John Horgan one of greatest hurlers of all time, funeral told

Defender won four All-Irelands with Cork and won Railway Cup medals with Munster

Cork defender John Horgan (66) was one of the greatest hurlers of all time and a decent and honourable man both on and off the pitch, mourners at his funeral were told today.

Cork County Board secretary and fellow Blackrock clubman Frank Murphy recalled the late Mr Horgan's illustrious career with Passage West, Blackrock and Cork in the 1960s and 1970s.

He recalled how Mr Horgan won an All-Ireland minor medal with Cork while playing with Passage West before transferring to his father’s club, Blackrock, with whom he enjoyed great success.

"He had the unique record of captaining Blackrock to county, Munster and All-Ireland honours in the 1971, 1973 and 1978 seasons, and was the first player to achieve such a distinction in hurling," Mr Murphy said.

He recalled how Mr Horgan won four All-Irelands with Cork, in 1970 and on the 1976-78 three-in-a-row team, from the left corner back position. He also won Railway Cup medals with Munster.

Outstanding, dashing and colourful

“He was an outstanding, dashing and colourful defender who contributed immensely to the success of his club, county and province. He was famed for his lengthy clearances and long-distance scoring.

“John played for the love of the game and played it with traditional Cork passion, spirit and skill,” said Mr Murphy in a graveside oration at St Mary’s Cemetery in Passage West, outside Cork city.

Earlier, hundreds of mourners thronged into St Mary’s Church in Passage to express their sympathies to Mr Horgan’s widow Liz and daughters Gillian, Laraine, Debbie and Ashleigh on their tragic loss.

Gillian said while her father was a powerful athlete on the hurling field, standing 6ft tall with a mane of blonde hair, his greatest achievement was as a devoted husband and loving father.

“And I don’t use the term ‘Loving’ lightly - he loved us with all that was in him - so much that he had to struggle every day not to wrap us up in cotton wool and tried to allow us to grow up,” she said.

“He often struggled with shyness in social situations but he was never shy in showing his love and affection for us - he was our gentle giant, protective, watchful, but kind and loving.

12-hour days

Laraine recalled how her father worked 12-hour days in his coal business in winter, but in summer, when business was quiet, he would come take them away on beach holidays all over Munster.

“He seemed to come alive when the sun shone and we have wonderful memories of beach holidays - he had an indomitable sense of adventure which often led to him taking the path least travelled.

"As a result we often found ourselves in beautiful hidden magical locations - in fact his favourite place in this world was Fermoyle beach in Castlegregory, which we discovered on one such trip."

Mass celebrant Fr Sean O’Sullivan said the late Mr Horgan was captured well in the history of the “Rockies” when he was described as “Hoggy - Shy Superstar” - as he was a most unassuming man.

He said Mr Horgan dealt with his illness over the last few years with great dignity, telling his wife and family he wanted to see out his days at home and that he wanted “no drama”.

Guard of honour

The late Mr Horgan’s team mates from Blackrock and Cork, including many of his teammates from the 1976-78 side, formed a guard of honour outside the church as the cortege left for the cemetery.

Among the ex-Cork hurlers to pay their respects were Gerald McCarthy, Ray Cummins, Seanie Leary, Mick Malone, Tim Crowley, Denis Coughlan, Brian Murphy, Brendan Cummins and Martin Coleman.

Other former Cork hurlers present included Jimmy Brohan, Justin McCarthy, Con Roche, Pat Moylan, Johnny Crowley, Tom Cashman, Dermot McCurtain, Donal O'Grady and Eamon O'Donoghue.

Also paying their respects were former hurlers Tomas Mulcahy, Teddy McCarthy, Denis Walsh, Fergal Ryan and Wayne Sherlock, as were former footballers Billy Morgan and Niall Cahalane.

Also paying their respects were Limerick great Pat Hartigan and Pat Quigley of Wexford, as well as ex-GAA presidents - former Kilkenny hurler Nickey Brennan and Christy Cooney of Cork - and local Fianna Fáil TD Michael McGrath.

Former Cork hurlers John Fenton, Denis Murphy, Charlie McCarthy and Tony Maher, along with former Tipperary hurlers Babs Keating and John O'Donoghue paid their respects at the removal.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times