before.

“Now, having two lads involved on Sunday and Paudie winning two back to back U20 All-Irelands is unbelievable and it’s reflected in the demand for tickets. The place is just bananas - normally you would just have adults wanting to go but now all the kids want to go as well because of these lads.”

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times